Special LIFF Review: Memories of March

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Sanjay Nag’s directorial debut, Memories in March, was the second film I had the pleasure of seeing as part of the London Indian Film Festival. Written by and starring Rituparno Ghosh, the film also stars Deepti Naval and Raima Sen. I was looking forward to seeing Memories in March and one of the main reasons is that the story, the emotions and the treatment of the film seemed a world away from the jhatkas and matkas of your typical Bollywood movie.

Memories in March is the story of a recently bereaved mother, played by Naval, whose late son, Siddharth, lived and worked away from home. She makes a trip to where he resides following his sudden demise in the hope to collect some of his memories and find out about his life in the final few months of his life. She meets her son’s colleagues (Sen and Ghosh) and also visits his workplace. All seems “normal” until it is revealed to her that Ornob (Ghosh) and Sid were, in fact, lovers. What follows is a mother’s attempt to piece together the life her son led during the last 6 months as well as come to terms with his homosexuality.

With a story of this kind, one does expect a few tear-jerking scenes and also performances which will remain with you for some time. However, if this was indeed an expectation you had, you will be somewhat disappointed. There are definitely a few scenes in the movie which give you the inevitable lump in your throat but they are few and far between, sadly. In fact, it’s possible to count on one hand how many times one sees Naval shedding tears at her loss.

Aside from the obvious, it has to be said that Ghosh’s performance as the person who has just lost his lover is praise-worthy. One is able to feel his grief, his sense of loss and his anger at the situation as well as the way in which he seems to know everything about Sid’s mother through Sid’s eyes. It goes to show that Ghosh is not only a big film director but his acting skills are also showcased worthily in this movie. Hats off to a man who is most definitely a legend.

Raima Sen is an actress which has been seen in a few Bollywood films and her interpretation of her character, Shahana, is one that should get her noticed. It seems given the right films and roles, this actress could easily get critical acclaim. Let’s hope the producers and directors out there are taking notice because Sen is very much the surprise package of this movie and also the much-needed breath of fresh air in an otherwise slow-paced plot.

Memories in March has the potential to be a great watch but it’s not for the masses. Perhaps the one thing that lets the film down is the difficulty in getting under a character’s skin and feeling what they feel as a viewer. Despite this drawback, the film is a delicate, realistic and unconventional attempt to venture into the forum of a subject like homosexuality and portray it as if it is a part of life and, in this case, it also seeks to tackle grief and unknown relationships alongside it.

The beauty of the movie is in the fact that two people are brought together by grief and a mother’s anger turns into a quest for her to find out who the son she thought she knew really was before his tragic death in a car accident. The various audio memories which snap in and out of Sid’s letters to his mother are what make the audiences relate to the relationship he had with his mother and they also resonate when she finds an unsent email in his phone which he had wanted to send her to tell her about Ornob and the relationship they had.

Memories in March endeavors the unthinkable in the softest way possible and this is perhaps the strength of the film. Although a little sluggish in speed, the film is a must-watch for the varied style and uncomplicated narrative.

Rating: 3/5

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