He has been forced out of his burgeoning medical career by harsh circumstances. His widowed mother is sunk in acute depression. Sister hyper-brooding over her dark complexion and lack of acceptance by her boorish boyfriend’s family. His buddy drinking to drown his lack of self-worth and joblessness. Caught in this conspiracy of the universe to tamp down his spirits, floundering around, medical college dropout Siddharth has a brainwave. He concocts a happy pill and tries it on his immediate family and friend. To his joy, it works like magic! His now revved-up friend encourages him to grow the pill into a business and they begin selling the pill, slipping five instructions into the package. The pill clicks smashingly! Lifting every taker off sadness and hopeful and energised, till the police get wind of the business and zero in on Siddharta. The police investigate only to find there is no chemical in the pill, it’s just sugar. Yes, my reader, you have guessed it, the cure was a function of part placebo – belief in the promise of the pill, and part, the instructions tagged to the happy pill!
The merit of Bengali film ‘Happy Pill’, directed by Mainak Bhowmick, which hit theatres recently, can be debated on parameters like the strength of its screenplay and simplicity of messaging, but there can be no argument with its core missive — happiness is finally a choice. To be or not to be happy is a choice that each of us has to make every day, even as the kaleidoscope of our life turns a little, daily. Happiness demands actions from us — physical, intellectual, spiritual — of different magnitudes. Act, we must! The film suggests a few simple actions to this end, tied as instructions with the pill.
Phone a friend every day
As we all know, a wholesome conversation with a friend can do wonders to our mood. Ventilating our emotions, discussing an interesting subject, inquiring about another’s well-being and acquainting ourselves with movements in another life – all nurture the human spirit. Yes, negative content can disturb us, but conversation cannot be avoided for that risk, as engaging with others is vital to our happiness, humans being innately social beings.
The value of this instruction – listen to music or practice some form of music and dance every day for half an hour – is universally acknowledged. The human brain responds instinctively to music – soothing music can relax the nervous system and afford relief from the perennially volcanic activity of our minds. Songs with inspiring lyrics can, of course, open up fresh perspectives and pull us out of misery. Countless songs of varied hues and in different languages have been known to infuse hope and stir people to action. (My favourites – Kisi ki muskurahton pe ho nisaar, Madhuban khusboo deta hai, Rabindranath Tagore’s Anondodhara bohiche bhuvane, Soka Gakkai song I have a mission)
Talk to your family members
An instruction that gains weight in this age of Whatsapp and social media, when we are all prone to bend more into our mobiles than is healthy and substitute talks with messages to even family members. The assurance, comfort, and scope of actual conversations cannot be overstated, as these promote deeper understanding and harmony. Harmonious relations with family members contribute more to our happiness than we often recognise.
Smile at yourself in the mirror once a day
Simple enough, but with a huge implication. It means accepting oneself as one is, respecting and celebrating one’s existence. Strong self-respect commands respect from the outside world; it also means not allowing oneself to be demeaned. Like in the film the sister Rini finally develops enough self-esteem to walk out of marriage negotiations with her churlish boyfriend.
Do something creative every day
This final instruct is a strong reminder of our basic human nature, which is creative. We create in a myriad medium in a zillion ways, from the most fundamental of all creations – children, to great nations. And there is a joy to be savoured in creating anything, small or big that sustains life – be it a tasty dish, a PPT, a rangoli, an event or even just a moment. We humans have been endowed with creativity, so that we can invent happiness for ourselves and others every day.
Sure, there are several other roads to happiness which we can explore (like learning something new), but what the film Happy Pill underlines powerfully is that our happiness is too important a business for us to leave it in other people’s hands. We have to take charge of our lives and with due effort, we can be happy. Happiness is a daily job, our first responsibility, for it is only when we are luminous within can we light up other lives.