Vantage point

Sunday, January 15, 2006

About 15 Park Avenue

This post is about the new Aparna Sen movie - 15 Park Avenue.

This post has many spoilers....and rather crucial spoilers so I would advise you not to read this post unless you have seen the movie. So if you haven't seen the movie, quit this post right away, and come back only after watching the movie.

OK, all those who are still with me, you say you have watched the movie? Good. SO I was saying.....who is that over there in the corner? Hey, I know you haven't watched the movie!! Stop reading at once. I am telling you this for your own good.

What? You want to stay anyway? OK! Don't tell me later I didn't warn you.

Let's us get the regular stuff out of the way right away. Great performance By Konkona again, matching Shabana Azmi "stroke-by-stroke". Waheeda Rahman was earnest, and Rahul Bose was....well...Rahul Bose. Won't elaborate here... the current status of Rahul Bose in my mind is a separate post altogether.

As a pure "schizophrenia" movie, it good, but not as good as the marathi film 'Devrai' which handles the issue in a much deeper and meaningful way. But as a film which uses schizophrenia as a part of the plot, the movie is brilliant. And what makes it brilliant?

What makes it brilliant is its end.

AFter the movie ended, the audience around me in the cinema hall were stunned.....they did not know what to make of what they saw. Such endings are very rare in Indian films - endings which leave it up to you to interpret the meaning.

I sat in my seat grinning like a cheshire cat because I loved the movie, based on my interpretation(s) of it. It was just amazing.

Now obviously there can't be a right or wrong interpretation, so take these few as mine.

Interpretation 1 - This was the interpretation I immediately drew from the movie's end. The entire movie is a dream or a hallucination or Anjali(Shabana). She is a very aggressive and pugnacious woman whose first marriage broke up(we're never told why or how). Her second boyfriend also left her and went to Princeton. Her brother didn't care much about her, and was engrossed in his own family life with his wife and kids. And her younger sister whom she has been very close to, also leaves, and goes abroad to live in New York, and her work or home address is 15, Park Avenue, New York. Anjali herself is schizophrenic, and this is her alternate reality, to explain away why her sister and her second boyfriend leave her and go away. Kunal, the doctor who keps showing up everywhere is actually her real life doctor, and is the only connect to the real world, helping her achieve closure by playing along. Notice that in the end when everyone is confused about where Mithi disappeared, Kunal is the one who leads Anjali away from Park Road.

A few points supporting Interpretation 1 -
- Her first marriage is never discussed and she is shown throughout to be a very aggressive character whom even her own mother is scared of.
- Kunal, the doctor, showering so much attention on her seems far fetched. He is supposed to be married, she clearly has a boyfriend - Sanjeev, and after all, as a busy doctor he would have many patients.
- It is very far-fetched that Mithi would not recognise Joydeep. He looks almost the same, and if she remembers him, why can't she recognise him?

Interpretation 2 - The part until Mithi's suicide attempt is reality. She actually dies, and Anjali feels guilty about it since she didn't believe Mithi when she told her about the witch doctor. Her guilt and the shock of Mithi's death causes Anjali herself to lose her mental balance, and everything that follows is actually her hallucination attempting to tell herself that Mithi is in a better place, and in the 15 Park Avenue that she always wanted to be. Thus in this dream, she has Joydeep returning, and helping Mithi out. The whole dream is to make Mithi's going away more painless.

Interpretation 3 - The entire movie is a metaphor for the virtual disappearance of the Mithi river in Mumbai, which caused the July 26 floods. Hehe, OKAY< this was a PJ. Let's try to forget it and move on.

Interpretation 4 - The suicide attempt is a reality, and what happens later is actually Mithi's own dream, just before she dies in the hospital. She tries to imagine everyone happy - her sister getting attracted towards the doctor, Joydeep being happily married and she herself in her dream home with her Jojo and five kids.

The last Indian movie I saw which asked me to draw my own conclusions was Aks. Sadly Aks, a big-budget venture, flopped because though the basic idea, and the end were mind-blowing, the execution of the movie was a little too...mainstream. It seems like Rakesh Mehra, the director, instead of rectifying the mistake, went the opposite way, if the previews of Rang De Basanti are any indication. But let's review that bridge when we come to it.

For now, I am savouring 15 Park Avenue. Hope you loved it as much as I did. And you... you recalcitrant oaf, reading the post inspite of not watching the movie, how silly do you feel now? Par tum apunka suntaich kidhar hai? Now go watch the movie!

Do mail me your opinions/interpretations at gaurav.sabnis{attherate}gmail{dot}com.

Update: Here are a few interpretations of the movie by other bloggers -