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‘Blade Runner 2049’ film review: A stunning sequel with ideas of its own

Denis Villeneuve’s visually sumptuous follow-up to Ridley Scott’s ‘Blade Runner’ stars Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford.

Thirty five years after director Ridley Scott’s sci-fi noir Blade Runner, which is widely regarded as a masterpiece, Denis Villeneuve takes the helm of the sequel. From the get-go, Villeneuve paints Blade Runner 2049 in his unique style. This is a rare, unhurried, futuristic film, much like Villeneuve’s Arrival – philosophical and meditative.

In the early scenes, Villeneuve does away with background music, using the ghostly silence of a barren landscape to set the mood as we see blade runner K (Ryan Gosling) going about his duty. K’s story unravels over two and a half hours. In a dystopian future, blade runners are police officers sent out to track down and terminate older model replicants, the word they used to describe humanoid men and women. K stumbles upon a secret that leads him to replicant manufacturer Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) and back to Rick Deckard, the blade runner from the original movie.

Hampton Fancher and Michael Green’s screenplay revisits characters from Philip K Dick’s book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and Villeneuve’s direction adds soul to the story. He dwells on the importance of memory, the need for human contact and relationships and the blurred lines between the human and laboratory-produced artificial intelligence. He revisits the wonder of birth and miracles and reminds us of the terrible destruction of the environment that is catapulting us into a dusty, dark and bleak future. Production designer Dennis Gassner and cinematographer Roger Deakins use monochromes and back-lighting to create stunning landscapes and visuals, though there are one too many towering female forms (either holograms or moulded statues).

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Blade Runner 2049.

We are made to wait and earn the return of Deckard (Harrison Ford). We meet a handful of fascinating characters along the way, kitted out in stunning costumes, who arrive and exit without fanfare or prolonged farewells. These include Leto as the blind villain Wallace and Robin Wright as K’s boss. But the two women who give Blade Runner 2049 its punch are Ana de Armas as K’s love Joi and Sylvia Hoeks as Wallace’s mean enforcer. Leto’s portrayal of Wallace, who should have been the menacing villain of this piece, is the most cliched.

Harrison Ford is given a nuanced part that he plays with sensitivity while retaining the grouchy humour one associates with the actor. The little dance between Deckard and K is brilliantly played out in a punch-up in an abandoned club as an Elvis Presley hologram flickers in the background. Ryan Gosling is inexpressive for the most part, relying mostly on the upturned collar of his dark, leathery trench coat to convey the sinister. But he’s so incredibly easy on the eyes and hits his stride so firmly as the saga develops that you find yourself rooting for his little hopes and fears.

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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.