Friday, 17 January 2014

Suchitra Sen

Suchitra Sen, 82, died 17 Jan 2013. 

Remember Aandhi? The 1975 Gulzar movie? 

I had just finished my internship, perhaps a house job or two. I remember the film made an impression on me. It was not the usual boy-meets-girl run-around. It had a grown up theme, love unsanctioned by social mores; separation under societal pressure; a strong woman determined to make her way in a man's dirty world of ruthless politics; no room for personal life, much less for the consummation of love and romance. I thought Sen was a complete and mature actor. Sanjeev Kumar was good but without question she was the star; she stormed Aandhi.

Now, when reading about her illness, her stay in a Kolkata hospital's intensive care unit, with the news reporting each development - 'stable but critical' what the hell does that phrase mean? - and amplifying the false hope of a new team of medical experts, I think not like a movie-goer but like a health policy commentator. Was it all necessary? 

For ultimately she endured the futility of the sort of critical intensive care that old and infirm people with fatal illnesses are subjected to in India especially if they are well off and get into the clutches of private hospitals; doctors scurrying round pretending she would recover and go home; experts called in to advise even more invasive interventions than those that failed. 

In Aandhi the film, Aarti, once she had become a successful politician could not embrace the man she had separated from - the man who was the father of her daughter - for fear of public and electoral rejection. In life, Sen could not reject a medical care system that took away her dignity. In death, we can all embrace her memory. 


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