'But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked. 'Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: 'We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.'
Lewis Carroll,Alice in Wonderland
Aparna Sen, a veteran art film maker is one of the brilliant writer-director we have in India. The way she portrays her characters on-screen is just wonderful. !5 Park Avenue is made with Konkana Sen (Aparna Sen’s Daughter) in lead role. Konkana (Mithi) is a schizophrenic who lives and dies in the world of spine chilling delusions.
Anjali (Anju- Shabana Azmi) is a professor of Quantum Physics, a divorcee who lives with his mother Rewa (Waheeda Rehman- a widow remarried to Soumitra Chatterjee), his schizophrenic sister Mitali (Meethi- Konkana Sen), and a house maid, Yama Shroff. The lead story is about Meethi who, a loner since her childhood, gang raped in young age, suffers from full blown Schizophrenia and Epilepsy effects.
Movie opens at a scene where Anjali and Meetali are searhing for a house number 15 Park Avenue at Ballygunge Area ofCalcutta. Meethi works as a journalist reporter, who has been assigned a political coverage in Bihar. Though, her family didn’t support her decision of going all alone, but to prove her mettle in the face of her dominant Physics Professor elder sister Anjali, Meethi sets off to take the coverage. There, in Bihar she is gang raped by three political goons and nobody comes to her rescue. She is admitted to hospital, Jojo Roy (Joydeep Roy-Rahul Bose- her boyfriend) couldn’t handle her situation and breaks up, and Schizophrenia drives her at the edge of being unnerved. Hitherto dormant Schizophrenia in Meethi gets triggered into the full blown stage owing to which she completely loses herself in the realms of her imagination. She becomes stranger to the surrounding, present world, inhabited by people like us. She sees herself as a wife of Jojo and mother of five children, living together at 15 Park Avenue.
Doctor Kunal (Dhritiman Chatterjee) prescribes a vacation for Meethi for which mother daughters along with their house maid Charu (Yama Shroff) leave for Bhutan. There, coincidentally Jojo spots Meethi and Anjali while he was sightseeing with his wife and kids and gets stung by the pangs of guilty. He was ashamed of himself for forsaking Meethi at such a gruesome state when she needed his support the most. He, being a weakling couldn’t face the situation ad left the stage and now due to him she has lost herself in an utterly delusional world. Now, he wants to help Meethi in finding her home at 15 Park Avenue where her husband and kids are waiting for her. The fact, being that the house at 15 Park Avenue existed only in Meethi’s world of delusions.She, albeit tries to find her home many times.
Back to Calcutta, Jojo, guilty conscious, tries to help Meethi in finding her home at Ballygunge area. While Jojo asks people about the address that in fact is of a street in New York City, meanwhile Meethi finds her home with white walls,Iron Gate, her husband Jojo, children. She wents into the house and gets disappeared from the face of world in which Joydeep, Anjali, Dr. Kunal, Rewa, and others existed.
Meethi, at the end finds her home, which didn’t really exist for others. She tried her best to convince her sister of her home, and family but everyone brandished her as a person having hallucination, living in delusions, and what not.
At the end of the movie Doctor leads everyone away from the site an old woman comes out of the house where in Meethi got disappeared. Better she get disappeared because we sane people are more dangerous than a chronic body ailment. We gnaw at every chink of flesh and bone of a person who doesn’t fit into our so-called saner world as per out set standards.
The movie explores the most poignant situation ruling modern day human life of dissatisfactions, delusions, breaking relationships, dominance, intellectual pride, ego, and extra marital affairs( not spoken about literally) in just few impressions of it via Meethi’s Doctor’s increasing affections towards Anjali. Aparna Sen is a maverick film maker who, with few names in her cart, has provoked and challenged the ethics and grounds of Indian Cinema. Her movies, be it Chowranghee Lane or Mr. & Mrs. Iyer, represents inner-conflicts of contemporary world in stark light with no conglomeration of superfluity of ideas and clichéd dialogues.
We do not have any right to question anyone’s belief or notions. We all, sane people who have following sets of rules living in the world act like a schizophrenic when our faith or beliefs are questioned by someone, at one point of time in our life. Then how do we get cheek to bring someone else’ notions into suspicion. When Anjali tells Meethi that there is no such world like she narrates and is living in, Meethi simply asks her what if one day I say you are not a professor and it’s all your made up thing, then how you will react? Exasperated isn’t it? Shabani Azmi gets dumbfounded at such remark of her ill sister who is not even conscious of her physical self and urinates in the living room. A question, of such a philosophical import coming out of her renders Anjali speechless. The very existence of the human being comes into the doubt.
Isn’t it true that every one of us is looking for something unknown to others, which is not visible to human eye and yet we strive hard to attain our personal reality? Aren’t we all making up a world full of delusions around us all the time and seek shelter from worldly woes there. Why, force anybody to come out of their delusions just because sanity doesn’t approve such imaginations?
Aparna Sen’s directorial works engages and keeps audience glued right from the first scene till the end. You don’t even feel like need of intermission. This is how I kept glued to the seat of multiplex till the last scene. And, the last scene, indeed took my breath away, while many people sitting in audience were dumbfounded at the abrupt ed of the movie. We rarely get chance to watch such terrific performances in Indian cinemaand above all the open end stories where audiences are lefttomake out their own interpretations.
Shabana Azmi is a brilliant actress and played her role with grace and composure.Rahul Bose, give him few lines, or rather words and he will give life to the whole scene. Though, he has very few scenes in the movie yet he marked his presence in them outstandingly. Times Magazine rightly called him ‘the superstar of Indian art house cinema'
Konkana Sen is one of those rare actresses on the threshold of art cinema in India whose performances leaves indelible marks on your psyche. Her expressions are too genuine to be considered as paraphernalia of a make-believe situation. None other then Konkana could have done justice with the character. I fell shot of adjective while talking about her acting and expressions. She gets imbued into the character completely and that’s what we see on-screen not Konkana, but the character she plays. She infuses life in the character etched out just for a mere screenplay and it becomes someone ‘living’ in some part of the world for her audience. This is what I feel. I still am not able to come out of her image as ‘Schizophrenic Meethi.” Her beautifully poignant expressions made me burst into sobs at the end of the movie.
I bet, you will find 15 Park Avenue as wonderful and engaging movie as I did.
Schizophrenia is no alien to sane world. It reverberates in the lives of every sane mind.