Hemlock Society (2012) Bengali Film Review

Hemlock Society has no poison within

Script,  Dialogue  and  Direction : Srijit Mukherjii

Cast: Parambrata Chatterjee, Koel Mallick, Dipankar De, Roopa Ganguly, Soumitra Chatterjee, Sabitri Chatterjee, Sabyasachi Chakraborty, Bratya Basu, Raj Chakraborty, Sohag Sen, Barun Chanda, Priyanka, Srijit Mukherjii, Jeet, Silajit, Sudeshna Ray, Anindita Bose, Saheb Chattopadhyay etc.

More accomplished than his past two movies Autograph & Baishey Shrabon, Srijit Mukherji`s Hemlock Society is a film partially inspired by Barry Levinson`s 2010  television film You Don’t Know Jack (based in part on the book, Between the Dying and the Dead: Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s Life And The Battle To Legalize Euthanasia) starring Al Pacino as Jack Kevorkian and  won 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards, for outstanding lead actor Al Pacino  along with the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild award in 2011 for his role as Kevorkian. But basic difference between Srijit and Barry is on the outlook. Barry Levinson`s look at the life and work of physician-assisted suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian to introduce a new idea of doctor assisted suicide. His aim is to help the hopeless patients who are suffering pain to commit suicide effortlessly. On the contrary, Srijit is most optimistic about life, trying his best to refrain people from committing suicide. For those apprehensive people considering  a film bearing such name on assisted suicide can be too morbid, we are here to assure them that, Hemlock Society  is a complete pro-life movie of it`s own kind. And more over it has nothing to do with Euthanasia.

Though the name of the film comes from an actual organisation called  ‘The Hemlock Society’,  the brainchild of Derek Humphry who founded the organisation in Santa Monica, California in 1980, the film is just opposite to the motive of the society itself. The society’s mission was to provide information to people at their death-beds and giving legislative support to permit physician assisted suicides. The society merged into another organisation with the same motive in the year 1992, after the publication of Derek Humphry’s book ‘Final Exit’. Derek Humphry left the organisation in the same year. Humphry was inspired to make this society after receiving a great response to his memoir ‘Jean’s Way’ which was his account of helping his terminally ill wife taking her own life in 1975. In 2003, the society renamed itself again and merged with another organization called ‘Compassion and Choices’. Currently, three registered societies with the names Hemlock Foundation of Florida, Hemlock of Illinois, and Hemlock Society of San Diego are operating.

The film is about a man named Ananda (Parambrata Chatterjii) and a woman named Meghna (Koel Maillck). Ananda runs a workshop named Hemlock Society apparently to  assist  suicide maniacs. But in reality this workshop helps people to get rid of their maniac and thus to help   them to participate in their normal life. Meghna on the other hand is a depressed girl derelict from every nook and corner of life and who by chance or by accident meets  Ananda and lands up in the said workshop. Meghna, unable to accept her stepmom (Roopa Ganguly)  is a lonely daughter of a Doctor (Dipanker De). Meghna meets Ananda few hours after she has broken up with her fiancé (Saheb Chatterjii) whom she finds smooching another girl (Anindita Bose).This relation lasted for 14years and they are at that time on their way to marriage. Meghna and Ananda first see each other in a pharmaceutical shop while she has been purchasing a phial of sleeping peel. She takes and attempts to commit suicide by taking  alcohol along with a handful of sleeping pills, however, she fails, she can`t gather enough courage to get it through when dramatically and unbelievingly enters a stranger Ananda Kar who drives a BMW Z4 and takes Meghna off her feet promising her a crash course on committing a successful suicide in that


clandestine  Society, quite away in the boundaries of a film City. After going through several sorts of experiences and attending different classes led by Society`s faculty members  like Col Samaresh Bagchi ( Soumitra Chattopadhyay),Trainlet Biswas (Barun Chanda),Dhamoni Ghosh (Sabyasachi Chakraborty), Jhulan Gupta (Sabitri Chattopadhyay), Raktim Ganguly (Bratyo Basu), Miss Cella Neous ( Sohag Sen), Setu Venkataraman ( Raj Chakraborty), Shikha Goon (Sudeshna Ray),  Meghna  changes her mind to 180 degree and declares her love with Ananda, but at once falls for head over heels when she  learns that Ananda is suffering from  blood cancer and will survive for a couple of years only . And eventually Ananda discloses the fact that the society and its faculty are mere concoction. The crash course on committing suicide is simply a drama enacted by hired actors – both the teachers and the students as well.


To talk about the making Srijit is to be criticized for his unnecessary imposed intellectuality. Otherwise the making of the frames and dialogues have their marvel within. The dialogues are laced with smart and modern wit impregnated with a pinch post modern idea.  After discovering her fiancé smooching another girl while she took a firm stand to get rid of him once for all and when  the boy said, amar kachhe dehatai sab nay, she answered with a stubborn voice, shudhu deher ekti angsha bade.   Ananda`s description of the Bengalis’ intellectuality as, Feludao jane, Nerudao jane abar Derridao jane is another example. While under Society`s curriculum in her suicide note Meghna when mentioned the name of her ex fiancé, Col. Bagchi  asked her, tumi ki potty karar samay boy friendke sange nie jao? While proposing to Ananda she said, twenty 20 to anek holo asun ebar amra test match kheli. There are more of   Srijit`s punches all through the movie which are encored by the audience with laughter.

But I do not find any justification on the part of the Director of bringing motley group of actors as faculty members of the Hemlock Society. But in this context  I am to opine that, in a couple of frames  Bratya Basu as Raktim Ganguly has shown his excellence as an actor. Among the faculties to me Bratya is the best. It is an unfortunate part of the Indian cinema that this talented actor has not yet been properly ventured. But Parambrata makes his character very endearing. In nutshell Parambrata is superb as Ananda Kar.  Koel had a tough job as it is her debut in a film of different nature. And she proved herself very promising in this types of film. Thanks to Srijit for reinventing her image. Dipankar Dey and Roopa Ganguly are good choice. Jeet`s special appearance is enjoyable from cinematic point of view. Priyanka in her short spell has done well.

Cinematographer Soumik Haldar, editor Bodhaditya Banerjee and Indradip Das Gupta as background score composer have done their job nicely. Art director Ananda Addya is smart in designing a workshop room in black with suicide notes scrawled all over. Composer Anupam Roy, yet again, comes up with his excellence. With Lopamudra Mitra, Rupankar, Shreya Ghoshal and Silajit Anupam has shown his skill once again

                   Pachu Ray

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