Reel Caregiving: Glimpses of Caregiving – Black

Movie Review Courtesy: Nivedita Singhal

The movie ‘Black’ revolves around Michelle, who is blind and deaf. Her childhood is riddled with conflicts and loneliness until one day Mr. Sahai, her teacher takes her under his wing. Initially, he is hired as a paid tutor to teach Michelle but slowly they develop a deeper bond.

After Mr. Sahai forms a special connection with Michelle, he refuses to take any compensation and decides to tutor Michelle for free. He takes a personal interest in her well being and often fights with her parents to do what’s right for Michelle. Her well being becomes Mr. Sahai’s well being. Over time, he becomes a part of Michelle’s family. He attends all family events, takes care of Michelle, translates for her, and helps her live a functional life. Thus, even though Mr. Sahai starts out as a caretaker, his bond with Michelle makes him transition from being a caretaker to a caregiver.

As Michelle grows older, Mr. Sahai focuses on making Michelle as self-sufficient as possible. He teaches her how to walk and manage everyday tasks on her own. He realizes that he is getting older and that he may not be able to guide Michelle forever. As this realization dawns upon him, he acts on it with fervor and tries to enable her to live her best life. Mr. Sahai’s old age is not only a challenge for Michelle, but also for Mr. Sahai himself. He faces the dual anxiety of growing old and being able to fend for himself and also making sure that Michelle’s quality of life is not disturbed due to his absence.

In the movie there are several conflicts between Mr. Sahai and Michelle’s parents. These conflicts often arise over differences regarding Michelle’s well being. While Mr. Sahai has a more disciplined and strict approach towards Michelle’s education, her parents want to cut her slack and make accommodations to fit her whims and fancies.

During the early parts of Michelle’s childhood, her mother was her sole caregiver. Initially most of Michelle’s well being is her responsibility. During this period, she not only has to provide for all of Michelle’s special needs but also acts as a mediating force in the family.

Eventually they all recognize that they hold different roles in Michelle’s life and that none of these roles are more important than the others. They use this realization to balance out each other’s strengths and weaknesses to ultimately help Michelle achieve her dreams.

The character of Sarah, Michelle’s sister, is also an interesting one. Sarah faces negligence by both her parents due to their preoccupation with Michelle. Sarah’s parents focus all their attention on Michelle’s upbringing and they fail to fulfill some of her emotional needs. She constantly feels ignored, and no matter what she does, she can never achieve any praise from her parents as Michelle does. Due to this, Sarah develops a resentment towards Michelle. This becomes obvious during a dinner party that was organized a day before Sarah’s wedding. In this party she makes a spiteful speech directed at Michelle and her parents. Even though Michelle is hurt by Sarah’s comments, expressing this grievance finally allows Michelle and her parents to make amends and build a more genuine relationship with Sarah.

This movie is available to watch on YouTube.

In our next segment on Reel Caregiving, we will explore caregiving in another movie. Watch this space!

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