Ananth Mahadevan on exploring death in "Aata Vel Zaali": Want to focus on catharsis, not melodrama

  • | Monday | 18th October, 2021

Mumbai, Oct 18 (PTI) With his Marathi film "Aata Vel Zaali", filmmaker Ananth Narayan Mahadevan says he wanted to look at death as the celebration of a life well lived and not as a sombre reminder of the end.The film, titled "It"s Time to Go" in English, is headlined by Marathi acting legends Dilip Prabhavalkar and Rohini Hattangadi and revolves around an ageing couple who seek active euthanasia. It is produced by Dinesh Bansal, GK Agarwal and Mahadevan.With Mumbai-set "Aata Vel Zaali", Mahadevan said he wanted to spotlight the existential crisis faced by the elderly.The couple, played by Prabhvalkar and Hattangadi, feel they are leading "unproductive and obsolete lives" and hence seek active euthanasia as an unusual remedy."Through the eyes of an ageing couple, I have made a black humour film, even though it sounds very serious and poignant. The whole film is a satire. That"s how I have treated the film so that people are not frightened by the mention of the word death," Mahadevan told PTI in an interview.Citing the example of Hrishikesh Mukherjee"s "Anand", which featured Rajesh Khanna as a cancer patient who laughs death away, the director said the 1971 classic was the "perfect formula" for a film script."When you are talking about death, the mood should be the opposite of it. It should not be as depressing as death. You have to make it palatable to the viewers."If you have the strength to laugh at death, you will have the strength to face it too. The question that our protagonist asks here is, "Why are you frightened of death? If you want a happy ending to your story, you must know where to end it"," he added.Mahadevan started writing "Aata Vel Zaali" in January, in the middle of the pandemic, which according to him has altered people.With the loss of a loved one in every family due to the coronavirus, the filmmaker said death was suddenly seen in a "different perspective"."This autonomy that humans are today demanding for their lives, whether it is societal or medical, is something that intrigued me. Because when we started looking at life and death in a different perspective over the last one and a half years, I realised we never spoke about death, we are frightened to talk about it. "There were a lot of cases, especially among the elderly, where they felt they did not want to get into a situation where they get a disease and suffer or get into prolonged hospitalisation. They did not also want to be separated from each other. We have almost always seen that when one spouse dies, the other one virtually goes away soon." When Mahadevan researched these cases, he came across repeated mentions of active euthanasia."Unlike passive euthanasia, which is mercy killing for those on ventilators or coma, active euthanasia is only for healthy people who don"t want to be patients... who have understood that they have lived a good life, so, "Let us have a good death, let us die with dignity"," he added.The director, known for helming acclaimed dramas like "Gour Hari Dastaan" in Hindi and the National Award winning Marathi film "Mee Sindhutai Sapkal", said his new film was an extremely tough script to write but he still finished in 20 days.The challenge, Mahadevan noted, was to avoid using any tropes usually associated with themes around death."I could not write anything that was illogical, melodramatic or something which would not be anything but cathartic. The bottom line was catharsis. I had to get the emotions of characters without them shedding a tear or trying to be over the top." The filmmaker chose to make "Aata Vel Zaali" in Marathi as it was the most organic setting for the project.Mumbai, the director said, is not merely a city where the couple in the movie lives but also serves as a crucial character in the storyline."The smells, the sounds and the nature of what we call the "upgrading Mumbai", a whole city ready for upheaval vis a vis people who have reached the last chapter of their lives and are ready to leave. The contrast between the two is what I wanted to bring out."That comes beautifully when you set it in a chawl with Maharashtrians. Their behaviour, traditions in parallel with the modernity of a city that is bursting... That"s probably one of the strong reasons why Marathi came naturally to this. I could have made it in Hindi, but I doubt whether the flavour that Marathi language has brought to it would have come in Hindi," he added.Mahadevan is looking for a December theatrical release for "Aata Vel Zaali". He has submitted the film to next year"s Berlin International Film Festival and also entered it to the Oscar selection process from India. PTI JUR RDS RDS BK BK BK

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