How Indian Cinema & Art Portrays Different Shades Of Grief

How Indian Cinema & Art Portrays Different Shades Of Grief

“If eyes are the window to the soul, then grief is the door. As long as it’s closed, it’s the barrier between knowing and not knowing. Walk away from it, and it stays closed forever. But open it and walk through it, and pain becomes the truth.”

Micheal C. Hall - Dexter Morgan

Life during the pandemic was waking up to a morbid sadness in the air, none of us knew when this feeling would leave and three years later, most of us still live with it everyday. Mourning the life of people we lost, the lost versions of ourselves that only existed when they were around and most importantly the loss of life before covid. The collective experience of sadness still persists. They are not individual afflictions like most tragedies but rather shared encounters with grief.

The five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance laid down by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her 1969 book On Death and Dying look different for everyone. While some cope with exacerbating their senses through overstimulation in order to feel nothing, others fall into a deep hole of self-pity. If we look around ourselves at the present moment most people are coping in some shades of these tendencies.

Mainly because pandemic extended beyond the loss of life, it took away so much from people of all ages but especially from young people who had not even started out with their lives. The lasting impact of the lockdown causing complete disconnect for children and teens has not been explored yet. A sense of despair seeped into each house, people my own age lost their parents, with responsibilities falling on their shoulders overnight.

The inability to help those around us while being mere spectators of loss and misery can also leave one grieving because the harrowing echoes of the pandemic are still fresh in our minds. What helps us overcome the darkness is sharing the burden of those memories because if we were together in loss then we are also one in grief.

Image Courtesy: High On Films

Like any other human experience, grief has also been captured beautifully in art. Internationally some of the most viewed shows during the pandemic were Wanda Vision, This Is Us and Afterlife, all three capturing the process of grieving through a unique lens. While back home we dealt with grief through humour, movies like Pagglait provided a comedic relief to the experience of dealing with death. Similarly, Ram Prasad Ki Tervi satirised the loss of a patriarch with soul and laughter.

Cinema has always captured grief with nuance. The Waiting, a film that was released back in 2016, followed Tara, a married woman who meets Shiv, an elderly professor, at a hospital where their spouses are admitted. Sharing the feeling of uncertainty and persisting grief that had not fully taken its form yet. The Sky Is Pink showcased a fully fleshed experience of dealing with grief, through managing the sickness of a family member, facing the loss and still surviving.

Talaash gave a ghostly presence to the grief of a couple grappling with the death of their son. “Treat your grief otherwise you’ll get more grief. Ghosts are pulled towards people steeped in grief. They think that we are also like them.” It’s a line from the film that captures the central message. Then there are also films like Karwaan that highlighted the importance of companionship and camaraderie as vital elements of coping.

Image Courtesy: Youtube

Other forms of art such as music provide comfort through symphony. Saathi Re by Arko Mukherjee and Chitthi Na Koi Sandes by Jagjit Singh and are songs giving words to the collective feeling of despair felt by the people left behind after someone’s passing. While songs like Mera Kuch Samaan by R.D Burman give form to a different form of grief felt at the end of a relationship. These creative expressions unite us by harbouring a sense of togetherness in the toughest moments of life.

I remember reading the first book by Gurmehar Kaur, Small Acts of Freedom, where she spoke about losing her father at the age of three and how her life-long grief was relayed to me through pages. Similarly, when I heard the spoken word performance Mujhe Ghar Jana Hai (I Want To Go Home) by Mallika Dua where she spoke about losing her home with the death of her parents during the pandemic, her words were enough to make me partake in her grief through poetry.

So while we are still healing from the collective experience of the Covid-19 tragedy, the beauty of our combined grief is that it brings us together. On the other side of this pain lies growth, community and hope for happier days.

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