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Spoiler Alert! This review discusses the structure of the plot in detail, while leaving out the most beautiful scenes in the movie.

Generation Aami (Generation “I”) is a Bengali coming-of-age movie. It revolves around Apu, a tenth standard student in Kolkata, and his cousin sister Durga, visiting from Delhi. Apu’s parents put a lot of pressure on him to study, perform well in his board exams, join the science stream, and clear the Joint Entrance Exam (JEE). His parents disciplined him excessively and gave him little freedom to do as he liked. As a result, he felt as if he had not quite grown up. He loved to write music, play guitar, and sing, but was harshly discouraged from doing so.

While Apu’s parents worried about him too much, Durga’s parents completely washed their hands of her. They turned a blind eye to her struggles, pretending her depression had nothing to do with them. They sent her to Kolkata, because word had gotten around that she was receiving psychiatric treatment. Whenever she called them, they would hastily hang up. Her mother would say she was busy, while her father would say that the network was bad. When she said her maternal uncle had molested her, her mother refused to believe it.

Also read: Why We Need to Focus on Women’s Mental Health

Durga and Apu had been brought in considerably different households. She impressed Apu by talking back to his mother, and her aunt at the dinner table, something he would have never dared to do. It seemed she could act exactly as she liked. An unlikely friendship blossomed between them, as Apu was the only person who asked Durga why she tried to kill herself once. Soon, Apu was breaking away from the obedient, submissive son he was accustomed to being. He started breaking the rules set out by his parents. By encouraging him to talk to his crush Piya and to play at his school’s open-mic music festival, Durga helped Apu find his voice. On her birthday, on the pretext of buying herself a present, she bought him a guitar. She urged him to get a piercing.

Durga’s parents completely washed their hands of her. They turned a blind eye to her struggles, pretending her depression had nothing to do with them.

Durga was undergoing treatment for clinical depression in Delhi, while she was sent to Kolkata. She refrained from taking her prescribed pills as the side effects were quite difficult. She also stopped going for counseling. Her condition worsened. Her boyfriend Sourav refrained from speaking to her on the phone. When she decided to call him and confess her love, his wife picked up the phone. Remembering Apu’s mother’s words, Durga called her parents, who for one last time evaded her calls. She decided to end her life by jumping off a building, and this time succeeded.

Apu’s father felt that Durga’s suicide was an act of selfishness, and that she acted irresponsibly. This sparked a confrontational exchange between Apu and his father. Apu accused his father of caring about IIT, only for the sake of the family’s image. In response, his father says that all he wants is that Apu does not end up struggling for money as he is. Apu asserted his right to pursue music if he chooses. He disobeyed his father, and decides to perform at the Gaanwala.

Apu’s grandmother reminded her son that he too was once passionate about music, and that he could not have performed as well on stage if she had not been there to cheer him on. This urged Apu’s parents to quickly get ready and go watch him perform. His performance brings a tear to Piya’s eye.  The movie ends with a sequence from a year later, when Apu ties a letter to Durga to a set of balloons, and releases it into the sky. He had grown up, taken the science stream, and decided to write the JEE, while also pursuing music seriously.

Generation Aami depicts the generation gap in a manner which does justice to both sides of the story. It illuminates the anxieties surrounding the future forced upon students appearing for the board examinations by parents who are convinced that a good education is a recipe to a good life. The fissure between expecations and realities is portrayed. It takes viewers through the rebellious phase so vital to individuation.

Generation Aami illuminates the anxieties surrounding the future forced upon students appearing for the board examinations by parents who are convinced that a good education is a recipe to a good life.

At every step, Generation Aami casually exposes the hypocrisy implicit in the stigmas imposed by society. It also exposes veiled misogyny in the exchanges between Apu’s parents, where Apu’s father shifts the entire parental responsibility for Apu’s mistakes upon his mother, referring to Apu as “your son”. Despite all this, the movie does not vilify Apu’s father, but rather, portrays him as a product of the circumstances of his life. Such a portrayal of characters encourages insightful empathy from viewers.

Most importantly, Generation Aami depicts a person with depression in a positive and agentic manner. Even through her struggle, Durga made Apu’s life better by offering him a way out of his ‘imprisonment’ at home. In Apu’s own words, Durga was the best thing to ever happen to him.

The movie offers a nuanced exploration of the psychosocial factors contributing to depression. In doing so, it somewhat criticises the over-medicalisation of depression, yet not at the risk of its complete de-medicalisation. Some questions surrounding mental health remain unresolved, such as the question of side effects, and the overpowering feeling of helplessness.

Also read: It’s Time Films Began Portraying Mental Illness With Greater Sensitivity

Watching the movie, I laughed and cried in equal measure. The soundtrack, which may be described as glocal resonates the emotional tenor of the movie. It gives an aural expression to Apu’s aspirations. The movie encourages us to reflect on several taken-for-granted social issues which we may encounter at some point in our lives. We become aware of how not to treat a person with depression. In conclusion, one can hope that mental illness will be portrayed in a more authentic and equally empathetic manner in movies to come.


Featured Image Source: Film Companion

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