Thursday, March 1, 2012


When i first saw this movie i was 15. I remember my exasperation with the 'other woman' whose machinations to disrupt the family of the man she obsessively loved took on drastic proportions when this obsession turned to madness. I was too young to discern the subtleties, the underlying layers of Ria(the other woman) descent into insanity. I loved urmila's performance and thought her simply brilliant. In fact, i remember thinking that she deserved the award for best actor in a negative role. The film left its mark and eventually i forgot about it except to hum a random song as it surfaced momentarily in my consciousness.

At 20, i had my first bout of mania followed by depression. I did some crazy things of whose ramifications i was unaware. I slashed my wrists, took an overdose, landed up in the Icu and had my stomach pumped. That period of my life is both a blur and yet filled with pellucid clarity. I was misdiagnosed as a Borderline personality by an incompetent psychiatrist. It is then that i saw this movie again and realized for the first time that the movie was inspired by the hollywood classic 'Fatal Attraction'. I also, with startling suddenness realized that the character of Ria in the movie wasn't insane but a borderline personality.

Knowing the stigma attached to mental illnesses it is not difficult to imagine the actress being given accolades for a negative role. Does a mental illness make a person mad? Is negativity interwoven with the idea of madness? A curable illness, misrepresented as insanity augments the stigma. And while a lot of this characters behavior, in retrospect, becomes understandable other possibilities are inadmissible. It raises questions of cinamatic authenticity, the honesty in its representation versus the commercial value of its products.

Mental illnesses have always been grotesquely blown out of proportion in Indian cinema. 15, Park avenue happens to be a rare movie which gives dignity to schizophrenia. And the furtive unease, the subterranean shame, the self disgust which people with mental illnesses experience is unutterably painful. People may have a gossamer awareness, particularly educated ones, but by and large willed ignorance prevails. Time after time i've encountered bewildered parents, disoriented trying to locate a causal link, a rationale behind their kids madness and failing to find answers. Their beseeching eye, drooping countenances bespeak a horrifying reality. Schizophrenics and manic depressives, like me, are at the receiving end of a lot of judgemental, sanctimonious scorn and disdain.

Now, at 24, having just seen this movie again i've hopefully raised some points and observations. Undoubtedly they are inconclusive and random but their very zigzag structuring prompts a deeper interrogation of madness/sanity, cinema/reality, ignorance/awareness, in short the whole cornucopia of contradictions that constitutes society and mankind as a whole.