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Finding The Right Key

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Written by Damini Ralleigh | Published: May 18, 2018 1:49:27 am Jasbir Singh Top News

An aged Jasbir Singh (pictured) spreads himself out on his terrace, stretching and flexing, before he waters the plants he has bought from the money he would earlier spend on alcohol. Theres a serenity about him that doesnt allude to his tempestuous past. It is this state of relief and the abusers walk up to it that is the subject of the National Award winning filmmaker Shilpi Gulatis latest, Taala Te Kunji. “We knew from the beginning that this would be a film about recovering addicts. We felt that enough had been said about Punjab and addiction and I wanted to present another narrative,” says Gulati.

Focussing her lens beyond the “political situation in Punjab, the mafia”, Gulati searched for abusers who would “share their stories.” In her 82-minute documentary, she follows five characters, at varying stages of recuperation, who have struggled with different kinds of abuse. “The first person I met was GPS, a 30-year-old man who had been in recovery for seven years for heroin abuse and had 16 relapses. He was also a counseller at the rehab centre. Over a course of time, I realised that other counsellors at the rehab centre were also recovering addicts. I sat through their sessions and felt it would be a good way to explore the nuances of recovering from drug abuse,” she adds.

While the nature and term of addiction differ for each character, their lives seem uncannily similar. “The story of every addict and the story of their families is the same — wrought with physical abuse, loss of money, a career on the decline if it hasnt already finished, loss of a sense of love — and the former addicts themselves see their pasts in the entrants at the rehab,” she says, adding, “but I wanted people to see that they are not what you call sharaabi or nashedi. The sympathy tends to fall on the family because we dehumanise the addict. It was the case with me too. I would sympathise especially with the newly weds. You know they are new brides because they are still wearing their choodah.”

A shot in the film, lingers for long: “Addiction is a Family Disease”. “Wives are called co-addicts because other than the substance abuse they go through everything that the addict goes through.” Much like the men, they too form the nucleus of Gulatis film, appearing frequently to share the intricacies of bearing abuse and helping their husbands wriggle out of it. “My idea of feminism did not have a vocabulary to understand these wives who, for whatever reason, did not leave their husbands but have still shown such strength of character and can laugh about it now,” she says.

Gulatis compassionate eye on the addicts that are often outcast, raises a larger question — “In this problem of addiction, who is the victim and who is the perpetrator? Who is the lock and who is the key?”

The film will be screened at 7 pm on May 18 at Reboot-Wellness, Gurgaon

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