One of the tricks of a film that has intense sad moments, is to show a character in a happy environment for a long time- and just when celebration and happiness is at its peak- throw in a tragic event that makes things worse than ever before. In a good story, all of this must be done beneath the surface- and the viewer should continuously be seeing the ups and downs in the character’s life. By a ‘happy environment’, I don’t mean the jokes should be flying, or everyone should love everybody, or no character goes through sadness. Yet, the general fabric of the scene should make us feel like this is daily life.
In this fabulous film by Shyam Benegal, we see Riyaz (Rizu) a writer looking back on his Aunt Mammo. (Played brilliantly by Farida Jalal.) Talkative, brash, and with a sad past- Mammo manages to win both Rizu’s heart and the audience’s. She enters as an uninvited guest (her letters are not replied to) to her sister’s house from Pakistan having lost her husband and suffered much pain. The little Rizu (adorable in his crankiness) is at first miffed by her presence as his privacy is compromised. But, through a few events (he is caught smoking, but forgiven and she does not tell her grandmother about it- also, Mammo appreciates his decision to be a writer and shares beautiful poetry by Ghalib and Faiz herself) Rizu accepts her as a member of the house.
If you find yourself free on some afternoon, and want to watch an Indian film that makes you proclaim: “Yes, life and relationships are like this!”, I’d make a strong recommendation that you watch this one.