Celebrating the Parent-Child Bond in Shonali Bose’s Films

Some skies are pink, some blue. Similarly, some stories have happy endings, some demand that we cry buckets. Be it Amu, Margarita With A Straw or The Sky is Pink, Shonali Bose’s films are a celebration of relationships between parents and their children. There’s laughter, anger, tears, heartbreaks and affection. Here’s looking at the love and admiration with which this bond is celebrated in every film by Bose.

Amu

Little did Kajori (Konkona Sen) know that a visit to India from the US will turn her world upside down. An adopted child, she visits her place of birth Chandan Hola, along with her aunt and uncle. However, try as much as she can, Kajori fails to remember anything about her biological parents. The only piece of information she clings to is the one provided by her Maa Keya (Brinda Karat) – that the entire village was wiped away in the 1980s by an epidemic. Red Fort, India Gate and other historical places don’t capture the young girl’s attention, rather she is drawn by a dingy slum. These visits become a red flag for her mother, who pays a surprise visit to her brother and Kajori in Delhi.

Konkona Sen in a still from Amu

In one of the most moving sequences of the film, Keya breaks down while questioning her decision to withhold from Kajori a bitter truth about her life. “I am very scared, Dada. What will Kajori think about me when she finds out the truth?” she asks her brother. Cracks begin to develop in the mother-daughter relationship when Kajori finds out that there was no epidemic in that village, rather her parents were connected to the gruesome ’84 riots wherein thousands of Sikhs were killed.

“Your mother was a fighter,” Keya says as she takes Kajori in her arms. Inside the car, as Kajori’s tears wet her mother’s saree, two stories of undying courage took shape.

Keya finally confides in Kajori that she was born as Amrit in a Sikh family. Her father and brother were mercilessly hacked to death by a mob, while her mother, Shanno Kaur, took her life when the system failed to provide justice. “Your mother was a fighter,” Keya says as she takes Kajori in her arms. Inside the car, as Kajori’s tears wet her mother’s saree, two stories of undying courage took shape.

One of Shanno, who ran from pillar to post crying for help as her husband and son became victims of a heinous crime silently witnessed by both ministers and cops, on whose shoulders the powers rested. The second tale of resilience is of Keya, who embraced Kajori after her mother breathed her last, took her to a foreign land away from painful memories and brought her up as a strong and independent woman.

It’s not just Shanno and Keya, there’s a father and son too who drifted apart when skeletons tumbled out of the grave. Kajori seeks help from her cousin’s friend Kabir, whose dad is in the police. While the former leaves Delhi with a bitter truth, Kabir finds out that his father was one of the cops who not only failed to stop Kajori’s kin from being butchered but he did nothing to stop the riots. Shonali Bose deftly weaves in the various sides of caregivers in this emotional journey of a girl searching for life’s answers.

Margarita With a Straw

Kalki Koechlin & Revathi in Shonali Bose’s film Margarita With A Straw

“Aai, I am bi (bisexual),” Laila (Kalki) tells her mother Shubhangini (Revathi) when she falls for Khanum (Sayani Gupta). “Even I am a bai (maid),” her mom laughs, adding that Indian women eventually become maids as their husbands are good-for-nothing when it comes to doing household chores. When Laila opens up about her orientation, her mother reacts exactly the way we would expect any parent to. But expect Shonali Bose to have a different and heartwarming take on any relationship. While Laila fights every day to drive away the stigma associated with cerebral palsy, her mother stands beside her like a rock. Shubhangini’s smile masks the pain she feels when someone refers to her daughter as ‘disabled.’ Isn’t our society conditioned like that?

Laila finds her peace when she sits by her mom’s lifeless body as Shubhangini’s soulful voice emanates from the recorder and fills our senses.

When Laila falls for a guy only to realise that he only considers her to be a good friend, she finds her mother’s shoulders to cry on. Despite her dad’s hesitation, Shubhangini takes Laila to her dream college in New York for a course. She shouts at her daughter after chancing upon porn sites in her laptop but coaxes her to return to the US as she counts her last moments in the hospital. No wonder that Laila finds her peace when she sits by her mom’s lifeless body as Shubhangini’s soulful voice emanates from the recorder and fills our senses.

The Sky is Pink

A true story about a child suffering from a terminal illness could have gone anywhere. The tragedy could have been manipulative or healing. Shonali chose to celebrate the ultimate end by narrating a tale of those souls, Aditi (Priyanka Chopra) and Niren Chaudhary (Farhan Akhtar), who gave Aisha (Zaira Wasim) the strength to paint her days in the colours she wanted. Despite being aware that Aisha would be born with a serious immune deficiency that would eventually claim her life, Aditi decided to bless her short life with stories that she would remember forever.

Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Farhan Akhtar, Zaira Wasim and Rohit Saraf in The Sky Is Pink.

Early on, Aditi consoles their son Ishaan when the latter says he was scolded by his teacher for painting the sky pink. “You are not wrong. Everyone’s sky is different,” Aditi says. Aisha’s sky was indeed full of rainbows. Aditi stays up nights, researching about Aisha’s illness, sanitizing everything she touches, even moving to a suburban area in the UK. Just when Aisha starts recovering, fate takes a cruel turn and she is diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, reducing her life span to a few years.

“Pet bhar ke ji liya (Lived life to the fullest),” – Aisha final video for her parents encompasses the admirable courage with which they faced the impending tragedy. The Sky is Pink wraps the most difficult times with a humour that tugs at your heart’s strings.

As the days inch closer to her death, the parents make sure all their daughter’s wishes are fulfilled. An angel comes in the girl’s life in the form of a Labrador, she gets to witness a whole new world underwater during her ‘emergency vacation,’ collects all her happy thoughts that take the shape of a book, and even shares thoughts about dreams and life in the form of motivational speeches. “Apart from Aisha, I can’t do anything for anybody,” Aditi tells her husband after their daughter has bid her final adieu. “Pet bhar ke ji liya (Lived life to the fullest),” – Aisha final video for her parents encompasses the admirable courage with which they faced the impending tragedy. The Sky is Pink wraps the most difficult times with a humour that tugs at your heart’s strings.

All three of Shonali’s films have their protagonists sitting in cars, looking with wonder-struck eyes at the lives they have been blessed with. After all, everything depends on how we choose to look at the mirror called life.

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