Starring: Shefali Shah, Jaideep Ahlawat, Swanand Kirkire, Kadambari Kadam, Neena Kulkarni
Director: Avinash Arun
A rare Indian feature length film tackling the complex subject of early onset dementia, this emotional drama has been making streaming waves since its release on Netflix.
Shailaja ‘Shailu’ Desai (Shah) makes copious notes and then ticks off her daily task lists, giving a glimpse into her forgetful mental state. There is a vulnerability and warmth in her demeanour as she retires from her job in the family courts, handling divorce cases for unhappy couples.
Shailaja’s request for a week-long holiday to a town named Vengurla on the Konkan coast in western India comes as somewhat of a surprise to her supportive life insurance agent husband Dipankar (Kirkire). In all their years of marriage, she had never mentioned the time she had spent in this idyllic little coastal town as a young schoolgirl.
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The reason for this soon unfolds as the couple embark upon a rare holiday of a lifetime and meet up with Pradip Kamat (Ahlawat), a local bank branch manager and Shailu’s former classmate. Soon an awkward sort of chemistry develops between the three of them as they take a trip down memory lane to the sights and spots Shailu and Pradip frequented as schoolmates. Pradip’s wife Sarika (Kadam) also gives her blessing to her husband spending time with someone she knows as his first love.
Will Shailaja’s urge to connect with a forgotten part of herself prove fruitful or will the three of them get pulled apart by the weight of disturbing memories over the course of the unusual holiday?
This cosy slice of life film eases through some very heavy topics at a pace that draws the audience in to really empathise with each of the characters, be it Shailaja’s repressed grief, Pradip’s childhood love or Dipankar’s unfulfilled professional life. Even though each of these journeys is weighed down with missed opportunities, the film surprisingly never feels downbeat or pessimistic.
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The inimitable Shefali Shah is the perfect actor to portray a woman slowly losing her grip on life as she knew it, with all other characters supporting her through this deeply emotional ride in perfect harmony. The ultimate victory of this film lies in all that it leaves unsaid even as it takes us through some breath-taking coastal Indian landscape.
One to watch at leisure for an immersive cinematic experience.