Certain films are so candidly featured that you keep watching that same movie a dozen times. I watched this bilingual film Astitva. I had always been a huge admirer of movies directed by Mahesh Manjrekar. He does make ingenious films, not to make box office mega-hits, but to reveal the stark realities of life.

Without much ado let’s, have a short summary of the film. Astitva was released in the year 2000 in Marathi and Hindi. It won several awards and accolades. So what was it about the film that made it so popular?

Malhar Kamat played by Mohnish Bahl was a musician and music tutor. On his deathbed, he prepares a will where he leaves his entire property to Aditi Pandit, played by veteran actress Tabu. Aditi resides in Pune with her workaholic, alcoholic and womanizer husband Shrikant Pandit played by Sachin Khedhekar.

The will reaches Aditi when she is in the midst of a party. In that party, Aniket played by Sunil Barve who is the only child of Aditi and Shrikant, introduces his would be wife and girlfriend Revati to everyone present at the party. Like a typical chauvinist, Shrikant receives the will and opens it though it was meant only for Aditi.

men can resort to adultery and they are pardonable, while a woman cannot be pardoned for the same.

The movie is shown in flashbacks where it is revealed that Shrikant was an upcoming entrepreneur and his job involves a lot of travelling. He leaves behind his newlywed wife Aditi, who is lonely. Aditi asks him for a permission to work somewhere to combat her loneliness and Shrikant rejects the idea as no women in his family has worked outside before.

He advises her to go ahead and pursue her music. The music teacher being Malhar Kamat. Meanwhile, Shrikant leaves for a tour and Aditi feels emotionally vulnerable when she witnesses her sister’s loving relationship with her husband. Unable to bear the extreme pangs of neglect and frustration, Aditi ends up having an affair with her music teacher.

Malhar falls in love with Aditi but Aditi says she only loves Shrikant and is loyal to him. Shrikant comes back from his tour, Aditi tries to disclose that she is pregnant and who the father is, but Shrikant doesn’t listen and is elated. Aditi gives birth to a son.

Also Read: The Humiliating Model Of Motherhood In ‘Aradhana’

The story comes back to the present. Shrikant finds out about Aditi’s affair and punishes her by forcing her to tell the truth in front of his friends and family. Shrikant gets questioned about his own infidelity and Shrikant retorts that men can resort to adultery and they are pardonable, while a woman cannot be pardoned for the same.

Aniket starts loathing his mother. The women in the family condemn the patriarchal behaviour of the men and Revati breaks off her engagement with Aniket. The movie ends with a poignant note where Aditi is shown leaving the house but not before saying to Shrikant that she is a complete woman and she has found her Astitva (existence/identity). Revati joins her and both father and son watch the women leave the household.

So is there a message here, directed at a very misogynist society?

Shrikant refused Aditi to step out and work. The reason is very clear: he is insecure that a woman can prove to be very efficient when she takes up the role of breadwinner. So just understand the problem lies with that callous man and not you. Step out and be independent. Take baby steps which will later turn to gigantic ones, as history has proved it time and again.

do not settle for a man who makes you feel lonely and emotionally vulnerable.

If you wish to choose a compassionate partner over your irresponsible husband just go ahead and take the plunge. Break off from the unhappy marriage and reach out for an understanding partner like Malhar. Never ever compromise your happiness for men like Shrikant and Aniket. Be like Revati, she was engaged yet she had the guts to call off the engagement as she hated the mentality of her would be husband and father-in-law.

Find your own Astitva and also teach society of your existence as a woman in power. Figure out ways to identify your strength and weaknesses. Be like Aditi. Do not let a man overpower you. Fight back the monstrous attitude of that misogynistic mindset.

In conclusion, I say we women have the power within us. We need to just tap our inner wisdom and listen to that voice inside us. Last but not the least, do not settle for a man who makes you feel lonely and emotionally vulnerable. It is better to be single than to settle for these callous men. So that is what we are – we women are our own Astitva.

Also Read: Ribbon: Unravelling Parenting And Gender Sensitivity


Featured Image Credit: Everest Marathi

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