Atanu Ghosh’s National Award winning film ‘Mayurakshi’ is a story of an aged, ailing but brilliant man who loses himself in the past and suddenly stops communicating with the rest of the world. His son Aryanil (portrayed by Prasenjit Chatterjee) lives in Chicago; he is a successful man who repeatedly failed to make a family of his own, had two divorces and now lives a mundane life. He is too busy to spend time with his old father Susobhan (portrayed by Soumitra Chatterjee) who stays in Kolkata with his caregiver, Mallika (played by Sudipta Chatterjee) and an old servant. Noticing the change in Susobhan’s behaviour, Mallika summons Aryanil from USA. She tells him that his father is looking for someone called Mayurakshi. Seeing his son after a long time the first thing that strikes Susobhan is his son’s beard.
Within a few minutes of their conversation Aryanil realizes that his father has no recollection of his job or him being settled in a different country. For him his son still lives in Dehradun and plays cricket in state level which he used to do at least 20/25 years ago. Aryanil understands that his father is suffering from neurological problems; he is forgetting the immediate past and leading an extremely lonely life. At this point we can see that Susobhan is irritated with his own helpless state; he is not comfortable with the fact that he cannot function like before. And because of his incapacitated condition, he remains scared and agitated all the time. He gets nervous whenever he finds himself alone but again refuses to talk when he is surrounded by people. Aryanil realizes that his father needs much closer attention and decides to admit him in a hospital for two days. Knowing that he will be admitted Susobhan asks “My world has shrunk into a tunnel, I only have you before me, nothing else remains. Nothing. Then why do I need additional memory?” In this juncture we can see that Susobhan is scared that his son is going to send him someplace else and he will never get to see his own house again. We can see that even though he has been in the hospital for only a night, he thinks that he is lying there for months. Aryanil empathizes with his father and handles this situation with love and care; he makes him believe that he will never relocate him and it is just a few routine tests that he is doing. After chatting with Susobhan and observing him for two days the doctor tells Aryanil that his father is a brilliant man with vast knowledge in almost everything, be it film, music, sports, literature and because he had been a professor of history, he has stored a lot of information in his brain and now some of the cells are not responding like before and that is quite natural. According to him, Susobhan did not stop connecting with the world because of his dementia. He says that after talking to his father one thing is clear that Aryanil is the single most important person in his life and the fact that he does not communicate with him at all, affected him badly.
By now we understand that Susobhan’s last wish is meeting Mayurakshi one last time. He knows that his son is not happy and according to him Mayurakshi is the only person who can change that. Aryanil wants to fulfill his father’s wish of meeting Mayurakshi but after knowing that she used to love Aryanil and now after so many years finally she is happy with her new family, he decides to tell his father that Mayurakshi has been killed in an accident that very afternoon. That night Mallika stays in Susobhan’s room all night. He frequently starts crying in his sleep which makes her really worried. The next morning without even informing his father Aryanil leaves for Dehradun to his son and from there to USA. Here we can see a son who is feeling as helpless as his father; a son who is trying his best to support and give shoulder to his aged father but failing repeatedly. He is trying to make Susobhan feel loved and valued- he is trying to feed him with his own hands, taking care of him by himself so that he understands that nothing is changed after all but it is never that easy a process. Again leaving the job can never be an option for Aryanil because he pays for 4 families and relocating his father by taking him along will be nothing but unjust towards a man of eighty.
Mayurakshi is a movie that brutally presents the difficulties of long distance caregiving- the dilemma in the caregiver’s mind, the helplessness and the constant urge of being enough. Everyone who cannot stay with their aging parents can connect with the character of Aryanil. We see how desperately he is trying to build a comfortable atmosphere for his father by taking hired help, giving importance to his father’ well-being yet failing to do enough. This movie helps us to understand how critical long-distance caregiving can be and showcases some of the major problems regarding this issue.
Review Contributed by Anuja Banerjee