Magnificent and a true work of art!
This movie was highly recommended by several reviewers and as such, I decided to watch it. Honestly, I do not believe there are many movies in this genre from India and so I thought it deserved a look-see. It is a ‘Coming Out’ movie of Kartik, played brilliantly by Devanish Doshi who comes home to visit his mother, Vashuda, played beautifully by Mona Ambegaonkar and his father, Damador, portrayed by Ananth Narayan Mahadevan. The father/son relationship is already strained because his father is a demanding and somewhat arrogant person who treats everyone like his personal property. Kartik is gay and has a boyfriend, named Aman (Arpit Chaudhary). Kartik is back home because the father is trying to arrange a marriage for him. This of course leads to more drama and discord. While this might not be that unusual, how the story unfolds is truly breathtaking. It is well done keeping in mind; the sensitivity related to the culture, customs, and traditions of the conservative society in India.
Kartik finally works up the nerve to tell his mother that he is gay in an intriguing manner, which is pure cinematic genius. He confesses to her on a canoe ride in the river while they are spending the day together. The symbolism is simply magical. As the mother reacts to this news, the canoe dips and sways from side to side from her animated reactions, but it does not turn over. They slowly make their way back to the shore. Again, symbolically telegraphing that the process of acceptance will be rocky, slow, steady, but ultimately they will land on solid ground. When Kartik shares the news with Aman, he makes a profound statement that will leave you reeling with sudden realization.
He says to Aman, “I’ve come out of the closet, but I locked her in.”
That is such an astute observation and one that is so obvious, especially in countries or regions that are not so accepting of the LGBTQ+ community. Kartik’s “Coming Out Phase” does lock his Mother in a chamber filled with quandaries. Slowly, as Vashuda reflects and prays, she begins to realize that this is still her own son; whom she bore and raised.
She begins to defend Kartik to others, especially to his Father. When his Father asks about Kartik getting married, she retorts that Kartik himself will decide when it is time for him to marry. Although Kartik is deeply appreciative of his mother’s defense, she says to him that the discussion about his marriage has been averted — not forgotten and this gives him some time to think about how to handle all of this. There is a beautiful discussion with his mother; about how they both must begin the long journey of acceptance and that they both have new discoveries to make. But their bond is unshakable and grows stronger each day. While they are conversing over a video-call, Aman tries to convince Kartik to give his mother some time to accept this news and to make sure that he is in a good place. The mother overhears their conversation and she recognizes the deep sense of togetherness they share. She can sense and feel the connection and yes, love that they have for each other. Knowing this, shines a new light into a different world of understanding.
When Damador inadvertently finds pictures of Kartik and Aman embracing each other, he is enraged and beats Kartik. He then attempts to ritualistically perform a funeral rite for Kartik but Vashuda finally stands up for herself and for her son. In one of the most beautifully scripted scenes, I have ever heard defining motherhood; she tells Damador that this will not happen and takes steps to makes sure it does not. She is now willing to accept Kartik and Aman and support them, as she says loudly, “Always. Forever”. I wept at her profound acknowledgement and acceptance of something that she herself does not fully understand. It was so incredibly powerful to see a woman, in such a suppressed and parochial society, risk all to say, ‘enough’ – this is my son too! The bond between a mother and son is so strong, that they both risked retaliations to establish just a glimmer of “Hope for Change”. This story is deeply tragic as Damador continues to be unwilling to acknowledge his son’s sexuality. But Vashuda is the foundation for change in this household that holds strong. This transition also helps her to spread her wings and become truer to her own feelings. This is indeed praiseworthy and portrays a different level of change!
There is a side story here that unfortunately, might be uncommon but still completely apoplectic. Kartik has an uncle named Ramesh (Abhay Kulkarni), a frustrated and an overtly assertive closeted gay who tries very hard to seduce Kartik. Kartik obviously wants nothing to do with him in that sense. In one of his discussions with his mother, Kartik tells her that his first sexual experience with a guy was in the family garden, and it was with his uncle. She is horrified and wants to know if he molested him, but Kartik defends him and says “No”; that he willingly participated. This is tormenting as we are unsure about how old he was when this happened and the obvious undue influence the ‘uncle’ has over a family member. The matter-of-fact approach to this topic, while well-meaning, was uncomfortable and certainly sexually abusive. In either case, it is a very sad and tragic chapter in Kartik’s life. The repression of the uncle not being able to accept who he is and needing to slink around in dark corners of a park is all too often the case, no matter what the society is. And for Kartik to have had his first sexual experience with an uncle is disconcerting. As time passes, it might turn into regret and also self-contempt.
This story is so beautifully told and filmed. All the performers are well cast, and they have put their minds and souls into their roles, especially Devanish and Mona. They are believable and have established a bond between each other from the very beginning; which simply grows more intense at the end of the story. I cannot stop recommending this movie; especially to families that might be struggling with individual members who are gay and unable to share their life choices. As I said in the beginning, this is not a BL per se, but is a story of gay love, acceptance, and an unshakable bond between mother and son!
Evening Shadows is indeed a memorable and profoundly moving cinematic experience.
Rating 4.8 out of 5