‘Not Today’: Aditya Kripalani’s powerful film on suicide prevention

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As someone who has dealt with suicidal ideation, I ventured into Aditya Kripalani’s Not Today with trepidation. I was afraid it might be triggering. However, I walked away feeling hopeful. In a world where suicide rates have been steadily climbing, particularly exacerbated by the pandemic’s isolating grasp, Kripalani’s work keeps getting more relevant. However, it has been three years since its completion, and it is still not available to stream on any platform, not even in India.

In a recent conversation with Far Out, Kripalani shared his struggles in bringing Not Today to streaming platforms, “The challenge is just that they haven’t been taking independent films for a while…we’re also being choosy with the film, honestly. We don’t want to put it out on a platform that doesn’t have a large reach; otherwise, the point of making the film doesn’t get served.”

However, Kripalani is hopeful that the success of indie films without marquee actors – like Three of Us, Laapataa Ladies and even Amar Singh Chamkila – is a sign of the tides turning again in favour of stories that are more than fodder for entertainment. He has started a fresh new bid to get Not Today out to streaming, calling out to journalists and cinephiles alike from his social media channels to create a buzz around the film that champions human connections that can never be replaced by AI.

Not Today dives into the harrowing world of suicide prevention through the eyes of Aliah Rupawala (played with a lot of heat and sincerity by Rucha Inamdar), a young Bohri Muslim woman from Mumbai, India, navigating the complexities of tradition and the many burdens of gratitude. The film follows Aliah’s journey as a Suicide Prevention Counsellor, thrust into a heart-wrenching encounter with a desperate man (a brilliantly performed role by Harsh Chhaya) on the precipice of ending his life.

If you have felt depressed or suicidal, hearing the words “You are not alone” may feel it is an empty gesture. But some show up every single time you reach out. And Not Today is an ode to those heroes. In 2022, 468 people took their lives every day, as per NCRB data shared by The Times of India. In 2022, the suicide rate surged to 12.4 per 100,000 people, marking the highest since 1967, the earliest recorded year. This represents a 27% increase from 2018.

Unlike most depictions of suicide in film, which often veer into sensationalism or glamorisation, Not Today takes a sensitive and introspective approach. It refuses to exploit pain for shock value, instead offering a raw and cathartic exploration of human vulnerability and a search for genuine connection. The story unfolds with a gentle yet unflinching gaze on the realities of working at the obviously underfunded and understaffed Suicide Prevention Centres across Mumbai. Several frames feel very reminiscent of Jafar Panahi’s exquisite docu-realistic style. Upon asking if this was a conscious choice, Kripalani confirmed, “Yes!” before adding that the other influence was Majid Majidi.

Not Today’s accolades include the prestigious FIPRESCI International Film Critics Award, which has also been received by Neeraj Ghaywan for Masaan and Chaitanya Tamhane for The Disciple. In 2021, it also received the ‘Best Film’ award at the UK Asian Film Festival.

In a cultural landscape dominated by toxic masculinity and stifled emotional expression, Not Today can stand tall amid Indian films like Kumbalangi Nights, which also touched upon the theme of male loneliness and grief with Saji’s storyline. After losing his best friend, Saji (played by Soubin Shahir) finds himself wrecked but unable to cry. The tears come out in torrents when he finally breaks down in the arms of his therapist.

As we grapple with an ongoing epidemic of despair, films like these serve as beacons of hope. In a world plagued by silence and stigma, Aditya Kripalani’s Not Today speaks volumes and with tremendous empathy, so tune in as soon as you get the chance.

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