What can be more personal than one’s own death? And yet this is one of the most controversial matters that inevitably involves and influences the people we love. In this 25-min film, director / writer Saurav Kumar tackles the subject “head down” with a story about the last choices of a woman facing a terminal disease.
As we learn at the very beginning of the film, Vidya (Ruchika Rai) is diagnosed with breast cancer, she has refused heavy doses of chemotherapy and chosen to die in a more “natural” way, following the course of the disease. What we discover, bit by bit is that she has a young daughter, Piku, who is being looked after by a friend, and an estranged older sister Vaidehi (Richa Mohan). Prompted by her friend Angad (Srinivas Chandrashekar), Vidja reluctantly contacts her sister who immediately responds and visits. Vidja’s choice of distancing herself from the daughter as she doesn’t want to show the girl her last days, devastated by the illness, is at the centre of the discussion between the sisters. Vidja’s last autumn will be the time to fix the past and treasure family bonds.
This sombre and compassionate work aims to convey a humanistic message of life after death, intended not in the spiritual way but as a natural cycle, like the seasonal metaphor of the title suggests. The final quote “In my end is my beginning” from T.S. Eliot’s “East Cocker” is an erudite touch that links the poem about time and human connections to the capers of the two sisters. It is a story of reconciliation and the importance of family ties.
However, it feels like something is oddly missing in the characters’ development and in their back stories. In fact, this would probably be a good feature film if the script explored more the past of the characters. What did make the sisters fall out? What ever happened to Piku’s father? What is the (lovely/strange) relationship between Vidja and Angad? How did Vaidehi re-built a non existent connection with Piku? And most of all, how Vidja’s extreme choice will affect little Piku? Lots of questions spring to mind and they are sadly left unanswered.
From a woman’s point of view, I struggled to believe Vidja could make such a radical decision about her daughter, and founded it highly questionable, but it is probably due to the lack of knowledge about her previous years and the past that has shaped the character’s actions.
The film is carried by the amazing full-on performance of Ruchika Rai who imbues the part with stupor, despair and resignation, giving gravitas to the whole work. A bit less persuasive as a sister reappearing after many years is Richa Mohan; her positive attitude is welcome but it lacks slightly in depth. Very welcome is the “positive masculinity” character of Angad, a compassionate friend and companion of the autumn of Vidja’s life. The actors are orchestrated with measure and control by the director and the cinematography reflects the autumnal feeling, which is highlighted with vigor by a score made of a moving selection of classical music.
The desire for more that the movie ignites, in this case is not a negative factor but a push and an opportunity to develop further a good idea. I would be happy to see this short turned into a longer work and given the depth and complexity that the subject requires. I am sure it would be a compelling feature film.