Icche is a 2011 Bengali movie directed by Shibaprasad Mukherjee and Nandita Ray that has been acquired by Databazaar Media Ventures for release in North America. Presented by Rituparna Sengupta, the film has Sohini Sengupta, Bratya Basu, Samadarshi Dutta and others in the cast. Read the back story of the Bengali film at Calcutta Tube.
Many adult children of immature parents carry burdens of emotional incest throughout their lives. As adults, they may enmesh their own children with passive-aggressive or codependent behavior. This is a global problem that many do not even recognize as demanding psychological counselling. Suchitra Bhattacharya’s story Gaach (Tree) which formed the inspiration for the Bengali film Icchhe, is a case in point.
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Mamata, the mother in Icche, wants to be a super-mom because she wants to make her son a super-son. She sees her son as special and expects him to conquer continents and make a special contribution to the world she could not make. She clings to him, consciously and deliberately destroys his relationships with friends, peers and girlfriends, insults and humiliates him in front of his friends and treats him like her private property. She does not realise that she is turning herself into a neurotic, near-psychotic personality and is virtually destroying her only son’s life.
Fortunately, in Icchhe, the son retaliates in ways the mother did not expect him to in order to save his life and his love. He rejects everything she wanted him to become and finds his own way in life. It is not a question of cultural resonance that found expression in films like Mehboob’s Mother India. Nor is it a reflection of the mother rejecting her criminal son and accepting the good one in Yash Chopra’s Deewar.
Hollywood has been more forthright in portraying villainous mothers and mothers who have neglected their children rather than been obsessed with them. Mommy Dearest (1981) was based on the real life story written by Christina Crawford who was the adopted daughter of actress Joan Crawford. In her book Christina claims to have been abused as a child as Joan Crawford was more preoccupied with her alcoholism and movie career than the welfare of any of her four children all of whom were adopted. She was herself at the point of being strangled to death by her mother in a fit of rage about the quality of hangers in her wardrobe.
One of the most terrifying celluloid examples of a mother who destroyed her son’s life even beyond her death is Mrs. Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960). Mrs. Bates was a tyrannical mom that almost got nerves cracking for the young mind of Norman Bates who ends up murdering her and then smitten by guilt all over. He attempts to preserve her body with his taxidermy skills just to keep the faith running in his mind that his mother is still alive.
Indian cinema has believed in glorifying and celebrating the mother figure as an icon, an idol to be worshipped at the altar of the family. It has kept its face turned away from ugly truths of mothers like Mrs. Bates in Psycho or Mamata in Icchhe or the evil mother in Monster-in-law (2005) where the mother is the super conniving mom who tries to rid her son Kevin’s fiancée even on the day of the wedding. In this sense, and in many others, Icche is indeed a path-breaking film in the annals of Indian cinema. No wonder the audiences in North America and Canada, thanks to the good offices of Databazaar Media Ventures, have had the opportunity of watching this film even while living miles away from their home country.
Feminists maintain that motherhood as constructed by patriarchy is highly oppressive. It is far from being a liberating and enriching experience for all women. It has been very important to contest the point of patriarchy that happiness comes only through motherhood and attack this myth which denies women their range of possibilities and opportunities. This is also an important point one needs to keep in mind before accusing mothers of destroying the lives of their children with obsessive love and emotional incest. Self effacement, unconditional love and devoted service are demanded from women for the perpetuation of patriarchal norms. This results in an idealization of motherhood which confines women to their role as nurturers. Feminists from the West recognise this vicious trap – that patriarchy elevates motherhood and misleads women is order to exploit and circumscribe them.
– Shoma A. Chatterji