TV shows

Sarah Jessica Parker show ‘Divorce’ is a bitingly funny epilogue to ‘Sex in the City’

‘Catastrophe’ creator Sharon Horgan and Parker have teamed up for an honest and often uncomfortable examination of a failing marriage.

Ending a relationship or breaking up a marriage can never be easy. After struggling for years to make it work on Sex and the City, Sarah Jessica Parker is back on HBO with a bleak and bitter epilogue, Divorce.

Created by Catastrophe’s Sharon Horgan, Divorce finds Parker in the suburbs of New York City. She has two kids, a couple of chronically unhappy friends, a job as a headhunter, dreams of owing an art gallery, and a real-estate developer husband she has nothing to say to.

A far cry from Carrie Bradshaw, Divorce’s Frances Dufresne (Sarah Jessica Parker) wants a divorce. Married to Robert (Thomas Haden Church) for 17 years, Frances tells her husband that she wants to save her life while she still cares about it. This realisation dawns upon her after a chaotic birthday party turns into a scene of gun violence, causing one of their friends to have a cardiac arrest. She tells Robert, in many hurtful words, that she wants to have nothing to do with him anymore.

But as she takes the train to her workplace, Frances’s glorious cathartic moment dissolves into the murkiness of the affair she has been having – the real cause of the divorce. Unfortunately, by the time she separates the concept of love from lust, Robert finds out about Julian, Frances’s granola making associate professor at Columbia University.

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‘Divorce’.

Finding humour in what ought to be deeply painful, Horgan and Parker (who is also the executive producer for the series) are telling a new and often glossed over story of what makes a marriage fall apart. We all root for happily ever after, but no part of the initial episodes make it seem like Robert and Frances belong together. It is hard to imagine what brought them together in the first place. This clearly isn’t a love story. It is the hilarity that follows when two middle-aged parents keep scores and make sure that their kids don’t find out. None of the characters is particularly likable. Even Frances’s friends, Diane (Molly Shannon) and Dallas (Talia Balsam) are bitter and miserable, and they are far removed from the on-call support-system of Carrie Bradshaw.

The casting is impeccable. Parker was not looking to play the lead role herself, but it is good that she did. Playing off perfectly against Haden Church’s Robert, who talks about flipping properties and finances over fondue, the two fail to make a case for staying together. The comedic but undeniably vicious antipathy they display towards each other in conversations with other characters and in their treatment of each other dares to highlight the honest and often hard-hitting reality of divorce. Robert tells Frances that he will ensure the kids hate her, while she is advised by her friends to destroy him before he destroys her.

Horgan isn’t new to talking about the uncomfortable truths behind marriage, sex and relationships. Her debut series, the British Emmy-nominated comedy Catastrophe, tells the story of a couple that decides to get married when they end up pregnant after a week of hooking up. Plot wise, Divorce is diametrically opposite.

The series has opened to mixed reviews, but it seems to be working its way towards something endearing. Considering the series has Parker at the helm, it is hard to imagine that the series will continue in this vein of black pitiless comedy. Viewers may find themselves waiting for a Carrie Bradshaw monologue about life and love. But if one goes by the proven genius of Horgan and Catastrophe, what lies ahead is probably a blatant depiction of the heartlessness of a divorce, not softened by the popcorn-ness of American TV dramas, but made stronger by blunt British comedy.

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Changing the conversation around mental health in rural India

Insights that emerged from discussions around mental health at a village this World Mental Health Day.

Questioning is the art of learning. For an illness as debilitating as depression, asking the right questions is an important step in social acceptance and understanding. How do I open-up about my depression to my parents? Can meditation be counted as a treatment for depression? Should heartbreak be considered as a trigger for deep depression? These were some of the questions addressed by a panel consisting of the trustees and the founder of The Live Love Lough Foundation (TLLLF), a platform that seeks to champion the cause of mental health. The panel discussion was a part of an event organised by TLLLF to commemorate World Mental Health Day.

According to a National Mental Health Survey of India 2015-16, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), common mental disorders including depression, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders affect nearly 10% of the population, with 1 in 20 people in India suffering from depression. The survey reported a huge treatment gap, a problem that is spread far and wide across urban and rural parts of the country.

On 10th of October, trustees of the foundation, Anna Chandy, Dr. Shyam Bhat and Nina Nair, along with its founder, Deepika Padukone, made a visit to a community health project centre in Devangere, Karnataka. The project, started by The Association of People with Disability (APD) in 2010, got a much-needed boost after partnering with TLLLF 2 years ago, helping them reach 819 people suffering from mental illnesses and spreading its program to 6 Taluks, making a difference at a larger scale.

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During the visit, the TLLLF team met patients and their families to gain insights into the program’s effectiveness and impact. Basavaraja, a beneficiary of the program, spoke about the issues he faced because of his illness. He shared how people used to call him mad and would threaten to beat him up. Other patients expressed their difficulty in getting access to medical aid for which they had to travel to the next biggest city, Shivmoga which is about 2 hours away from Davangere. A marked difference from when TLLLF joined the project two years ago was the level of openness and awareness present amongst the villagers. Individuals and families were more expressive about their issues and challenges leading to a more evolved and helpful conversation.

The process of de-stigmatizing mental illnesses in a community and providing treatment to those who are suffering requires a strong nexus of partners to make progress in a holistic manner. Initially, getting different stakeholders together was difficult because of the lack of awareness and resources in the field of mental healthcare. But the project found its footing once it established a network of support from NIMHANS doctors who treated the patients at health camps, Primary Healthcare Centre doctors and the ASHA workers. On their visit, the TLLLF team along with APD and the project partners discussed the impact that was made by the program. Were beneficiaries able to access the free psychiatric drugs? Did the program help in reducing the distance patients had to travel to get treatment? During these discussions, the TLLLF team observed that even amongst the partners, there was an increased sense of support and responsiveness towards mental health aid.

The next leg of the visit took the TLLLF team to the village of Bilichodu where they met a support group that included 15 patients and caregivers. Ujjala Padukone, Deepika Padukone’s mother, being a caregiver herself, was also present in the discussion to share her experiences with the group and encouraged others to share their stories and concerns about their family members. While the discussion revolved around the importance of opening up and seeking help, the team brought about a forward-looking attitude within the group by discussing future possibilities in employment and livelihood options available for the patients.

As the TLLLF team honoured World Mental Health day, 2017 by visiting families, engaging with support groups and reviewing the successes and the challenges in rural mental healthcare, they noticed how the conversation, that was once difficult to start, now had characteristics of support, openness and a positive outlook towards the future. To continue this momentum, the organisation charted out the next steps that will further enrich the dialogue surrounding mental health, in both urban and rural areas. The steps include increasing research on mental health, enhancing the role of social media to drive awareness and decrease stigma and expanding their current programs. To know more, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of The Live Love Laugh Foundation and not by the Scroll editorial team.