By Arunima Paul
Watching Asit Sen’s Khamoshi (1969) in the times of COVID-19 is a strange experience. The film was his Hindi remake of his earlier Bangla film Dweep Jwele Jaye (1959) which itself was a cinematic adaptation of Ashutosh Mukherjee’s short story “Nurse Mitra.” Khamoshi is a slow-burning and ultimately wrenching melodrama about Radha – a mental health professional (‘nurse’) who works at a psychiatric hospital and aids its doctors in an unconventional treatment of some of its patients, the damaging nature of which eventually leads to her becoming a patient there. The inexorability of Radha’s slow aggravation, played with great emotional depth by Waheeda Rehman, acquires a peculiar intensity when watched while enduring the pandemic-induced lockdowns and their mandated isolations and proximities. Khamoshi situates its exploration of mental health and healthcare in a moment that we recognize today as the beginning of the disintegration of the Nehruvian national consensus in post-Independence India. The nationalist elite that had led India’s transition into independence, represented most clearly by the figure of Nehru was characterized by a deep belief in secular and scientific modernity as a social vision and state-led technocratic development as the process that would realize this vision. It was from this vision that the elite derived its understanding of what ‘ailed’ the nation, and an unassailable sense of self and mission. In these early post-Independence decades, this elite also enjoyed broad consensual support from disparate sections of Indian society that otherwise may have held radically different conceptions of the social. This consensus was frayed by the continued economic crises of the 50s and 60s, but also by changing social dynamics within spaces where modernity was seen to be realized – in particular, around social norms of gender and sexuality in urban India. And yet, the developmental imagination was still going strong with bureaucrats, agricultural scientists, civil engineers and doctors frequently cast in the rhetoric of the Green Revolution or state-led construction of hydroelectric dams and power projects or public health and sanitation campaigns as heroes confronting the ‘primitivisms’ in the countryside and the upheavals of modernity in the metropolis with technocratic and scientific zeal.
Films of the era, however, had a more ambiguous relationship with this zeal of austere technocracy. While films on the social-realist end of the spectrum positioned say, a doctor as heroic for selflessly using his expertise for social intervention and national transformation; ‘feudal family romances’ (coined and theorized by film scholar Madhava Prasad) included vignettes of marginalized figures to acknowledge inequality and poverty, but their aesthetics often celebrated the more scintillating aspects of urban consumerism. Beginning with the 1970s, we would see a newer set of urban genres provide, in social-psychologist Ashis Nandy’s words, ‘a slum’s eye view of politics’ that also probed the repressed ‘maternal’ underside of the cultural memory of modernity. Located early on this cusp, Khamoshi is a melodrama that confronts technocratic developmentalism and its epistemological certainties within the setting of medical research and healthcare. In this essay, I show how this film confronts this austere developmental ideology chiefly through its use of songs which distend the elements and conventions of filmi geet in ingenious ways. I follow the ways in which the film amplifies the aural dimensions of popular cinema to convey experiences of alienation and haunting that challenge the epistemological authority of the medical complex as well as the ways in which Indian modernity understands itself. This much-loved film has elicited tremendous fan appreciation of its music which was composed by Hemant Kumar to the lyrics of Gulzar. It has also received some scholarly criticism for technically inaccurate depictions of treatments based on Freudian psychology. In this essay I seek to bring together these two aspects of the film – the power of its music and its themes of pathology and treatment, into mutual consideration, to better appreciate its larger cultural stakes.
Khamoshi opens on a tilt-shot from the terrace of a high-rise to show us several floors below, a patient boarding a car and leaving. Soon the car disappears into an urban landscape of motorways and high-rises that evoke the optimism of Nehruvian development planning and its reaching for an urban technological utopia. This architectural optimism and the aerial shot that typically conveys ‘masculine’ objectivity premised on subject/object separation, are undercut immediately as the camera turns to the subject of the gaze – Radha, a young woman looking from one of the balconies of the building, whose gaze has followed and lost the car. In Rehman’s performance, her face exudes grief before absorbing it back into herself. With this opening, the film immediately sets into tension two different optics on urban Indian modernity – one of a gendered optimism (expressed architecturally and by the leading male researchers in medicine) as well as, one could say a gendered grief and abandonment (professed by the femininized arm of this medical apparatus – namely, its nurses). Thereafter we move from the architectural facade to the interior of the mental health institution where the head-matron played with frowning imperiousness by Lalita Pawar is taking roll for the different inmates who are introduced in a part-comedic and part-melodramatic vein – a shadow-puppeteer and his single and unamused audience, another who seemingly chuckles at everything, another who is painfully shy, and finally the patient wracked with worry about his starving children – all of whom Radha soothes and goads on. While Nehruvian optimism pervades the doctors’ offices and meetings, a tide of deep economic distress laps at its heels. Radha comforts the worried father with the lie that he must not worry since she has fed his children and they are no longer crying, to which he responds with deep gratitude.
Bombay cinema of these early post-independent decades often recognized an inequitable society with vignettes of the marginalized rather than by tackling poverty and inequality as a central concern. This narrowed engagement is also reflected in the representation of the social landscape of mental health in Khamoshi. While the initial sequences briefly feature diverse non-elite figures to establish the world of the film, the plot of the film focuses on Radha’s story involving two ‘respectable’ male characters: the discharged patient Dev and the new patient Arun who will soon occupy room 24. In doing so it focalizes the film’s exploration of mental health around a new urban elite for whom modernity is a psycho-sexual arena where women seemingly enjoy newer degrees of pre-marital social and sexual freedom, imperiling the trust of their male partners and causing crises in Indian masculinity. Thereafter the film offers a gendered critique of the method of treatment used by the Indian psychiatric establishment – one that engages the Oedipal ‘bedrock’ of the Indian male’s psyche to manage this modernity-induced crisis in masculinity before returning the recovered youth to resume his heteronormative life-trajectory.
At the point where the film begins, Dev (played by Dharmendra) who was the first patient occupying room “24” has been discharged (as shown in in the opening shot) and the doctors have convened to select the next one. “24” designates the special status of a patient who is taken in by the hospital as a research subject and on whom new techniques for treatment will be piloted. This patient is treated for free in exchange for the data he yields for the institution. The doctors read off a list of cases demonstrating a range of psychological conditions: paranoia, schizophrenia, paralysis of the insane, hysteria. The senior-most doctor – addressed as Colonel saab (owing to his military background) – makes a case for selecting another case of acute mania as it would allow him to repeat his experiment with a new psychoanalytic technique of treatment that is more humane than Electro Convulsive Treatment, where the doctor forms a relationship of trust with the patient to help with his recovery. We subsequently learn that this new technique is executed through a nurse who masquerades as a maternal as well as erotic figure for the male patient. This figure aims to re-engage the patient’s latent Oedipal attachment to and trust in his mother to cure his manic misogyny, so that he can be subsequently returned to society, family, with possibilities of conjugal fulfillment restored. The Colonel explains that having had success by using Radha as the maternal-erotic figure for curing Dev, he was hoping to repeat the results with the next patient and thereby substantiate his findings. Radha overhears his plans and subsequently refuses to take on a new case.
Radha’s stance here isn’t surprising given how the opening credit sequence has already set in motion the film’s interrogation of how the medical establishment perceives itself as a ‘humane’ agent curing the nation, as well as how it has recruited the nurse as its selfless helpmeet, asking her to offer herself in an Oedipal masquerade while expunging her own erotic selfhood. When no one answers to the number “24” during the patient rollcall, Radha visits the room, taking in the now-vacant rocking chair, bed, window of a room that for her still pulsates with the presence of its departed occupant and with whom we gather she had formed an intimate relationship. The moving camera signifying Radha’s searching gaze, finally rests on the empty chair as the opening credits begin accompanied by an instrumental version of the film’s most memorable song “Tum pukar lo”, thus establishing this song as the film’s musical cue for the haunted vacancy of the room and the institution at large for Radha. Through its instrumental and playback iterations through the film, this song expands from a cue to an aural register that signifies Radha’s continuing attachment to Dev, as well as the impact of the ‘treatment’ on her. These iterations of the song are paired with the use of an impressionistic visual language by the film to present Dev – with extreme close-ups where we never coherently view Dev’s face or figure – which, as a perceptive blogger has suggested, emphasizes his unavailability to her. As the still with the empty chair expresses, the film is not concerned with Dev himself, but rather with Radha’s experience of this relentless vacancy. The film’s exploration of Radha’s haunting disrupts the developmentalist bravado about a national rejuvenation by positivist science. The Colonel’s unconcern about Radha’s experience of the psychoanalytic technique and an anecdote he relates about the heroic selflessness of a nurse he had witnessed during a war show the elisions this ideology must perform to maintain its ontological certitudes and how these certitudes rely upon essentialisms about women’s innate capacity for selfless mothering.
In Song: An Aural Register for a Haunted Modernity
The richness of the film’s aural register emerges when we consider the way in which it displaces how songs typically operate in Hindi cinema – namely, by building a correspondence between lyrics vocalized by the singer and the visually-present actor (‘speaker’). Such songs elaborate the speaker’s state of mind. “Tum pukar lo” appears in its operatic vocal form in a flashback to the eve of Dev’s departure from the hospital following his recovery, when he sings in anticipation of his resumed betrothal to his lost love. The visual sequence follows Radha’s slow ascent from the hospital’s ground floor through a staircase and corridor leading to Dev’s room, drawn by his singing, only to halt at the door, the camera occupying her vantage, while Dev stands for the length of the song at a window with his back toward the camera, oriented already toward the world outside and toward marital futurity. Faced the other way, he is unaware of her presence behind him. Plot-wise she is, like us, an accidental auditor while the song is transacted between this speaker (Dev) and his intended addressee who is entirely out of the frame (the object of his ‘re-transferred’ desire). The lyrics translate roughly as, “Call out to me, for I wait for you/ Call out to me. Sifting through dreams, the night is expectant/ I wait for you/ Call out to me.” A chain of unilateral, unreciprocated gazes and desires: we look at Radha, she at Dev, he to his distant beloved. And yet, the film and its frames focalize the unaddressed Radha who will not make her presence felt in the room; at one point she will turn and walk away, still holding the book she had intended as a gift for Dev. Again, on the surface of the plot, hers is a quiet stance – the silent one, the silenced one. But in so far as the song is detached from Dev’s authorial presence, and figures here as a revelation to us of the origin-point of Radha’s pain, and is established already as a repeated cue for her haunting, it conveys her unspoken longing to be summoned by the one she loves. Love is conceived of and expressed in a myriad of ways in filmi geet, and one of these is as intersubjective recognition between individuals. This song persists with and complicates this practice. In song Radha experiences the haunting not only as her longing for Dev, but also as his repeated beckoning to her that are real in their effect upon her but unreal in so far as their originating subject, Dev is gone. Radha is responding to a call that is no longer being issued and that was never for her. The film’s songs evoke a haunting and a grief as a counterpoint to the masculine optimism of the medical institution. If modernity generates masculine mania (its productivity in other subjects not explored), the institution cures it by strategically triggering the Oedipal in the man and splintering the psyche of the woman.
The film then as a critical reflection on Indian postcolonial modernity registers Radha’s silencing but also gives play to the acrimonious and disorienting plenitude of that which is driven underground by the silence. In this moment, the film does so through a displaced male love ballad that becomes a veritable hall of mirrors where the speaker and the addressee are shifting. Choosing this structure of displacement rather than simply giving Radha her own song (with a secure singer-lead/voice-character dyad), allows the film to draw attention to the ways in which songs operate within our filmic narratives as a vital form of emotional and cultural citizenship that are unequally available to different social subjects and for different emotional states. The film’s reflection on Indian modernity, expressed most potently in its aural dimension has not really been grappled with in scholarly considerations of the film which have looked specifically at what the film has to say on mental illness and psychiatric approaches, and sought evidence of those only in specific scenes and dialog. In this aural dimension of the film, lie the ways in which it challenges the epistemological authority of the medical institution and the society it is embedded in, their linear temporalities of treatment, recovery, and progress; of experimentation, replication, and knowledge-consolidation. While Radha eventually takes on the new patient Arun, and repeats the prior technique of treatment, she herself continues to battle her grief and the pull of Dev. The repetition confuses and aggravates Radha even as it aids Arun’s recovery. This is most evident in the film’s second song in male playback sung by Kishore Kumar for Arun’s character performed by Rajesh Khanna. Arun arrives at the institution after some severe manic episodes when a wealthy, young singer of some celebrity named Sulekha ends her relationship with him. Arun is unable to be in the presence of any woman without turning violent. Radha is forced to intervene during one such episode and decides to take up his case. Having learned a little about his past, Radha drapes a saree he will associate with his mother and approaches him with maternal care and authority. The ploy works and Arun comes to trust her. The song “Woh shaam kuchh ajeeb thi, yeh shaam bhi ajeeb hai” [“That evening was a strange one, and so is this/ She felt close then, she feels close today”] follows Arun’s efforts to resume his creative writing. He is now visibly drawn to Radha who while being attentive to his needs, is unraveling fast unnoticed by anyone around her.
Healing and Haunting: Time Splinters and Proliferates in Song
Shot as a boat ride by Arun and Radha in the Ganga near Kolkata, the cinematography for the song-sequence “Woh Shaam” builds in a range of contrasts. A small boat bobbing on expansive waters has long been an existential metaphor in South Asian traditions of poetry and philosophy, signifying human fragility in the face of inordinate forces of nature, fate, mortality and the fickle mercies of the divine. Here, other objects also float into frame, the hull of a fast-moving motorized ship and more importantly, the gigantic frame of the Howrah Bridge – a symbol par excellence of mechanical engineering and the development planning regime. Radha’s existential battle expressed aurally by the operatic chorus rising to a crescendo, is framed visually against a secular architecture – of churning motors and iron frames of modernity spanning the river on which she tenuously floats. Also generated here, are two simultaneous movements of time. If these architectural presences and Arun’s much more hopeful disposition suggest a nation regaining health, moving onward in time toward progressive futures, enabled by mechanical and medical technologies, Radha herself is shown as sinking into a spiraling movement of time replete with revisitations. While Arun is the diegetic singer and subject of this song, its lyrics seem to depict Radha’s experience of disorientation – enacting yet another displacement within the male love ballad. As the oars splash some drops of water on Radha’s face, she is transported to a moment early in her association with Dev when resisting her entreaties, he had flung a glass of water at her. She had reacted with an embrace, laying down with him to calm him. This flashback is then followed by Arun in the present, resting his head on her lap, and Radha embraces him thinking he is Dev, and is disoriented when jolted into the present. The song flitting between ‘now’ and ‘then’ elucidates her ‘madness’ as a doubling back in time triggered by minute events, where past becomes present before receding again, abandoning her in the present.
And yet our film songs rarely function in a unidimensional way and neither does this one. Combined with other filmic elements like performance, our songs can illuminate multiple subjectivities even when they remain mutually inaccessible. Even as “Woh shaam” illustrates the workings of Radha’s mind at the time, the diegetic presence of Arun makes the displacement of the male ballad only partial. As Arun ‘voices’ the antara of the song, the lyrics also work more straightforwardly to locate us in his memory and ‘recovery’ from obsessively finding signs of his lover’s infidelities everywhere. He speaks of a different memory, of an evening when he had thought he could read the signs of her affection for him in her dropped gaze and her rising blush, just as he knows she is thinking of him, humming his name under her breath now. Enabled by Radha and the treatment, he now ‘successfully’ reads feminine love and attachment – the sincerity of which is conveyed by its diffidence. And yet, the unspecific she who is the text being read, fuses Sulekha (of before) and Radha (in the now), to suggest how this masculine recovery is merely a reversal of his earlier impulse, so that he now projects himself as the sole object of feminine love. Isn’t this merely the supplanting of one kind of masculine tyranny with another, enabled by the same solipsism? His obliviousness to Radha is further brought home by her revulsion when she realizes she had embraced Arun not Dev.
The Nurse as Nemesis or the Limits of this Melodramatic Protest
An appreciation of the film’s aural and visual critique of the gendered aspects of the medical-developmental project must also grapple with its limitations, or the duality inherent in popular cinema to flirt with the dominant as well as the repressed. If Radha is placed ‘downstream’ as it were in the treatment of crises of masculinity as the doctor’s tool, caregiver and eventually victim, Sulekha is placed at the origin of the crisis. Many reviewers have correctly criticized the dichotomous presentation of these two female characters along moral, class, and sexual binaries. Sulekha is wealthy, has received fame, is first presented in swimwear at a sports club. She is self-confident, has numerous male admirers and publicly rejects Arun at the club. Not only do the doctors identify her as the source of Arun’s malaise, but Radha herself, with whom the film builds its critique of the medical-developmental complex, also isolates Sulekha as the triggering figure from whom Arun needs to be detached. Here the film’s own sexual morality chimes with that of the institution it is critiquing. After positioning Sulekha in this way within its socio-cultural diagnosis of masculine illness, Sulekha is given a voice, her own song. “Humne dekhi hai un ankhon ki mehekti khushboo” makes a case for love as an ineffable connection, like a fragrance, a silence or a feeling that must not be straitjacketed with a name, formality, or ritual. The song is first mentioned by Arun’s hostel-mate who Radha visits to research his past. She learns about his past relationship with Sulekha and gains possession of her love letters to him. The song is significant to their history as Arun had penned it for her and she had sung to public acclaim. Back at the hospital, Radha plays Sulekha’s recording to Arun to observe his reaction. Seeing his great agitation, Radha decides to visit Sulekha and involve her in his treatment. Thereafter, the song plays in full playback as Radha’s journey to Sulekha in a city-cab is crosscut with Sulekha singing with a live orchestra for radio. Once again, the film sets Sulekha’s musical self-expression in a critical interplay with Radha’s silent presence.
If the song itself is a celebration of unformalized desire, it signifies differently due to its enunciation by Sulekha (performed by actor Snehlata) as a sensuous presence – leaning flirtatiously toward the mic aware of her own appeal. Further we come to the song after the film’s plot has relayed its ‘effect’ to us, namely, Arun’s mania, whereby this unformalized desire is shown to be a callous practice that maddens rather than liberates the soul. Sulekha’s eschewal of the formality of marriage throws into further relief Radha’s institutional and cultural desexualization as helpmeet to the scientist-as-developmental patriarch, and nurse to the ‘hero’ – roles that exclude her from possibilities of conjugal desire and love. While the song in Sulekha’s embodied singing rings coquettish, in its aural circulation through the car-radio it gathers differently around Radha as she listens wistfully, city lights flitting past the car-window – making her more emblematic of love that elides formalities. The lingering camera on her face brings into our consideration how her love and devotion have been harnessed by the developmental project, while her desire as the loving subject, for recognition and reciprocation are elided. Therefore, Radha’s presence in the sequence both evokes the ideal (as a ‘truer’ embodiment) and subverts it.
Besides further expanding the aural register of the film, this song also sets up the contentious encounter between the two women and forwards the plot of Radha executing Arun’s ‘cure’ and serving a more peremptory correction to Sulekha. Radha meets Sulekha just as she concludes her radio performance and accompanies her from the studio to her home, where the latter changes from a stylish saree into ‘western’ style fitted slacks – each of these elements of costume carries cultural weight. Explaining the purpose of her visit, Radha pushes Sulekha to take responsibility for Arun’s condition and to aid in his ‘cure’ by meeting him one last time, in order to kill his continued obsession with her. Implicit in this entreaty is the threat of Radha damaging Sulekha’s reputation by using the love-letters that are now in her possession. As expected, when Sulekha visits Arun, he attacks her, and Radha intervenes only when he has turned the tables on Sulekha and ‘redressed’ the power imbalance between them after their break-up. Panicking for her safety, Sulekha calls three of her male acquaintances for help – when they arrive, Radha ‘exposes’ Sulekha by letting them know that they too will soon be housed in the hospital alongside Arun. Chastised, Sulekha leaves the hospital alone while Arun moves from his vengeful hallucinations of disrobing Sulekha to composing a literary work with a tragic female protagonist who resembles Radha. When the Colonel accuses Radha of endangering and potentially scarring Sulekha, in an anguished outburst Radha emphasizes the need to demand accountability from those who are ‘stirring in the poison’ that ultimately affects ‘downstream’ caregivers like herself – foregrounding the cost paid by women like her because “we are connected to society too.”
Within the terms of this argument between the Colonel and Radha, Radha exceeds her institutional mandate by implicating Sulekha and challenges the medical establishment’s narrow concern with testing its hypotheses with experiments to produce knowledge. Radha has also carried her complaint from the sphere of interiority expressed entirely in the aural register of the film, to the external and expressive one with confrontational dialog. However, Radha’s critique that the medical-developmental complex merely appeases social behaviors that induce trauma, also illustrates the multiple yet limited ways in which Woman figures in the film’s critical diagnosis of Indian modernity. Woman figures triply: as the bedrock of the male Oedipal psychic infrastructure, as a primary modality of modernity as social and sexual turbulence, as well as the maternal-erotic figure who resets the male psyche to his originary Oedipal configuration. She does not figure, however, as a subject also formed within the same psycho-sexual landscape as a male youth (the Electra complex is mentioned by the Colonel but never taken up), as one who is also responding to modernity’s social revolutions and imbalances potentially with her own traumas and psychoses, or as a deserving recipient of convalescent care in spite of her possible intractability. Sulekha is summarily ‘treated’ by Radha through endangerment and a public exposé. When Radha herself is revealed at the film’s dramatic denouement as an ‘unhinged’ depressive, laughing and sobbing alternately, insisting that she ‘never did any acting’ when treating her patients (firmly tying the nature of her emotive care-work to her condition) and is confined to a room in the hospital, the film emphasizes the tragic finality of this turn rather than the possibility of determined care and treatment for her.
Returning to the Present via Khamoshi
Calling upon medical institutions to recognize women’s disorders is a very dangerous proposition, given the early history of the medicalization of women’s bodies, how psychoanalysis probed and proved their innate proclivity to ‘madness’. However, this discussion of Sen’s film relates more to the question of how Indian modernity understands itself, as technocratic amelioration of a society where a normalized set of gender and sexual practices have been brought into turbulence. Popular cinema is a vital and sensitive register of a culture’s imaginary, within which a culture expresses and comprehends its own transformations, and where it interrogates and adjusts with itself. Within this imaginary, dramatic focus and exploration of the experiences of particular subjects, or the lack thereof, is a telling barometer of who is valued and why. Khamoshi skillfully activates aural potentialities of cinema, bending established structures of filmi geet and conventions of picturization, to create a kaleidoscopic play of meanings that evoke a haunting within the hospital – an institution that was key to the secular and developmentalist imagination in postcolonial India. The viewer is moved to recognize the gendered labor and epistemological violence inflicted upon Radha by the hospital’s ‘humane’ ventures. And yet this rebellious haunting is ultimately unable to exceed the inequities within the film’s and the larger culture’s gendered comprehension of modernity where women are central to diagnosis but peripheral when it comes to attention and care.
Watching this film, rooted firmly in the developmental era presents curious contrasts and continuities to our neoliberal, pandemic-riven present. Much is changed, the Indian state while still being central to the national imaginary, has also reconceived its functions in the era of austerity. Working as an enabler of neoliberal capital, the state has whittled down its developmental functions into the barebones of a welfare apparatus that works weakly in the face of spiraling income inequality. Poverty is no longer recognized as a ‘co-morbidity’ and mental healthcare has been brought into the ambit of private capital. The developmental apparatus housing the doctor and nurse has all but disappeared. And yet, in public debates around the recent suicide of a high-profile male actor, we might recognize the same interpretive shorthand to diagnose and the cure the nation. In these lurid narratives, we may detect the pillorying of a Sulekha or idealized invocations of a Radha silo-ed and silent in her tireless care-work – just as most forms of formal and informal, intimate care-work remain invisible and unaddressed in our public discourse and state policy. As these feminine forms flicker into our recognition, they can trigger associations and immersions where digressing from our presentist selves we may inhabit other postures of alienation, consideration, generosity even in failure or futility, that lay bare and confront, malaise or not, the contours of our cultural selves. We may indeed reckon with and confront the antipodean mythologies (of the masculine and the maternal, of modernity as violation of Oedipal ‘nature’) that continue to form the bedrock of our self-recognition as a postcolonial nation and culture. Following these narrative journeys through their imaginative possibilities and failures may return us to our present in newer ways, estranging our prior certitudes and apprehending anew the complexity of our own presence and that of others.
 Many blogs offer alternate English translations of the lyrics of this song. For instance, this one offers a literal and an emotional translation: http://bollywoodtranslations.blogspot.com/2013/08/khamoshi-tum-pukar-lo.html
Arunima Paul writes about representations of colonial and postcolonial modernity in cinema and popular culture. She teaches literature, media, gender, and ethnic studies at California State University, Los Angeles. Her work has previously appeared in Studies in South Asian Film and Media, Muse India, Cafe Dissensus, and elsewhere.
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I haven’t read a more finely detailed and empathetic take on mental health issues vis a vis this still underrated film. You have written beautifully and with great sensitivity.