Film: “Yours Truly” (ZEE5 web feature film); Writer and Director: Sanjoy Nag; Cast: Soni Razdan, Pankaj Tripathi, Aahana Kumra; Rating: ***
The only cure to old age is death. The only remedy to loneliness during old age is memories, at least for some. Others who prefer to live in the here-and-now may choose to seek reluctant company. There are stories of how veteran actress Nadira would bribe her guests to stay a little longer with drinks.
Violet Stoneham, the character that Jennifer Kapoor played in Aparna Sen’s “36 Chowringhee Lane” allowed a young couple to use her apartment for sex, just so that she would be in company. Creaky bed notwithstanding.
There is a couple making noisy love in “Yours Truly”, though their sounds of passion sound fairly phoney, as though they were faking it just to make the ageing protagonist feel lonelier.
In “Yours Truly”, Soni Razdan playing an autumnal Bengali woman Mithi Kumar in Kolkata, is a direct descendent of Violet Stoneham, though far less intimidated by her solitude.
Mithi is portrayed as a woman of immense dignity. She is extremely private about her aloneness. Writer-director Sanjoy Nag goes to great lengths to show Mithi’s resilient repudiation of self-pity.
Indeed as portrayed with sincere empathy by Soni Razdan, this could have been the “36 Chowringhee Lane” of the new millennium. Except for the fact that director Nag lacks the craft to march that extra mile which could take this ode to autumnal solitude to a stratosphere of greatness.
I remember seeing Nag’s Bengali film “Memories In March”, which moved rather disappointingly though based on a promising premise of a bereaved mother (Deepti Naval) getting to know of her son’s homosexuality through his partner (Rituparno Ghosh).
There are no great revelations in “Yours Truly”. The film, about the mundane-ness of a wasted life treads on the same path as its protagonist. It is sluggishly paced in the effort to ferret out Mithi Kumar’s solitude as a thing of no regret and little nostalgia.
There are some vivid images of heartwarming routine, such as the thela-gari on which Mithi comfortably plonks herself everyday to catch the local train to work. Then there is her vivacious kid sister Laali, played with contagious energy by Ahaana, who comes visiting her Didi on her birthday with a boyfriend who stomps out of Mithi’s ancestral house — beautifully captured as a family heritage that Mithi won’t relinquish — after Laali gets the chumps.
Another weirdo is Mithi’s tenant Vijay in the flat below. Vijay, played with magnificent goofiness by Pankaj Tripathi (he is effortless and the best thing about this bland film) spends the whole day being bullied by his invisible wife and the whole night satisfying her sexual needs.
The men, as we can see, are pretty weird in this film. And that includes the ‘voice’ which Mithi has taken to be the love of her life. It is the station announcer’s voice which in her imagination talks intimately to her, asks her about her breakfast, her medicines…. The ‘voice’, as played by Vinay Pathak, is as pivotal to Mithi’s selfworth as the ‘voice’ of Bharti Achrekar in the life of housewife Nimrat Kaur in Ritesh Batra’s “The Lunchbox”. Both serve to spotlight the emptiness of a protagonist’s sterile existence. A placid pool waiting to be stirred by a pelted stone.
The portrait of solitude in “Yours Truly” is sullen and supine. It never reaches the meditative level of “36 Chowringhee Lane” even when the writer-director decides to throw in a pet puppy named Chuk-Chuk in Mithi’s derelict life, just like Violet Stoneham’s pet cat Sir Toby in “36 Chowringhee Lane”.
Seen as a topi-tilt to “36 Chowringhee Lane”, “Your Truly” passes muster. But one gets the feeling that this portrait of an autumnal life was meant to be so much more than what it finally gets to be in this film.