What a movie!
‘Asthu’ (अस्तु), a Marathi movie that revolves around an Alzheimer patient excels in many spheres and takes mainstream cinema to a different level.
Dr.Chakrapani Sastry, a retired Sanskrit scholar, afflicted with dementia, forgets even his daughter’s names, yet is able to recall relevant verses from ancient texts that suit the occasion. He gets lost, follows an elephant and is taken care of by the mahout’s family for a day. The struggles that Sastry’s daughter Irawati undergoes to find him forms the crux of the story.
Sastry’s slow descent into dementia is well captured. The scenes where the mahout’s wife takes care of the scholar have deep philosophical undertones bordering on Karma and the like. These scenes are bound to bring tears to the viewer.
The transitions from one scene to the other, through the eyes of the daughter, are well made , with an object or verse in the preceding scene acting as the connector to the succeeding one. Eg – The miniature elephant souvenir in a scene followed by the one that shows the actual elephant Lakshmi.
Irawati Harshe plays Irawati, daughter of Sastry. Her controlled and graded emotional outbursts are a treat to watch. Milind Soman plays a supporting husband and an understanding son-in-law.
The mahout and his wife (Amruta Subash) glitter in their performances, the latter stealing all the scenes effortlessly.
Dr.Mohan Agashe, a real life Psychiatrist, plays Dr.Chakrapani Sastry and anchors the film all the way through. A man that doesn’t remember anything, following an elephant that is supposed to remember everything, is an interesting aspect of the film.
I particularly liked the steady stream of jingling noise made by Irawati’s bangles. The Kannada-Konkani-Marathi lullaby that the mahout’s wife sings is bound to anchor you to the seat. The lullaby makes all the characters sleep, and that includes the elephant.
The mahout’s daughter is a silent performer. She never spoke a word, but captured my heart.
It is an honour to watch the film. I honoured myself twice.