I finally found the opportunity to see this very intriguing Bengali film. I learned about the film a year ago and the concept immediately caught my attention because it’s so different.
Hemlock Society is a Bengali dark comedy starring Koel Mallick and Parambrata Chatterjee. The film is about Meghna who wants to commit suicide. Ananda sees Meghna purchasing sleeping pills late at night at a pharmacy and understands her intention. He follows her and convinces her that she cannot die by taking the sleeping pills because they are manufactured in a way to avoid death. He offers Meghna a three day workshop in which she can learn everything she needs to know about committing suicide successfully. He asks her to delay death for now and inform him of her decision the next day. Meghna thinks he’s joking but agrees to sleep on the matter. The next morning, Ananda comes again. Meghna realizes that he was not joking at all and decides to go to the three day suicide workshop with him. The rest of the film is about what happens at the workshop and what Meghna decides at the end of it.
The idea for this film was inspired by a real organization in California, US, called the Hemlock Society. Taken directly from wikipedia, this organization “provided information to dying persons and supported legislation permitting physician assisted suicide.” Although the original organization no longer exists, there are still chapters of the organization that continue these missions to varying degrees.
Isn’t this just the most unique and strangely curious topic you have heard for a film recently? It certainly is for me and that’s why I was so excited to see it. I don’t want to dwell too much into the story because it will spoil it for you. I was pleased with the film to a large extent although I think I increased my expectations a little too much. I was a bit disappointed with the ending, I really wanted to see the romantic angle between Ananda and Meghna. But I also understand why the writer chose to end it the way he did. I also felt that parts of the film could have been more grabbing and exciting.
I was very impressed with the lead actors Parambrata and Koel who performed very well. I was also impressed with the scenes of the suicide workshop in which the students attend various classes for suicide techniques. And in case you are wondering, despite being about suicide, the film thankfully does not encourage suicide. Just the contrary, it shows precisely why suicide should not be an option by bringing the individual face to face with the reality of death. The film also offers some valuable information on the common misconceptions about suicide.
I recommend Hemlock Society. It is an interesting film and truly a dark comedy. Those who don’t mind thinking about death, suicide and depression — which can be at times represented in a very real and even disturbing way in this film– will appreciate the concept and the method of story telling utilized in Hemlock Society.
If you saw Hemlock Society and liked it, you may also like the Telugu film Prema Katha Chitram (review here) which is a horror comedy with a suicide topic. Hemlock Society released in 2012 and Prema Katha Chitram in 2013.