‘Turtle’ (‘Kaasav’): Film Review | Kolkata 2016

TURTLE -Still 1 - H 2016
Courtesy of Vichitra Nirmitee
‘Boudu Saved from Drowning’ in Goa.

A good Samaritan helps a suicidal runaway in a Marathi social drama.

A forward-thinking Indian lady offers the shelter of her beach house to a suicidal young man in Turtle (Kaasav), a heart-felt social drama from the award-winning directing/producing team Sumitra Bhave and Sunil Sukthankar. Just as sea turtle moms must lay their eggs and hope for the best from their offspring, so, too, Janaki creates an emotional incubator until her houseguest can swim away on his own. It’s a pretty story told in tropical splendor on the beaches of Goa, but underneath the feel-good surface lies serious psychology and pro filmmaking.

Part of Marathi’s indie scene since 1985, Bhave and Sukthankar have earned a following with 14 social and gender-themed features, including their 2013 Astu. Here they tackle the double whammy of a woman facing an anguishing turning point as she prepares to divorce her husband and a young man’s inability to find meaning in his life. It’s a little like Boudu Saved From Drowning played straight: admirably selfless, but without the rebellious exhilaration.

We meet the curly haired Manav (young stage actor Alok Rajwade) shortly before he slits his wrists with a razor blade. He wakes up in a hospital bed, but runs off in a half-dead state. Good Samaritan Janaki (Irawati Harshe) finds him collapsed on the side of the road and makes her reluctant driver Yadu take him home to Goa. There, she calls a private doctor to attend to the boy, who is anything but grateful. He refuses to speak for the better part of the film, much less thank his benefactress for the warm, nonjudgmental atmosphere she conjures up around him so he can heal.

Janaki is herself is a person on the mend. She's often on the phone with her psychologist because her imminent divorce sends her into panic attacks. She finds solace in lending a hand to her friend Dattabhau (actor-producer Mohan Agashe), who is working on a sea turtle conservation program, and the nonviolent, vegetarian turtles effortlessly turn into symbols of a better way to live.

If Rajwade was not so relaxed and convincing in the main role, it would be hard to swallow her goodness which, yes, is rewarded in the end. And she's not the only example of caring for others. When Manav starts coming out of his shell, he befriends a hard-working street kid, who in turn looks out for an old man. The high point is a spontaneous, melodious song that Janaki begins singing, and on which Manav joyfully joins in.

The story moves briskly and confidently, with just enough being said; the rest is left to camerawork and imagery.

Production company: Vichitra Nirmitee
Cast: Irawati Harshe, Alok Rajwade, Kishor Kadam, Mohan Agashe, Onkar Ghadi, Devika Daftardar, Santosh Redkar
Directors, producers: Sumitra Bhave, Sunil Sukthankar
Coproducer: Mohan Agashe
Screenwriter: Sumitra Bhave
Director of photography: Dhananjay Kulkarni
Production designer: Sumitra Bhavbe
Editor: Mohit Takalkar
Music: Saket Kanetkar
105 minutes
Venue: Kolkata Film Festival (Marathi Films Focus)