Allow youngsters space and they will explore life on their own: Sumitra Bhave

Poster of the Marathi film Kaasav (Turtle)

After giving us an emotionally charged insight into the Alzheimer’s disease through their last film Astu, Sunil Sukhtanker and Sumitra Bhave’s latest venture – Turtle (Kaasav) – throws light on yet another medical condition along with touching upon on a plethora of other questions concerning us. 

“The hallmark of Sumitra maushi’s films is that there are always different layers to the story,” said actress Irawati Harshe at the world premiere of Turtle, screened at the 18th Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival with Star. 

Layers there are....and such varied ones at that! Where on one hand the film is a fascinating showcase on the life and nesting cycle of Olive Ridley Sea Turtles, on the other it delves deep into the issue of depression, especially among youngsters.

Janaki (Irawati Harshe), a middle-aged woman, is on her way to Konkan to document a sea-turtle conservation project spearheaded by conservationist Dattabhau (Mohan Agashe), when she finds a suicidal Manav (Alok Rajwade), a college boy lying unconscious at a roadside dhaba. She decides to take responsibility of the stranger and takes him with her to Konkan, where she not only nurses him back to normalcy but also ends up becoming the family and friend to Manav that he is longing for. 

Through this process, the film also redefines the concept of ‘family’ and wanders around with the question – Which is our true family? The one we are born into without a choice and adhere to owing to conventional norms, i.e. after marriage... or the one we end up creating along our journey of life? With people who have the same experiences and concerns like us. “It is this message on changing the definition of family that I took away with me from this film,” said the actress, who plays Janaki.  

Turtle also breaks many stigmas and misconceptions associated with depression, the major one being that there is nothing wrong in taking help of a psychiatrist and treating it with medication. It’s a medical condition and one needs to accept it as that, rather than making it out to be one’s fault. And most importantly, let one be! “Allow youngsters the space and they will explore life on their own,” remarked Bhave, who wrote Turtle after coming across a study by WHO (World Health Organisation). The study raised an alarm about depression being a major thing that is going to attack youngsters in the near future.

Being a social researcher, Bhave juxtaposed this issue beautifully with nature by connecting the sea-turtle’s nesting with Janaki’s care of Manav. Like the babies of sea-turtles, who are left to fetch for themselves after the mother turtles return to the sea immediately after laying their eggs at the sea shore, Janaki gives Manav the required space to recuperate and figure out life by just letting him be. “Nature expects us to be non-violent,” explains Bhave. 

On the other hand, Sukhtankar analyses the juxtaposition in a different light. “A tortoise withdraws all it’s senses and goes into it’s shell in adverse circumstances, remaining in a steadfast position throughout. Manav too remains in this position as he is disturbed, making it his defence mechanism,” he pointed out. “The effort,” the co-director adds, “is to make a film which is creatively enriching but is also useful to society at large. For instance, Turtle will be used by psychiatrists.”

With wonderful lyrics, written in Hindi by Sukhtankar to give the songs a folk like feel, Turtle is calm and healing. It captured the heart of the audience, so much so that one of the audience members went on to say that it reinforced their belief in humanity and mankind.



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