Opening this week

‘Kaccha Limbu’ film review: Meet the parents with special needs

Prasad Oak’s movie, starring Sonali Kulkarni and Ravi Jadhav, examines a couple’s struggle to bring up their mentally challenged adolescent.

When Bacchu walks across the house, his misshapen bulk casts ominous shadows on the wall, like Quasimodo on the loose.

Bacchu is 15 and mentally challenged. He is shown no mercy in reputed actor Prasad Oak’s directorial debut Kaccha Limbu, which is based on Jaywant Dalvi’s novel Runanubandh. The provocative and beautifully performed movie is filled with taboo ideas, macabre thoughts and vivid images. Moving far away from political correctness but also keeping distance from the outer edge, Oak sets up a mostly absorbing drama about a couple struggling to bring up their only son while simultaneously trying to hold on to what brought them together in the first place. The Marathi movie has been released with English subtitles.

The most shocking idea in Kaccha Limbu is not that Bacchu’s adolescent hormones have started kicking in, and that Bacchu (Manmeet Pem) paws his mother Shaila one night. It is that Shaila (Sonali Kulkarni) and Bacchu’s father Mohan (Ravi Jadhav) are fed up and honest about it. They have mixed feelings towards Bacchu, and they give expression to their conflicting emotions in different ways. Mohan berates his fate and belts Bacchu. Shaila daubs lipstick and seeks friendship and possibly more when her kindly boss Pandit (Sachin Khedekar) takes an interest in her domestic woes.

A love triangle seems to be falling into place, but the real monster under the bed – literally so in some scenes – is the uncontrollable and underdeveloped Bacchu. Mohan handles the night shift at the telegraph office and Shaila works at a pharmaceutical company to ensure that one of them is around to clean up after their son. They worry about money, and save up coins and single notes for the “Bacchu Fund” that they are setting up for their son. When Pandit gives Shaila a cake for her birthday, she beams as though she has been gifted venison.

Play
Kaccha Limbu (2017).

The parents are the ones with special needs, requiring money, therapy and comfort. The movie goes far beyond the stage adaptation Nati-Goti, which Dalvi also wrote, in examining the daily anguish that marks the couple’s lives. Sexual desire is more explicitly stated, and in three scenes, Oak sensitively handles unthinkable realities of the household. Some of the scenes have the flavour of the Greek dysfunctional drama Dogtooth, but Oak calibrates the cruelty to balance shock with empathy.

Some scenes lean towards the grotesque without needing to, and Oak stretches the story for much longer than it is worth. The heart of the movie is the bond between Mohan and Shaila, which is movingly and powerfully depicted by Kulkarni and Jadhav. Kulkarni is especially effective as the harried wife trying to hold on to her feminine side, and Khedekar is good too as the boss who alters the contours of the couple’s relationship with one another.

The genteel poverty of a Mumbai chawl is superbly lensed by Amalendu Chaudhary in vivid black-and-white to heighten the family’s general state of impoverishment. Colour is used only for scenes and objects that depict a happier past – the hope-filled union between Mohan and Shaila, their joy at the birth of their son, the wedding sari and perfume that remind Shaila of her fading feminine side.

The use of tight frames and close-ups in the interiors has a handsome pay-off in the exterior scenes. By following the characters closely and zooming out only in carefully framed shots, Oak and Chaudhary intelligently recreate 1980s Mumbai – fewer people, a slower time – with the minimum of fuss.

The ’80s setting goes some way towards accounting for the overall ignorance and neglect of Bacchu’s condition, though it doesn’t adequately explain Oak’s disinterest in humanising the teenager. Reduced to a pile of grunts and gurgles, Bacchu is a mere footnote in a larger saga of domestic cruelty. He doesn’t even get a proper name that befits his age. His parents treat him like the child they wish he was, and the filmmaker treats him like a spare part when he is actually the motor driving the show.

Play
Majhe Aai Baba, Kaccha Limbu (2017).
We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Watch Ruchir's journey: A story that captures the impact of accessible technology

Accessible technology has the potential to change lives.

“Technology can be a great leveller”, affirms Ruchir Falodia, Social Media Manager, TATA CLiQ. Out of the many qualities that define Ruchir as a person, one that stands out is that he is an autodidact – a self-taught coder and lover of technology.

Ruchir’s story is one that humanises technology - it has always played the role of a supportive friend who would look beyond his visual impairment. A top ranker through school and college, Ruchir would scan course books and convert them to a format which could be read out to him (in the absence of e-books for school). He also developed a lot of his work ethos on the philosophy of Open Source software, having contributed to various open source projects. The access provided by Open Source, where users could take a source code, modify it and distribute their own versions of the program, attracted him because of the even footing it gave everyone.

That is why I like being in programming. Nobody cares if you are in a wheelchair. Whatever be your physical disability, you are equal with every other developer. If your code works, good. If it doesn’t, you’ll be told so.

— Ruchir.

Motivated by the objectivity that technology provided, Ruchir made it his career. Despite having earned degree in computer engineering and an MBA, friends and family feared his visual impairment would prove difficult to overcome in a work setting. But Ruchir, who doesn’t like quotas or the ‘special’ tag he is often labelled with, used technology to prove that differently abled persons can work on an equal footing.

As he delved deeper into the tech space, Ruchir realised that he sought to explore the human side of technology. A fan of Agatha Christie and other crime novels, he wanted to express himself through storytelling and steered his career towards branding and marketing – which he sees as another way to tell stories.

Ruchir, then, migrated to Mumbai for the next phase in his career. It was in the Maximum City that his belief in technology being the great leveller was reinforced. “The city’s infrastructure is a challenging one, Uber helped me navigate the city” says Ruchir. By using the VoiceOver features, Ruchir could call an Uber wherever he was and move around easily. He reached out to Uber to see if together they could spread the message of accessible technology. This partnership resulted in a video that captures the essence of Ruchir’s story: The World in Voices.

Play

It was important for Ruchir to get rid of the sympathetic lens through which others saw him. His story serves as a message of reassurance to other differently abled persons and abolishes some of the fears, doubts and prejudices present in families, friends, employers or colleagues.

To know more about Ruchir’s journey, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Uber and not by the Scroll editorial team.