Life’s Lessons

National Award-winning English feature film Lessons in Forgetting a thriller-drama about a father trying to unravel the truth behind his daughter’s accident is layered with gender issues.

Written by Dipti Nagpaul D'souza | Published: April 19, 2013 3:03 am

National Award-winning English feature film Lessons in Forgetting a thriller-drama about a father trying to unravel the truth behind his daughter’s accident is layered with gender issues.

To make his debut feature film,Unni Vijayan had been on the lookout for a good story. Having read and enjoyed a few books by Indian fiction author Anita Nair,the editor-documentary filmmaker was keen to adapt her novel Mistress (2005) for screen. When the director approached Nair for its rights in 2010,she suggested that they instead consider her new novel,Lessons in Forgetting. Vijayan was apprehensive since the book — which narrates a tale of redemption,forgiveness and second chances — is written from the perspective of a middle-aged woman. Being a man,he felt he may not be able to translate this aspect of the story well enough on screen.

However,when Vijayan read it,one sub-plot interested him. “The sub-plot is about a single father’s journey as he tries to find out what actually happened to his teenage daughter who people claim has had an accident. This part of the book offered scope for exploring drama as the audience would follow the anguished father in search of clues about his daughter and at the same time,allowed scope for a thriller-like narrative as he slowly unravels the truth,” explains the director. The film also touches upon issues such as female foeticide and gender violence.

Nair came on board as the screenwriter and it took her close to two years to adapt the sub-plot into a full-length feature film. But the effort and the director’s instinct paid off. The film,by the same name as the book,recently won the National Award for Best Feature Film in English and is slated to release today as part of PVR’s Director’s Rare initiative. “Such a film,especially in English,is very difficult to distribute and exhibit and usually travels only the festival circuit. The award has reaffirmed our belief in our decision to take the path less travelled,” says the Mumbai-based director,a graduate from Film and Television Institute of India (FTII),Pune,in film editing,who used to work in the television industry.

The film has in lead Adil Hussain,who was seen in recent movies such as English Vinglish and Life of Pi. Roshni Achreja of TV show Banegi Apni Baat returns to the screen after a long hiatus as his assistant. Debutante Maya Tideman plays the daughter. While the actors were all shortlisted based on their auditions,Vijayan recounts that Hussain,who had earlier quoted a fee higher than the team could pay,took a pay cut when he heard the script.

Apart from the award and PVR that offered to release the film,Lessons in Forgetting has found support in various UN bodies because of the message it conveys. The director,however,clarifies that the film doesn’t take on a preachy tone. “The initial findings of the father lead the audience to believe that his daughter was promiscuous. But the tale takes on several twists during the journey,which leads him from Bangalore,where she was studying,to a small town in Tamil Nadu,” he says.

Although Krishnamoorthy eventually discovers what happened to his daughter,Vijayan warns that the film has an open ending. “It isn’t the story of a father on a vendetta. Instead,the film leaves the viewers at a point where they can mull over the issues that it brings forth,” he says.

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