Astitva: Review
Parinatha | 16 Feb 2011

Astitva is a tell tale of a family in which the protagonist played by Tabu has to come in terms with her oppressive husband who virtually controls her life amidst the backdrop of infidelity.

INFEDETLITY HAS always been a topic of debate for people across countries and societies and also caught the fantasy of filmmakers who portrayed the topic with different takes. In India itself, such movies created a lot of buzz and also helped creating awareness. One amongst such films is Astitva which is very dear to my heart as it helps me question the movie as a whole as well as something I can relate to: the dominant idea of the movie i.e. the identity of a woman. Another point that makes this movie interesting is the fact that it is a movie of a woman and her rights directed beautifully by a man i.e. Mahesh Manjrekar.

Astitva, is an absolutely enthralling film as it really prompts a person to question the very basics of society and social structures. The main points I shall be focusing on would be the use of colours and costumes in the film to portray moods, the women and their attitudes in the film in contrast to the attitudes of the men and the attitude towards a woman’s sexual desires. However, my review and critique here would revolve primarily around the protagonist of the film being Aditi.

The colours speak most in the film. The moods, attitudes and feelings are portrayed very beautifully with colours. In the first few minutes of the movie we see a very cloudy and dull environment showing a mundane and routine life of the couple Aditi and Shrikant Pandit. The weather and the backgrounds seem very cold, cloudy, dull and worn out.
The colours of the saree worn by Aditi and her entire appearance give us an image of a woman who has submitted to the various conflicts in her mind. The movie keeps shifting back and forth in terms of weather and setting as well. The weather in the present context is very grave and shades of grey are thrown in very often. A moist and soft image is portrayed. As and when the movie moves to the past a lot of sunshine and bright climate is shown. The colours of nature blend well and lift the mood of the movie and people.

The dark colour sarees and the way her hair is tied also indicate her mood which seems to be that of a woman who has resigned to a lot of ideas that do not blend with hers. But, when the story moves to the past, the colours are bright and there is a lot of energy and youth in Aditi’s face. The golden sunlight streams in through the windows lighting her face up. Her hair is gently held together though open giving her a very liberal and free image. On the other hand there is Meghna who is dressed mostly in jeans and shirt which gives her a forward and modern look in contrast to Aditi.

Another aspect that adds value to the movie are the dialogues that depict attitudes of characters. Shrikant in particular has been portrayed as a male chauvinist who works on the traditional and conventional patters of social structures. He is seen to be very flippant and arrogant in his attitude towards women and their activities. He has defined notions of a perfect bride and a woman. He is extremely dominating throughout the film and this is the polar opposite of Ravi’s attitude. He is shown to respect women for their individuality and their intellect. His marriage with a divorcee with two kids and the respect he gives her affirms this idea.

The women in the film radically differ from each other. On the one hand Aditi is a traditional woman who obeys her husband and tolerates anything he does while on the other hand Meghna is the kind who is very independent and self sufficient. She does not care about society or anyone else. Revati is also very forward in her thinking as she is from the modern generation of women who have evolved personally. Meghna and Revati encourage Aditi to be independent and make an identity which is free of dependence.

Aditi’s desire to sing or work is obstructed by Shrikant as it is against the societal norms and against traditional notions of womanhood. It hurts his ego to allow his wife to earn. He is constantly immersed in his activities and does not care about Aditi or her wishes. He is quite selfish throughout the film and treats Aditi as his possession. He does not allow her privacy in any way. He reads her letters and when asked why he is doing so he says that it is for HIS wife and hence he can open it.

Attitudes that strike us at the end of the film is that how much of a hypocrite Shrikant is. It is ok for him to have gotten angry on his wife for her infidelity as is natural but then when we do get to know that he has however had many affairs outside marriage it is shocking. His arrogance and false sense of manhood is very prominent. The questions raised by Aditi at the end are very captivating and gripping. The questions leave Shrikant speechless and stricken with shame.

Sexual Desire is a very subtle but a very primary theme that runs through the entire film. Every time the past is told we see Aditi’s desires for her husband sexually, emotionally and physically. In the first few years of marriage also she has not been given enough importance by her husband who leaves her very lonely and lost. She is not allowed to work by her husband as he considers it His duty to earn for the house and finds it demeaning for the woman of the house to be working.
Aditi’s sexual demands are not given importance by him and he denies her the few times she makes advances towards him. Her husband never is in town and she feels extremely restless. As she learns music from Malhar, she is drawn to him and his singing as that is the only thing she relates to. Music gives her a voice and freedom and this freedom is looked at differently by her when her emotions reach a peak. She desires Malhar and the rain symbolizing their union.

This entire episode is looked at very critically by Shrikant when he gets to know about her infidel act. Though he has also given way to his desires and has taken many women to bed he feels Aditi’s desires are not valid as she is a woman. Thus, the movie ends on a very powerful end where Aditi questions the self contradictions made my her husband and leaves her home in search of her identity while her husband and her son stand defeated at the door.

To me the movie is about finding oneself and where one stands in today’s society. It is about raising a voice not against men but against society and its norms. Tabu’s acting is very realistic and spontaneous. Sachin’s acting also is good as he is able to bring the sense of disgust in the viewer by his actions and behaviour.
The story is an eye opener and very influential. It has an impact on the mind and forces us to think back and question the very basics of the society we call as rich and meaningful.