TV shows

In ‘Ozark’, a bleak house in the middle of paradise

‘Breaking Bad’ meets ‘Twin Peaks’ in the new Netflix drama.

The new Netflix drama Ozark gets into gritty territory pretty rapidly. Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) is a Chicago-based financial adviser whose partner is found stealing from a drug lord whom the duo helps launder money. Retribution is swift (and nauseating, with plenty of acid thrown in) but also crucial in setting the stage for what grows into a nail-biting thriller.

To save his life and of his family, Byrde promises the Mexican, Del (a brutal but suave Esai Morales) that he would shift base to Lake of the Ozarks, a tourism haven in Missouri, and undertake to launder another $8 million of Del’s money. With this promise, the family uproots itself in what must be the most joyless residential shift in the history of television.

There are other reasons for the gloom. Byrde’s wife Wendy (Laura Linney) is having an affair and he is in possession of a sex tape of her with her lover that he watches and rewatches with bland intensity. The lover also gets caught up in the drug affair with tragic and, always in this show, sudden consequences.

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Ozark.

In Ozark, the family, which also comprises their two children, Charlotte and Johan, sets into uneasy domesticity. The place is beautiful, a paradise nestled in the midst of undulating hills, but also one with subterranean passions and unchecked ambition tripping neat plans and swift getaways. Crime happens to everyone, either as the perpetrator or the victim, and with an insouciance that is hard to reconcile with reality.

This, then, is Breaking Bad meets Twin Peaks, including a police investigation by an undercover FBI agent who hopes to boost his career with a massive drug bust. Desperate to show results to Del, Byrde reaches out to every business in town, and between a pub and a strip club, manages to find some traction on the money.

But you can’t move from the urban sophistication of Chicago to the rural oasis of Ozark without stepping on a few toes. One of the show’s best tracks has Byrde unwittingly messing with the business prospects of a poppy farmer who thinks nothing of killing his enemies with an overdose of heroin.

Bateman is particularly good as the urbane finance guy who must make irrational choices that, paradoxically, are the only option that would ensure his continued existence. His character retains a chutzpah that is endearing, if unrealistic. He thinks nothing of, say, revealing his true intentions to the most hardened criminals but is nevertheless able to get his way somehow.

That said, the show is also unremittingly bleak. The only redeeming relationship that any two people share is between Byrde and his son, who, like his sister, is trying to cope with the hurricane that has disrupted his life, but is not doing a good job of it, having taken to disemboweling dead animals.

Is there a moral message to the show? It’s hard to say, when even the pastor must find that his Sunday sermons on the boat are a front for selling heroine. And yet, Byrde – and most others – follow a certain code that, even when it is hard to pin down, is easy to follow. Ozark’s central characters are non-believers, one and all, but the inexplicable way their destinies are entangled to usher a semblance of balance posits an invisible hand guiding the motions.

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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.