Movie Review: ‘Season’s Greetings’

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‘Season’s Greetings’ (2020), a short film by film journalist and critic Ram Kamal Mukherjee, recently released online. Mukherjee, best known for his coffee-table book, ‘Hema Malini Diva Unveiled’ from 2005 about the superstar, categorised ‘Season’s Greetings’ as a tribute to celebrated filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh.

Ghosh, a Bengali award winning filmmaker passed away in India from a heart attack in 2013. Ghosh classed himself as belonging to “the third gender.” And through his creative work, he fought for including the third gender in mainstream society. He sought to highlight how entire communities are discriminated against only because of their sexual orientation.

Set in Kolkata, ‘Season’s Greetings’ is a film that deals with a mother and daughter relationship as Romita (Celina Jaitly Haag) decides to introduce her live-in partner Usmaan (Azhar Khan) to her mother Suchitra (Lillette Dubey), who stays in a bungalow with her maid Chapala (Shree Ghatak).

The theme of relationships from all walks of life is on display throughout the film. From a generic approach at the start with a mother missing her child and the introduction to Romita and Usmaan in an conventional relationship, to Chapala’s back story and finally, the big reveal of Suchitra’s new relationship. In a short amount of the time these relationships become intertwined amongst each other – all different but given the same amount of importance.

Romita enjoys a good rapport with Khan to bring their relationship to life. From their intimate opening, to their back and forth discussions on life and relationships, the pair prove to be an anchor in the film. By the time Usmaan changes into something other than a vest, the audience have become invested in the pair. Haag, of ‘No Entry’ (2005) fame, displays Romita’s internal struggle well as she first deals with the relationship with Usman, before moving on to dealing with how her mother has move on from her father. Her attitude shifts once reading the letter her mother left in her room.

Khan as able to subtly deliver his lines as being the voice of Romita’s reason without being forceful in his thinking. He is displayed as Romita’s anchor and silent powerhouse. How else can you give timely advice whilst pumping out some press ups? Later on at the dinner scene Khan is able to act with his eyes as he sees that Romita is beginning to flare up.

Suchitra the mother generates the most emotion from the film. From her reciting her letter at the start, to eagerly preparing dinner for the arrival of Romita and Usmaan, to the point of her loneliness in dealing with both the loss of her husband and to an extent – Romita as well. This gives the audience the satisfaction of her character arc having the best resolution when she excitedly opens the door for the new love of her life to appear for dinner. Dubey is able to show Suchitra’s pain as time passes her by. As the film beings with a bubbly soundtrack, Dubey expresses Suchitra’s energy before she is able to switch to her sense of emptiness later on, much to Romita’s dismay.

And finally, Chapala’s story ties in with the LGBTQIA and article 377 (Indian Penal Code) issue in a subtle, yet effective manner. There is no shock reaction, or uproar, to her flashback as she finds herself at odds with her gender. And as we move to the present day as she works with Suchitra in preparing dinner, without any drama attached to her gender. Ghatak is the first transwoman who has a legally registered marriage and becomes Bollywood’s first transwoman star. Ghatak’s appearance, albeit brief, is certainly able to signal a new chapter in Bollywood’s rich history.

Mukherjee marks his return to directing following his debut venture in ‘Cakewalk’ (2019), starring Esha Deol Takhtani. From the outset you can see that this is a topic that is close his heart. Despite the short running time, he is able to display the concept of relationships from all walks of life. He helps deliver a tightly knitted script that, even with various flashbacks of characters such as Romita and Chapala, the pace of the storyline doesn’t lose any steam. And by casting the first transgender actor in Bollywood, Mukherjee is able to add his name to the right side of movie history.

It seems as though the film was released at the right time as well. Since 2014, transgender people in India have been allowed to change their gender without sex reassignment surgery, and have a constitutional right to register themselves under a third gender, as Ghosh related to during his life. And in 2018, the Supreme Court of India decriminalised homosexuality.

The film’s poster makes no secret about the short feature being a tribute to Ghosh and his legacy. And, within the short running time of the film, the audience is able to be taken on a modern day journey that covers all walks of love and relationships.

Worth a viewing for anyone with a spare 50 minutes one afternoon.

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