The subject of depression had haunted Sumitra Bhave, a prominent filmmaker, for a while. “It’s difficult to get producers to make films on themes such as depression,” said Bhave.
The filmmaker told The Indian Express she was fortunate to find a producer in Dr Mohan Agashe, a noted actor and psychiatrist, for the Marathi film Kaasav – Turtle.
The film bagged the award for the best feature film in the 64th National Film Awards, announced on Friday.
The director, who turns 75 this year, said she has always been interested in films that depict how the human mind works. Agashe said he felt the need to make the film after working on another Marathi film, Astu-So Be It, which dealt with ageing and Alzheimer’s.
Agashe, who acted in and co-produced Astu-So Be It, admitted that he had to go through some hard times. “We didn’t have enough funds then. New Jersey based Dr Prakash and Alka Lothe saw Astu and liked it so much that they gave Rs 50 lakh to us to make yet another film that talked about mental disorders… it was indeed a stroke of luck,” said Agashe.
Incidentally, the World Health Organization has declared the theme of this year’s World Health Day, which falls on April 7, as ‘Depression, Let’s talk’.
But the award-winning team of Dr Agashe and directors Bhave and Sunil Sukthankar were ready with their film much before that.
The film has not only bagged the Golden Lotus Award for the best feature film on Friday at the 64th National Film Awards, it was also the official selection for the international film festival of Mumbai (MAMI- Oct 2016), Kolkata (November 2016), Thiruvananthapuram (December 2016), Bengaluru (January 2017) and the New York Indian Film festival (April 2017).
Kaasav is a film about Manav (Alok Rajwade), who is lonely and feels that his life has no purpose. His attempt to end his life gives him a chance to meet his alter ego Janaki (Irawati Harshe) — a divorcee trying to find some meaning in her life through a sea-turtle conservation project run by conservationist Dattabhau (Dr Mohan Agashe).
With her empathy, Janaki tries to create a non-judgmental, non-intrusive and warm atmosphere to help Manav come out of depression.
The film was shot at Devgad’s scenic beaches. “We did a lot of research on the endangered species of Olive Ridley turtles… the film draws the metaphor of a mother turtle who hatches her eggs and leaves before the young ones are born. Kaasav tells the viewer how acceptance, patience and love can help a person with depression,” said Agashe.
“I provided the filmmakers with clinical material, including Dr Vikram Patel’s book, Where there is no psychiatrist, and then left it up to them,” he added.
Bhave, who is eager to take on new film projects, recalled how they shot baby turtles coming out of their shell and walking towards the sea. “It was a beautiful shot and in a sense essayed what the film was talking about,” she said.
For Agashe, though, it was time to start listening.
“Along with medicines, there is a need to listen to the patient with compassion. Everybody talks but no one listens. There is a need now to listen when somebody talks,” he said, adding that the film, without being didactic, makes use of images and sound to talk about depression.