Courtesy: Taran Adarsh, IndiaFM
You ought to view an Aparna Sen film with different glasses!
Right from choosing a story that seems straight out of life, to the realistic treatment, there's no denying that Aparna's cinema isn't targeted at the masses, the hoi polloi, but those who prefer wearing thinking caps while watching a film. You need to respect that!
But the director of 36 Chowringhee Lane and Mr. And Mrs. Iyer isn't in complete form in her new outing, 15 Park AvenueE. The film tries to explore various relationships -- mother-daughter, sisters, husband-wife, two men attracted to a woman, the ex factor -- but barring a few individualistic sequences, the impact is clearly missing.
Besides, the culmination to the story is another sore point. Not only does it look abrupt, it just doesn't make any sense to the viewer. In fact, the ending is difficult to grasp and comprehend and only tapers the overall impression of the film.
The only aspects that you carry home are the performances and a few skillfully executed sequences, not the film in entirety.
Anjali [Shabana Azmi] lives with her mother Rewa [Waheeda Rehman] and sister Meethi [Konkona Sen Sharma]. Meethi suffers both from chronic schizophrenia and epilepsy and has to be cared for by her family. In spite of her illness, Meethi had been quite functional up to her early twenties. She had even got engaged to a young man called Joydeep or Jojo [Rahul Bose], as she called him.
After that, disaster had struck! Meethi, who was working for a publishing house as a journalist, had gone on an assignment outside Kolkata where political goons had raped her repeatedly. This incident had triggered off Meethi's hitherto dormant schizophrenia. Joydeep was unable to relate to Meethi any longer and had broken off the engagement.
Meethi now lives completely in a delusional world where she is married to Jojo and is Mrs. Joydeep Roy with five children of her own. She believes that she lives with her husband and children at 15 Park Avenue and would insist on being taken to look for her house, which never existed in the first place.
Anjali is the sole caregiver to her widowed mother and schizophrenic sister. As a result, she becomes a much stressed individual and Meethi's doctor Kunal advises her to take a break from work. Anjali, Meethi, their mother and Meethi's attendant Charu arrive in Bhutan for the prescribed holiday.
By a strange co-incidence, Joydeep is here too with his wife Lakshmi [Shefali Shah] and their two children. He sees Meethi quiet unexpectedly and feels completely shattered at the change he sees in her. He follows Anu and Meethi to their rented cottage. But, strangely, Meethi does not recognize him at all.
Later, Meethi confides in him about her husband Jojo and her five children. She entreats him to help her find her house at 15 Park Avenue and to help her get away from her sister whom she imagines to be completely tyrannical!
Director Aparna Sen picks up an interesting story and treats it with utmost maturity. By a strange coincidence, 15 Park Avenue bears a striking resemblance to Jahnu Barua's Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara, about a person getting delusions and how his/her family copes with it.
Aparna has handled a number of sequences with aplomb. The portions between Shabana and Kanwaljit as also the doctor, besides the flashback [Konkona's rape] to those between Rahul and his wife Shefali are realistic to the core. But the slow pacing -- the narrative moves at a sluggish pace throughout -- as also the climax are the downers.
Aparna's style of direction is elitist by nature. The film may move a section of the audience, but even those in this category won't be satiated completely. Cinematography [Hemant Chaturvedi] is consistent.
15 Park Avenue is embellished with sterling performances and topping the list is, without doubt, Shabana Azmi, who does a tremendous job. Konkona Sen Sharma is first-rate, especially in portions when she has delusions. Waheeda Rehman is highly competent. Rahul Bose makes his presence felt in a women-oriented theme. Shefali Shah proves yet again that she's a powerhouse of talent. Kanwaljit, Dhritiman Chatterjee and Soumitra Chatterjee are commendable.
On the whole, 15 Park Avenue may appeal to a handful of critics [in awe of such cinema] as also the festival circuit. At the box-office, it has nothing to offer!