And good we stuck to our decision or we would have missed a great movie.
Devrai is the story of the difficulties faced by Shesh (Atul Kulkarni) who has schizophrenia, and his sister Sina (Sonali Kulkarni) who looks after him.
Shesh wants to research the Devrai in his village. Circumstances (and his nature) however do not permit him to fulfill his dream. Gradually he obsesses over the Devrai. And as his condition takes hold of him the Devrai in his mind soon entangles itself with his other insecurities, obsessions; it takes over his life. Atul kulkarni has superbly essayed the role of a schizophrenic. The actor has surely researched the behavior of schizophrenics because he portrays it very realistically. He is superbly competent in conveying his fixations, the rages that follow, and the anxieties. But what impressed me was his portrayal of a patient after ECT (shock therapy) and when he is on schizophrenia medication. He gets that blank dead look perfect. Even his eyes look dulled and he manages to convey the "catatonia" of such a patient brilliantly. Watch him closely when he addresses the other patients in a group therapy session -- brilliant scene, great acting.
Sonali Kulkarni's Sina is another notable performance. Her love for her brother, her frustration at his condition, and her initial inability to understand what's wrong with Shesh is brilliantly portrayed. Her interaction with her husband (Tushar Dalvi, playing a scientist) is also excellent. Her despair at her husband's initial lack of understanding is palpable as is her love and gratitude as he finally turns around and becomes supportive.
Tushar Dalvi delivers a competent performance as Sina's scientist husband who is initially angered and frustrated by Shesh's condition and the impact that it would have on his career and family. Gradually he comes around and understands what's wrong with Shesh and what his wife is trying to do. Check him out in the scene when his wife breaks down after Shesh relapses yet again -- he is brilliant, as is Sonali kulkarni.
Amruta Shubash and Mohan Agashe don't have much to do but are competent. Mohan Agashe though comes across a bit too much as the "good doctor." Ashwin Chitale (the kid from Shwaas) plays the role of the son of Sonali Kulkarni and Tushar Dalvi.
Sunil Sukhthankar and Sumitra Bhave, the directors, have made a movie that they can be proud of.
The camera has captured the beauty of Konkan marvelously. I don't know where the movie has been filmed but the Konkan of the movie is very fresh and very beautiful, not to mention authentic (One of my friends who has his "native place" in Konkan kept saying that the movie reminded him of his village).
What I liked about the movie was the amount of research that has gone into it (being supported [and, if I am right, funded, by the Schizophrenia Awareness Association] must have also helped). Shesh's obsessions, delusions, and his overall condition are correctly portrayed. As is the gradual development and rehabilitation of the patient. Shesh's delusions too are very "correct" - a perfect mix of the logical and the fantastic that schizophrenics usually have. The rehab of a schizophrenic patient is also very true to life. Pay special attention to the support extended by the patients to one another (incidentally, it is also one of the best scenes in the movie) -- it is very touching and is usually how such patient groups function and progress. The depiction of the family support groups and their interaction is also very true to life.
I do have some cribs about the movie though. Some of the things have been portrayed incorrectly and that is inexcusable of a movie that aims to spread schizophrenia awareness. The emphasis on ECT (shock therapy) is incorrect. While ECT is used, it is rare -- and never is it the first option. The movie infact shows the patient being administered ECT before he has been diagnosed a schizophrenic.
The depiction of the social workers in the movie as subordinates to the doctors is also incorrect. Psychiatric social workers play an important and very major role in the treatment and the rehab of the mentally ill. In fact a good amount of the work in the movie that is shown to be done by the doctors (counseling and support) is actually done by social workers.
And another (last) crib - the depiction of the social workers in the day-care center. A social worker while explaining the need of patience on the part of family members while handling mentally-ill patients points to her own mentally retarded son. Our movies still haven't got out of the trap of portraying social workers as people who have been motivated by personal misfortune. Most social workers qualify after years of study and on-field training (that is not to say that it might not be the case in the movie). They are highly trained professionals who have chosen to do what they do and showing a personal misfortune as the prime motivator, i feel, detracts from what they are doing.
It is a brilliant movie nonetheless and I have been recommending it since yesterday to all my friends and colleagues. It is one movie that should be definitely on your must-see list.
Read Gaurav Sabnis' excellent review of Devrai on his blog Vantage Point.