Sanjoy Nag has already established his credentials with Memories in March (English) some years ago which fetched him the National Award. He then followed this with Pararpar (Bengali). Yours Truly is his third full-length feature and his first in Hindi. The film was screened at the 24th Kolkata International Film Festival in the International Competition Section and premiered at the prestigious Busan International Film Festival earlier this year.
“Yours Truly” is a commonly used signature address for a letter. In this film, it registers the visual and physical absence of an announcer at the Howrah station in Kolkata, who our protagonist, the middle-aged and lonely Mithi Kumar (Soni Razdan), falls in love with. She keeps writing letters simply addressed to “The Announcer” without a postal address and posts these in the local letter box. When she comes home from office, she never forgets to see whether there are any letters in the black letter box. There aren’t any. This absent announcer is present only through his ‘voice’ but apart from the staccato announcements he makes, the voice-over that Mithi hears seem to be a fiction of her imagination. It fills up her lonely hours in her ancestral home, which she is unwilling to sell.
This, in short, is the story of Yours Truly. The emphasis is on the loneliness of a middle-aged woman, who is a few years away from her retirement from a simple job. Her nights are disturbed by the loud sounds of love-making her tenant couple indulge in. In fact, sound and voice-overs play a significant role in this film. Mithi also speaks to herself and we can hear her reading the contents of her letters as she pens them every day. The husband (Pankaj Tripathi) of the tenant couple tries to be friendly but Mithi avoids him because she hates to hear the quarrelling voice of his wife, who we never see but only hear. This emphasis on the physical absence of two important characters take the film to a new dimension altogether. This was an experiment that could have failed. But the director uses it so economically and strategically that it fits into the aesthetics of the film very well even though the script has kept dialogue to a minimum.
Yours Truly breaks the seemingly static ambience firstly with the mobility that is a part of Mithi’s lonely route to work that comprises of a hand-pulled van that takes her to the local railway station, then from Howrah she gets on a steamer and then reaches her office quite some distance away from where she lives. Secondly, the sudden visit by Mithi’s much younger sister (Aahana Kumra, good as ever), who is a complete contrast to Mithi, offers wonderful relief that sheds light on Mithi’s ability to warm up to modern attitudes and ways of thinking her sister introduces her to. The sisters get drunk and enjoy themselves till we discover that the sister is trying to cope with the reality of an edgy, now-here-gone-tomorrow love affair. She leaves as suddenly as she had arrived and the director rightly avoids the melodrama of their parting.
Small touches stand out. There is a warm interaction between Mithi and the young office colleague who is going away on maternity leave. Another shows Mithi pulling out her newly bought quilt to cover the dead body surrounded by keertaniyas in the compartment she is commuting back home to. The tenant tries to befriend Mithi by referring often to his pet winged friend he calls Yudisthir and uses it to make his fake astrological predictions, an apology he uses for his unemployment while he busies himself with household chores amidst the constant bickering of his nagging wife. Pankaj Tripathi is as excellent as ever.
Stanly Mudda’s cinematography plays around with the muted and underplayed colours of different locations as the narrative keeps moving in and out of spaces from Mithi’s home to the journey to the Howrah station with its announcements of local trains, to Mithi’s workplace. The art director has done a brilliant job with the truly authentic look of Mithi’s old home and its surroundings, the route to her office, the office set-up and so on. The editing might appear to be a bit languid but it is perfectly in keeping with the slow and monotonous rhythm and pace of Mithi’s life.
The best takeaway from Yours Truly is easily Soni Razdan, who gives a wonderfully nuanced performance as Mithi Kumar. This film sharply points out how brilliant talents like Razdan remain unsung though they could have contributed significantly to Indian cinema had they just got the right opportunities. But then sadly, that’s showbiz…
Hindi, Drama, Color