Chintan Sarda’s latest short The Broken Table starring Naseeruddin Shah and Rasika Dugal is a masterclass in portraying heartwarming stories with a certain sensitivity.
The film revolves around Giridhar, or Giri, an Alzheimer’s patient in his 60s who is also a retired lawyer. Dugal plays Deepti, an aspiring psychologist and a caregiver, who is fighting a lonely battle – as she struggles to reveal to her husband that she can’t get pregnant.
While the film’s central message seems to be one of self-acceptance – “Rule Number 1: Tum jaise bhi ho, kaafi ho (the first rule is that no matter what you are, you’re always enough)” – the way the film showcases Alzheimer’s and Giri’s constant fight with memory, definitely hails over everything else.
Constant Fight With Memory
Even though he’s retired, multiple times throughout the short, Giri tries to leave home for work or tries to reach his office phone for an “important hearing.”
In one such scene, when his son reveals to him that Giri’s last hearing was in 2015, he seems visibly shaken – unable to come to terms with the fact that his life isn’t what he thought it to be, very literally.
In another segment, when Giri keeps repeating the same question to Deepti, she shrugs as she poses a question to him, “What’s the use of explaining? You’ll forget again in half an hour.”
But it isn’t really Giri's fault, right? He can’t be blamed for seemingly having forgotten that his wife’s passed away. Neither can he be burdened to remember whether she's alive and if she did actually make kanda poha for him just that morning.
Memory loss is actually one of the earliest signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s. And it keeps getting worse as time passes.
While someone with Alzheimer’s may remember a lot of small, seemingly insignificant, moments of their life, as Giri does, it’s possible that they’ll forget a lot of everyday things.
Another thing that the film beautifully brings out is the excessive dependency that Giri has on Prabha, his wife. It’s one of the first things that Deepti notices about him and scribes in her diary, along with other traits about her “Live Alzheimer’s Subject.”
Usually, as the condition progresses, Alzheimer’s patients often feel a loss of autonomy and personhood, with their dependency on others rising proportionately.
Interestingly, the film also shows what it's like to live with someone who might keep forgetting you exist. As the film opens, Giri's grandson rushes out of his room, with a sad (almost weeping) face, as he tells his father that his grandfather has, yet again, forgotten who he is.
So yes, Alzheimer's is difficult, both for the person suffering and for the person doing the caregiving – something that Sarda has poignantly displayed in his short, without so much as uttering a syllable in this regard.