Many film-makers in the West have focused on the closeted gay, an unassuming person who likes to remain in the shadows. Similarly, a lot many films have captured the trauma and anguish of the bereaved parents when their child is no more. MEMORIES IN MARCH [English; with generous usage of Hindi and Bengali] is not just about the relationship between gay lovers, but also looks at the suffering and pain a mother goes through when her son dies in a road accident. Much later, a bigger shock awaits her when she learns that her only child had a male lover. Suddenly, she discovers chapters in her son's life that she didn't know.
MEMORIES IN MARCH is more about the bonding between a mother and the deceased son's lover and how they unite in grief. Initially reluctant to accept him, the mother and the son's lover come to terms with the harsh realities of life.
A film like MEMORIES IN MARCH treads on a hitherto unknown path and I genuinely feel that such stories need to be told. It's a coming out of closet film that would encourage more people to open up and accept their sexuality with pride. Director Sanjoy Nag handles alternative sexuality with the sensitivity it demands. The film keeps you hooked for most parts thanks to a taut screenplay that never deviates from the core issue. Especially the concluding portions, when the mother leaves the city with precious memories of people who loved her son dearly.
Several questions haunted me much after the conclusion of the film. Whose grief was more real - the mother's loss of her son or the lover's loss of a companion? Or, as Rituparno Ghosh rightly put it, is there such a thing as a hierarchy of grief?
MEMORIES IN MARCH has been a fav in the festival circuit, garnering tremendous praise and accolades by film aficionados. And the praise seems worth it. More for a discerning audience, the director captures the agony of both, the mother and the son's lover brilliantly. The interesting part is that not once do you get a glimpse of the deceased son/lover. There's not even a pic suggesting what he looked like. He's absent all through the film, but the presence, despite his physical absence, is very powerful.
Like several films made by Rituparno Ghosh, MEMORIES IN MARCH also has three principal characters, either conversing in rooms or in cars. But not once do you feel that the narrative tends to get talk-heavy or the film looks cramped thanks to the smooth handling of the delicate subject. Also, the idea of ownership - the mother thinks that no one knows her son better than her - is indeed interesting. The movie becomes even more watchable when the characters share memories of the young man they all loved in various ways. Moreover, Rituparno's films have a proper beginning, middle and end, while MEMORIES IN MARCH, though having a proper culmination, gives this uneasy feeling of some deficiency or should I say incompleteness.
Yet, I wish to add that MEMORIES IN MARCH gets repetitive towards the middle of the second hour. It actually stagnates as the story comes to a screeching half. Besides, the movie unravels at a lethargic pace at this point, which would've been fine had there been some momentum in the story.
Debojyoti Mishra's music is mesmerizing. 'Sakhi Hum' is soothing, yet there's something haunting about it that compels you to listen to it again and again. 'Ajeeb Dawat', in the voice of Shail Hada, who proved his mettle in GUZAARISH, is equally lilting. Soumik Halder's camera captures the various moods with finesse.
The film is embellished with remarkable performances. Deepti Naval is brilliant as the mother who, after her son's demise, discovers shocking truths pertaining to his male lover. The animosity and hostility and also the feeling that the son was exploited by his boss [she's in denial initially] comes across exceptionally on screen. The anger, the confrontational attitude, the shock, the sadness, every aspect is wonderfully natural.
This is acclaimed film-maker Rituparno Ghosh's second stint as an actor and though he's a far better director than an actor, it must be said that he puts his best foot forward in this film. It's a sincere, heartfelt performance and he, along with Deepti, makes you feel the pain of having lost someone very dear. As a colleague who once had a crush on Deepti's son, Raima Sen is noteworthy. However, her character's sudden exit just doesn't sound right.
On the whole, MEMORIES IN MARCH is more for the discerning viewer and the festival circuit. Unfortunately, the film has had an unsung release, with hardly any promotion or awareness, which will make the effort go unnoticed. However, if you wish to listen to an untold story that's sensibly treated with some wonderful performances, I would surely recommend MEMORIES IN MARCH to you.
Rating:- [critique] * * *.