A story on the front page of a city daily in early 2018 of an elderly SoBO couple writing to the President of India seeking permission for active euthanasia caught National Award-winning director Ananth Narayan Mahadevan’s eye. What made it interesting was the duo was in reasonably good health with no major ailment, but having chosen not to have children because they didn’t want to add to the world’s population and few friends and family, they were afraid of what would happen when one of them died before the other. Their obsession with death had been triggered after reading about KEM hospital nurse, Aruna Shanbaug, who after being assaulted spent 42 years in a vegetative state before passing away in May 2015.
And so, they had made a public plea to be allowed to die together, preferably with the help of a physician, arguing that if the Constitution of India has given them the right to live, then they should also be granted the right to choose when and how they want to die. But since India has not legalised euthanasia, their mercy death plea did not find favour even with friends and neighbours.
However, their story and that of others like a professor in Kerala who had approached the court with a similar plea and subsequently committed suicide after it was rejected, continued to play on Ananth’s mind, more so after the coronavirus-induced pandemic brought lives to a standstill, changing one’s perspective of life and death. “During the lockdown, I started writing what I imagined to be a tricky screenplay, but to my surprise, I finished it in just 12-15 days,” shares Ananth.
Featuring Dilip Prabhavalkar and Rohini Hattangadi, the film will be shot in a 20-day start-to-finish schedule in Mumbai. “We flag off on June 15 and wrap up on July 4. It’s a small unit of 35, and since we are still in the midst of an on-going pandemic, there won’t be more than three-four people on the set and all the SOPs will be followed stringently,” asserts Ananth who has turned producer with the film, having joined hands with Dinesh Banal, his Ghar Jamai TV show producer.
Given their limited budget, the duo decided to make it in Marathi and Ananth was delighted that Prabhavalkar loved the script. “He has a twinkle in his eye despite his serious demeanour. And Rohiniji with whom I have done several plays besides Darpan, a short TV film by Basu Chatterjee, has those lovely dimples and is a big name internationally. I couldn’t have asked for better actors who will bring out the black humour in the script,” says Ananth.
He singles out a scene where the lady drags her husband out for a night show of Anand. During dinner when they are discussing it, he points out that he didn’t like the line where Anand on the tape Dr Bhaskar plays after his death tells him that “zindagi aur maut uparwale ke haath hai, use na to aap badal sakte hai na main, hum sab rangmanch ki kathputliyan hai kinked or uparwale ke ungliyon mein bandhi hai” to which she points out that he also said “zingagi badi honi chahiye, lambi nahin.” “That’s the kind of tone I have set as they argue their case to the world, saying it is important to have a good life but equally important to have a good death,” Ananth points out.
He is planning to wrap up It’s Time To Go by August so he can enter it for the Berlin film festival in September, failing which he will target the Cannes fest.
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