There are not too many films that portray mental health with the sensitivity that it warrants. Mental health disorders come in all kinds, ranging from depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder to schizophrenia. And each of these has varying degrees to it.
Even if some movies lately depict the disorders with the understanding they merit, fewer still focus on the impact of the illness on the caregivers. They are almost always brushed into the shadows, and their pain and struggle in taking care of the loved one are barely accounted for.
On World Schizophrenia Day today (May 24), we recommend you to watch 15 Park Avenue (2005). Directed by Aparna Sen, this is among the few films that portray the struggles of the caregiver of a schizophrenic person, who happens to be her sister.
A poignant, agonisingly real and hard-hitting film, 15 Park Avenue for once focuses on the strong-willed caregiver — Anjali AKA Anu (Shabana Azmi). Her younger sister Mitali AKA Meethi (Konkona Sen Sharma) suffers from dormant schizophrenic traits since childhood and it completely alters her life after a tragedy, when she is on a professional assignment.
15, Park Avenue is more of Anu’s story, who has dedicated her life to taking care of Meethi. Her struggles with her own relationships, the relationship between her and Meethi, who grows up in the shadow of Anu being more of a mother than an elder sister, and her battles with Meethi’s schizophrenia.
A divorced Anu finds her second inning, but she puts her relationship with her colleague on hold to take care of Meethi. However, Meethi in her alternate reality, sees Anu as her captor. In Meethi’s world, she lives with her family at (the non-existent) 15, Park Avenue in Kolkata. In an immensely painful struggle against the disorder, a resistant Meethi and Anu’s own demons, she has to make a choice between holding on and letting go in a surreal climax.
Watch 15, Park Avenue on ALTBalaji to understand the efforts, frustration and coping for the caregivers. The film does a brilliant job at it without vilifying either the disorder or the patient.