Amruta Subhash, Girish Kulkarni, Anjali Patil discuss Sumitra Bhave's swansong Dithee, and its take on non-duality

Amruta Subhash, Girish Kulkarni, Anjali Patil discuss Sumitra Bhave's swansong Dithee, and its take on non-duality

Amruta Subhash, Girish Kulkarni, Anjali Patil discuss Sumitra Bhave's swansong Dithee, and its take on non-duality

Filmmaker Sumitra Bhave's swansong Dithee (Seeing) is a poignant take on grief, loss, and healing. It is about life and death. It is about learning to move on, underlying philosophical layers of faith and spirituality.

Amruta Subhash, who worked with Bhave on the National Award-winning film Astu, says the Marathi film Dithee comes at a strange time. The film which deals with the concept of death coincides with Bhave's passing as if the filmmaker was leaving a message for Subhash. "I started my career with Sumitra moushi. I did a short film (Chakori) with her when I was only 15. She has taught me everything right from the camera work, costumes to characterisation. Whatever I am today, is because of her. Hence when I look back, I realise, every character I played for her left me with a lesson. And this is such a coincidence that the last film that I do for her talks about dealing with the loss of a loved one. Now that she is no more, it kind of feels like a message for this deep grief. But honestly, I am not able to learn this lesson yet."

Subhash's co-actor in the film Girish Kulkarni, however, believes Bhave had a different perspective for the film. "Moushi, as I and everyone knows her, was full of life. Though I don't relate to Amruta's analogy, she is indeed correct. For one, needs to understand that there will be a loss, some dear one being snatched away from your life, but you have to cope up with that, you cannot lose your spirit. While everyone deals with death differently, one must always keep moving forward, and perhaps Dithee also teaches that. I feel Moushi's pursuit was to make us all understand that there is birth even in death. Hence, one must realise that life goes on and you must always pass on the baton. It is an evolving process."

Based on the original story Aata Amod Sunasi Ale by noted Marathi writer DB Mokashi, Dithee is a seemingly simple narrative about a tragic moment in the life of village ironsmith Ramji (Kishor Kadam). His world collapses when his young son drowns in an overflowing river, leaving behind a pregnant wife and a prematurely born daughter. Troubled on how to cope with his grief, Ramji turns to spirituality.

Mohan Agashe, Girsih Kulkarni in a still from Dithee

Both Kulkarni and Subhash refrain from calling the film a grim take on grief. For the inherent tendency to look at death is on most occasions is sombre, the film instead attempts to ask us to look for solace in the face of adversity. Subhash says the film transcends into the concept of Advaita (Sanskrit for non-duality), which simply means ‘not two,’ and points to the essential oneness (wholeness, completeness, unity) of life. Hence, the film is making us realise that one may achieve calmness and peace within grief only with the right perspective, claims Kulkarni.

Anjali Patil, who plays Ramji's daughter-in-law in the film, calls the film a 'masterpiece' on non-duality. "Dithee is essentially about the circle of life. There is birth, death, and everyone who is stuck in this circle. However, we can stay stuck or look for the divine course working towards this circle, and learn to be better human beings. Though the subject may come across as grim, the way Sumita Bhave does is very soothing and healing."

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"Bhave's films, mainly on focused social and mental health issues, is an unparalleled contribution to Indian cinema, and Marathi cinema in particular. She is nothing short of an inspiration," asserts Kulkarni.

"My last memory with her was when I shared how bothered and depressed I was with the state of the world due to the pandemic. Moushi, however, very politely assured me that everything will be alright. She recalled how it was during the plague when people came up with beautiful pieces of literature, made wonderful discoveries, put forth functioning economic policies. She motivated me to keep working, to focus on the future and not to get bogged down by the present climate. What an inspiring woman!"

Kulkarni adds Bhave's passing feels very personal to him, for there was so a lot to learn from her. "And not only in terms of filmmaking but just how to live life, how to approach people, how to take defeat and also the winners. She had a wonderful knack for connecting with the younger crowd, and has nurtured generations of theatre actors, artists, for her residence was literally an open school. My memories with her always bring a smile to my face. "

Amruta Subhash in a still from Dithee

Subhash, who plays the role of Parobai in Dithee, has an interesting character arc. "Parobai's cow is going through a complicated pregnancy and for most village folks, their cattle is literally part of the family. Hence, Parobai and her husband (Shashank Shende) are tensed and concerned. But Sumitra moushi stitched the film in a beautiful manner where Parobai is the one holding the fort, while her husband is shown at the emotional front. Normally, we are used to seeing women breaking down, and not taking a stand. However, Dithee reverses the format, and shows Parobai taking the charge. Hence, I find it so interesting that Moushi chose to take this route."

Patil, who is working with Bhave for the first time, says she has waited for this opportunity for almost 15 years. "When Sumitra moushi called me to offer this role, I immediately accepted. I have this studying the philosophy of non-duality for the last two years, so I felt this was no coincidence; I had to say yes. And trust me, it took me 15 years to work with her. I was in Pune University, barely 15 or 16, when I met her and she asked me to be a part of one of her films. But I was very young, hence she promised that we would definitely work together, and finally it happened in 2019."

Patil believes it was easy to prep for the film while working with Bhave. "We shot the film at Wari, the 18-day Hindu pilgrimage which happens every year. So we sang the songs, prepared them, the ones we sing the film. Hence, it is just living, there's no prep, that's all I can say about working with Moushi. She shoots the films at real locations,  and we were like one unit, everyone together. So how can I really prep for that? I would just go, be real and transparent to her vision for the story."

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For Kulkarni, Dithee releases at a very crucial time with regards to COVID-19.  "There wouldn't have been a more appropriate time to release this film. All of us are struggling to cope with the current situation at hand. There are so many questions about the future, but I am sure this film will give viewers a wonderful space. It will allow them to understand themselves better, and be at peace with themselves."

Patil believes Dithee has a tremendous capacity to help viewers with healing. "Though Dithee talks about life and death, now is the time when we all need to heal, on national, personal, and community levels. The film will act as a soothing balm. I don't want anyone to learn from it, but just experience the process."

Dithee will stream on SonyLIV from 21 May.