Why most issue-based films are so lame and verbose? Better still, is there a genre called issue-based films? If there is, it’s not a good news, because no one likes to watch such movies.
That was my first reaction after seeing ‘Memories in March.’ I wish the film did not try to be an issue film and just told a story. But, with the presence of Rituparno Ghosh as the vocal and needy lover, and the baggage of his personality that he carries with him, drowns the effort, which could have been a decent film, if not a masterpiece.
The film won the 58th national film award for best English language film for 2010, though it contains fair amount of Hindi and Bengali dialogues. It played at several film festivals and I had heard some very nice things about it. A friend actually insisted that I see the film. Since I couldn’t find a DVD at the local stores, I ordered a copy from Flipkart. Was the film worth all these troubles? Unfortunately.
As it stands now, ‘Memories in March’ deals with two unlikely issues, grief and homosexuality, mixes and matches them through three characters — a grieving mother, a grieving lover and a young girl who has been pushed into the situation, probably because films need a heroine. There were ample chances of conflicts; instead the film becomes a series of dialogues between the mother and the lover, which leads to nothing. At the film ends, the borderline homophobic mother comes to terms with her son’s sexuality, and even forms a bond of sorts with her son’s lover, and all this, in the span of three days. Now, this is little too much.
The script as it stands, could have been a wonderful stage play, where the characters do nothing but talk. The dead son never appears on screen; he’s just a voice in the memory. That’s fine, but otherwise too, very little happens in the course of the film to keep you really interested in the plight of those really, really sad people.
Mrs Mishra, a single mother from Delhi comes to Kolkata to cremate her son who died in a case of drunk driving. The dead son’s colleagues, Raima Sen and her boss, played by Ghosh, picks her up. After the funeral is over, she goes to her dead son’s apartment to collect his stuff. The grieving mother thinks she deserves unconditional sympathy from her dead son’s colleagues, and when the boss, Arnob, doesn’t give her sufficient attention, she freaks out.
That’s when the skeleton comes tumbling out of the closet. Her son was not only gay, he was having an affair with Arnob. The mother accuses Arnob for seducing her innocent son. Arnob counters the allegations saying that it may be the other way round; the boy seduced his boss to get a promotion and a company flat.
Now, as the mother and the lover go through the belonging of the dead son, swap memories, they go through a series of passive-aggressive verbal duels, sometimes the mother winning, sometimes the lover winning.
Though the crux of the lover’s argument is that homosexuality is ‘normal’ and part of life and needs respect, this is not a film a gay man can show to his mother as part of his own coming out. There are some complicated issues at work here, all of them half-backed.
Deepti Naval is an accomplished actor. She is composed as the bereaved mother; however, as she is confronted with the secrets of her son’s private lives, Naval loses the link. Her shocks are not shocking enough. Though Ghosh, the well known Bengali director of woman-oriented films (‘Choker Bali’), and an openly gay man himself, play the lover as an complex individual, and an intellect, the audience fails to find the emotional core of his lose.
You admire the attempt of director Sanjoy Nag. It’s a very bold film on paper, but boldness alone cannot help a story, and especially its telling.