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Movie Screening: MenoPause - A Film by Pratik Shah

MenoPause by Pratik Shah is a 19 minute short available on Amazon Prime India and was screened on February 20th, 2021. The story's premise revolves around a woman who realises she may have Menopause after a series of events in her life that alter the course of her everyday routine. The reactions of her husband, her son, and even her boss at work all make up a part of the short film. However, what felt lacking was the depiction of Menopause.

We discussed the theme of the movie and how the audience felt about it. Read on -

1. How does the movie reinforce the idea of 'Superwomen' who do it all?

The beginning of the movie shows the 'protagonist' buying vegetables after having a late day at the office, and she goes home to cook a meal for both her husband and son. She picks up after them before going to bed and is awake the next day to begin the same routine. She is seen as someone who does everything around the house without respite while juggling work calls even while at home, and that depiction is a strong proponent of 'superwoman' who does it all.

2. Do you think this movie portrays the idea of imperfection with Menopause?

While the entire movie premise revolves around the protagonist reaching Menopause, there is a sudden vagueness in the work that she previously did. From being someone that was constantly shown as a 'Superwoman’ to someone imperfect, there was an evident disconnect.

Her emotions through the phase have been shown as sadness and a wavering sense of self. There is a lack of understanding where she struggles to understand what is happening to her - in this case, Menopause. However, she receives no support from her husband or her son, who merely care when she is working for them and do not notice that their wife/mother is going through a sudden dip in everyday functioning. What does this seek to imply? Does Menopause lead to an imperfect life?

3. Could they have showcased the lack of sex drive and the conversation that follows with dignity and in a better light?

While the protagonist is in the bedroom, her husband approaches her for sex. She, however, says no. Her husband then angrily proceeds to tell her he will bring someone else in the house to 'do it' with. This scene seemed crass and executed with a lack of attention to the dialogue.

The fluctuating hormones during perimenopause may lead to a reduction in sexual interest and drive. This in no way implies that there is no feeling of love or mutual respect in the marriage. The onus of failing to understand his wife's emotions during a tough time lies entirely on the husband, who was supposed to be the protagonist's support and not the antagonist in the short movie. An open conversation and a motivation to understand what his wife was feeling would be a great way to show Menopause better and address the lack of a sexual drive in a better light. And not as something that is limited to affecting a partner/spouse.

4. Is this movie a good depiction of Menopause? Why weren't the audience of the movie privy to the conversation with the doctor?

This movie merely attempts to showcase Menopause, and in no way can it be considered a good depiction in itself. While the protagonist was shown to be integral to the story, MenoPause in no way centred her experiences and focussed on Menopause as something that happened to her, which leaves others around her in distress. Her health concerns are not depicted; she is shown to be sleeping in and unproductive but is not asked about what she is going through. There is a lack of conversation around Menopause itself.

In the final scene, where her son takes her to a gynaecologist, we see a closed door and nothing more. Why couldn't the conversations of Menopause be shown to the audience? In a movie around Menopause, if we are not talking about it, if we are not privy to discussions with the doctor or even told about what it could have been about, what is this film's purpose? Having conversations about Menopause, the symptoms, and everyday life would have made a far more valuable contribution than the short movie hoped to achieve.

How then, in the end, is the son praised for bringing his mother to the gynaecologist when he actively contributed to making her life miserable? Are these the lowest standards we keep now?

5. Did the woman have the autonomy to make health decisions?

The protagonist has been shown as someone who juggles both a professional career and a home life efficiently throughout the short. This has been proven repeatedly through the dialogues - "Ma'am, you never compromise on even one rupee," "you are always on time," "perfect as usual." This whole narrative shifts midway when she is undergoing Menopause, and she is suddenly deemed imperfect and unfit for everyday life. Even her boss at work comments on her working, which seems unnecessary and jarring.

Has she been shown as someone who has autonomy? Yes. But has the movie portrayed it as such? No. She was resented for waking up late or saying no to her partner's sexual advances. When she thought she was undergoing Menopause, her son drove her to the doctor in place of her being able to make decisions around her health and seeking the appropriate medical care. Are these what give a woman bodily autonomy?

6. If you could remake this movie? What would you change on why?

The most important thing that needs to be changed is the narrative. A protagonist-centred narrative that gives her the say. A way to show Menopause through the eyes of someone undergoing Menopause and not as something that predominantly affects others. More autonomy means more decision-making abilities. If the protagonist were shown to have visited the gynaecologist herself, it would have made more impact. Conversations in this day and age need to be more open, more adherent to everyday scenarios. Narratives need to change.

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