The much awaited and critically acclaimed movie by Sridhar Rangayan Evening Shadows had a limited release in PVR across India. The movie premiered in Delhi on 16th January, and despite being a weekday, the hall was full and you could see people having come to the multiplex along with their parents.
The movie begins with Kanna (played by actor Devansh Joshi) coming home from Mumbai after four years. His parents, in particular his father (played by Ananth Narayan Mahdevan) have kept a puja to welcome him. But the puja is also a set up to invite potential bride for Kanna and introduce the two. This sets the tone of the movie from the beginning – an Indian family looking to arrange marriage for their only son who has now reached marriageable age.
Ananth is the patriarch of the house, who is always berating his wife, Kanna’s mother (played by Mona Ambegaonkar), in front of others. Like many Indian wives, especially in the rural households, Mona lives in the shadows of her husband, quietly soaking in all the insults she is heaped upon, never speaking against her husband’s decision. And Ananth has decided that it is time for Kanna to get married to the girl he has chosen. When Kanna resists, he asks his wife to go on a day trip with his son and find out if Kanna is already in love with another girl. But what Mona discovers in this trip is more than she can handle.
The movie has some powerful performances by both Mona Ambegaonkar and Devansh Joshi. But Mona shines throughout the movie and practically carries it over her shoulders. The plot and the dialogues are so relatable that you get a feeling of déjà vu . The scene where Mona asks Devansh if he was a kinnar, reminded me of my own mother trying to grasp the whole concept of homosexuality and asking me if I was a khusra (punjabi term for hijra).
Two particular scenes in the movie show the transformation of Mona’s character. The first is when in the middle of the river, she learns of her son’s sexuality and almost faints. She is helpless because she just can’t escape the reality even if she wanted to, in the middle of the river she has no choice but to face her son’s truth. The scene is beautifully shot too. The other part is when she finally stands for her son and shouts at her husband Ananth that no matter what, he is her son and she will stand by him. This is where she finally comes out of the shadows of her husband. She is standing up not just for her son, but for her own self as well. Ananth as the patriarch has played his part well too.
But the movie is not without its shortcomings. There are parts in the movie which are unwarranted, and could have been easily done away with. The story line tries to weave itself around the 2013 Supreme Court judgement, but it looks like a plot line forced upon it. The movie could have been just another coming out with involving the 377 judgement. Similarly the whole scene involving the cameo by Sushant Divgikar leaves you baffled as to why it was introduced at the first place. The movie also falls in the trap of stereotyping – a married (gay) uncle who is a molester, over the top Queens (in the scene involving Sushant). At times the movie is trying to deal with too many things – married gay men, 377, coming out; when in fact it should have stuck to just one – coming out journey of a mother and son. The power packed performances of Mona and Devansh did not need these distractions.
Overall, this is the coming out movie one must take their parents to. Memories in March dealt with the subject of a mother dealing with her son’s sexuality, but that was only after his death in the movie. Memories in March could thus never show the tension that arises between a mother-son relationship after coming out, and how the two go together in the journey of acceptance. It is also refreshing to see an India movie on LGBT issue which does not end in a tragedy, or involve a tragedy. With Evening Shadows, Sridhar has done a fine job, and given the Indian LGBT community a movie that will help them and their families in their coming out journey.