Homegrown Film ‘Aunty Sudha Aunty Radha’ Is A Radical Celebration Of Ageing & Sisterhood

Aunty Sudha Aunty Radha stands out as a radical testament to the beauty of simplicity, contentment, and the enduring bond of sisterhood, in a society often driven by the pursuit of material wealth and societal expectations. It's a remarkable feat of storytelling that a film devoid of fancy editing or elaborate shots manages to hold the viewer's attention so effortlessly.

Directed by Tanuja Chandra, this 2019 documentary captures the lives of two widowed sisters, Sudha (86) and Radha (93), living in the village of Lahra, three hours from India's capital. The film's charm lies in its portrayal of the sisters' daily lives, their interactions with their adopted family of domestic help, and the serene backdrop of their village home.

A documentary with no elaborate theatrics, and no dramatic twists Chandra employs a fly-on-the-wall approach, capturing the essence of the sisters' daily routines with an almost home-video-like intimacy. The camera lingers on their conversations, their playful banter, and their shared moments of laughter and introspection.

The film's strength is its unembellished and raw depiction of everyday life. Shot with a simplicity that mirrors the subjects' own lifestyles, the documentary feels like a series of home videos; capturing candid moments rather than falling into the trappings of a theatrically produced film. It is a film that makes the viewers feel like they are part of the sisters' world. This approach enhances the film's charm, as it is driven not by visual spectacle but by the genuine warmth, humour, and wisdom of Sudha and Radha.

In a culture where the elderly are often expected to conform to societal norms and familial responsibilities, the autonomy and self-contentment exhibited by Sudha and Radha are almost revolutionary. Freed from the obligations that once defined their lives, the sisters embrace their independence with youthful zeal. They navigate their days with walkers, yet their spirits are undiminished, embodying a sense of freedom that is both inspiring and liberating. Their ability to live for themselves and disregard unsolicited advice is a radical act of self-affirmation in a world that often sidelines the elderly.

The documentary beautifully captures the essence of community living. Despite the social differences between the sisters and their domestic help, the film portrays a familial bond where the helpers are not just employees but an integral part of Sudha and Radha's lives, creating a support system that is both practical and emotional. This depiction challenges conventional notions of family, highlighting how bonds of affection and mutual respect can create fulfilling relationships regardless of societal status.

More importantly, it serves to remind us of the richness of old age. The sisters reflect on their pasts, filled with marriage, children, and traditional family roles, and find that their current stage of life, though vastly different, is equally, if not more fulfilling. Their contentment and joy in their twilight years challenge the stereotype of old age as a period of decline and loss. Instead, the film presents it as a time of newfound freedom and happiness, a perspective that is both refreshing and heartwarming.

The documentary is interspersed with moments of humor, philosophical musings, and tender interactions that offer valuable life lessons. The banter between the sisters, their childlike innocence, and their unwavering optimism provide a continuous source of joy and inspiration. One particularly poignant quote from the film: "These days people are rarely happy from within," encapsulates the profound wisdom that Sudha and Radha impart through their simple yet profound way of living.

Tanuja Chandra's direction, coupled with the natural charisma of the titular aunts, creates a film that is both deeply moving and immensely watchable. It challenges societal norms, celebrates simplicity, and offers a fresh perspective on aging. 

You can watch Aunty Sudha Aunty Radha here.