Illegal migration of people suffering from poverty, lack of resources and opportunities in their homeland and those hailing from war-trodden geographies of the world to greener pastures hoping to send back money to their families and perhaps, dreaming to invite other family members to new life is not limited to India and Punjab. Influential and resourceful refugees from troubled south asian and Eurasian nations have long taken asylum in USA, Canada and other western countries.
The poor – however, have the same fate the world over. They make duplicate or fake passports, pay hard earned money to the agents, walk on foot the onerous terrains, settle down in ghettos with many men and women unrelated to each other living in common rooms and start their lives from scratch.
If that film, which subtly tells the yearning desire of a mother to meet her son long gone to Paris illegally and then leaves the imprint on the minds and hearts of the viewers with her way to cope up with the loss had come from India or Punjab to be specific, it would have had made us all proud. But since we all hardly have any time to go to the depths of human emotions nowadays and revel in songs, dances and style, we have to listen to some stories told by inhabitants of other nations.
‘Since Otar Left’ is a film which tells a Georgian story – Georgia, now a very small country located near Russia after disintegration of USSR (and not the state of USA) whose inhabitants bore the brunt of international politics while peace loving commoners started migrating to other western nations like France, Belgium, UK, Italy – much like our brothers in Punjab with little or no land holding, no means of getting education to land them a decent job and no respect from the authorities created to protect them do.
We never get to see Otar in the film – the son who gives the title to the story after leaving illegally for Paris under a fake identity and passport by paying some money to the agent while his mother Eka, sister Marina and her daughter Ada await for the money and his letters. Yet his soul is all around in the film as his old mother Eka plucks vegetables, watches black and white television, listens to old songs and listens to the letters send by Otar zealously. He with his name lurks in the dark shadows of the small room where his sister Marina is handling her divorce while tending to needs of her teenaged daughter Ada.
In the hardships of their own lives, the only joy they get is when they receive Otar’s letters or phone calls.
Life goes on, and as Marina scolds her mother Eka for giving too much importance to a son who seldom had time to call her as the film progresses and who is trying to find herself a suitor, a message knocks at their door with Otar’s suitcase.
On finding out that Otar is no longer alive in the world, the sister and her daughter hatch a plan to keep the old mother calm and contained given her emotional bond with the son. They write the letters themselves and read them aloud to the ailing mother. They pretend to attend to Otar’s phone calls on neighbor’s telephone and make believable excuses when the old woman wants to talk to her son.
All goes well till one day, the mother decides to go to Paris to see her son, and she with her old age, ailing knees and fragile frame manages to get visa for Paris. The three women reach Paris and the old mother’s will power, without her being accompanied by the two other ladies, stealthily takes her to the room where her son lived not too long ago.
It’s the words the old mother tells the daughter Marina and young Ada who had long concealed from her the death of the son, after coming across the truth herself, which leave tears in viewer’s eyes along with a heartfelt smile.
As Marina and Ada are left wondering whether the mother knows about Otar’s demise or not, the old woman peacefully comes back to her home and gets herself absorbed in her mundane life.
As we wonder where did they find the ninety year old Esther Gorintin who holds the film on her own and pervades it with her grandmotherly presence,
it’s no wonder that such stories are present all around the world while few have courage to fill life and color into the characters written in black and white. The words spoken are different, the cultures are diverse, but the human emotions have only one language all over the world. In a mere 100 minutes, the film unravels the complex tapestry of the humanism and distills life’s essence into trust, hope, kinship and unconditional love.
A must watch story for the people of the soil where illegal migration is as common as roadside thekas.
All movies are movies, only some tell stories. (1825)