Content Note: suicide
Aliah (Rucha Inamdar) starts working as a Suicide Prevention Counsellor, unbeknownst to her parents who probably wouldn’t approve as strict Bohri Muslim family. On her very first day, Aliah receives a call from Ashwin (Harsh Chhaya) who is about to jump off a roof. Aliah tries everything to prevent him. After he reveals that he is a Suicide Prevention Counsellor himself, Aliah’s supervisor (Vibhawari Deshpande) forces her off the call. But Aliah can’t let it go and calls Ashwin from her private number. Talking the night through, the two of them open up to each other – and maybe both of them will live better lives after their call is done.
With suicide, Not Today takes on a heavy topic in a very emotional way, but ultimately leaves us with hope.
No Today is a tight production. Most of it consists of Aliah and Ashwin talking on the phone, which means that it asks a lot of its cast, but fortunately, Inamdar and Chhaya are more than up for the task, giving the film the necessary emotional weight. Acting like this, basically on your own, can’t have been easy.
Instead of going for a “locked room” setting, though, Kripalani found a way to move Aliah outside and get her moving. This gives the film a dynamic that may have been missing otherwise. The other way it racks up tension is by having us doubt a couple of times whether Ashwin will pick up the phone (again). But most of the tension comes from the characters, their stories (with Aliah’s background particularly interesting) and how they relate to each other. Despite a couple of lengths here and there, I could see this working in a stationary setting as well.
As a psychotherapist-in-training, I had to put my training aside a little bit and cut the film some slack. What Aliah does is very dangerous from a professional perspective. I’m not of the “clients cannot know any personal information about you” school of therapy, and of course, counsellors and therapists have a very high responsibility for their clients. But making Ashwin’s survival her personal mission, while being completely new to the job (and him being at the end of a crisis and not at the beginning) – that is a recipe for disaster. It gets alleviated a little by the fact that we see her sketching out a plan for the talk in the beginning, giving her a modicum of control in the situation, and showing that she doesn’t go into it blindly.
That being said, this is a fiction film and not a how-to manual for counselling. The film obviously takes its topic seriously, and tries to combine its story with a bit of an education on the topic (but without becoming preachy). I definitely appreciated that with Ashwin being a counsellor himself, it emphasizes that anyone can become suicidal, there is no way to inoculate yourself against it. It also shows the lasting effects that a suicide has on the people left behind.
In short, Not Today is a film with something to say that will make you listen – and feel.