Marathi short film series explores mental health issues among youth, encourages discussions

The series focuses on social, cultural and family situations that affect the mental health of youngsters.

Despite the number of stressors in one’s life, it is important to remain consistent and have the resilience to hold up under the pressure, said noted film director Nagraj Manjule while flagging off Gosht Aahe Prithvimolachi, a six-part youth-centric series of short films in Marathi. The series touches upon various situations — social, cultural and familial — which could affect the mental health of youngsters.

The first film of the series, Gosht Arjunchi – Date with Aai, was telecast on the Bhadipa’s VishayKhol channel on YouTube. The launch was followed by a Facebook Live conversation with Manjule, where the noted film director shared his own experiences with mental health.

The discussion was moderated by Marathi film actor Parna Pethe and Dr Hamid Dabholkar, who manages Parivartan Trust, an NGO that has collaborated with Rakhadi Studio to launch the short film series.

During the online discussion, Manjule recalled his journey from the village to the city. “I was petrified of going to school as I was not very interested in subjects like Math. What helped me was that I stayed on… In my village, we were aware of only two careers – one of getting a job as a policeman and the other as a teacher. Then there was the pressure of my own dreams. Eventually, I left my village to come to Pune – I was really scared how I would manage and while it was not my plan, eventually I completed my post-graduation, studied mass communication and stayed on despite suicidal thoughts,” said the award-winning film-maker, who is best known for his Marathi film Sairat and short film Pistulya.

“More than 80 per cent of mental illnesses start between the ages of 18 and 35. Hence, the right information and perspective on mental health and illness at this age can prove to be useful. These films attempt to engage more conversations around issues like mental discomfort while dealing with addiction, discrimination, love, attraction, sexuality, career and relationship with parents, both artistically and scientifically,” said Dabholkar.

Several years ago, Dabholkar, along with noted theatre director and actor Atul Pethe and others, had embarked on an initiative — Manas Rang (colours of the mind) — that used theatre, songs, drama and offered a platform for those with mental health problems to vent their emotions like fear and hysteria, and even talk about issues like schizophrenia.

With issues of mental health and youth taking centre-stage, Dabholkar connected with Anupam Barve, filmmaker and film educator based in Pune, and others to make short films. “Soon… Maitreyee Kulkarni, Alok Rajwade, Parna Pethe and I got together and started a company called Rakhadi Studio. Six issues related to mental health and youth were identified. While Maitreyee wrote the script, Alok and I directed three films each while Parna is the creative producer,” Barve said.

Bajaj Auto and Bajaj Finance have supported the venture, Dabholkar said.

The first short film in Marathi focusses on Arjun, a youth in his early 20s who returns home drunk every day, and how his mother has a surprise in store for him. The first episode features actors Geetanjali Kulkarni and Shivraj Waichal. Each film will be followed by a Facebook Live session with Dabholkar, the film director and an expert on the subject.

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