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Afsos: A Series That Explores The Theme Of Death With A Twist

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Afsos, an Amazon Prime series directed by Anubhuti Kashyap, explores the theme of death with a twist. The creators of the series, which is a “tragicomedy”, have given a whole new dimension by juxtaposing death with immortality. Death is the ultimate truth of life. But can death be the ultimate solution to all the miseries that afflict a mere mortal? 

In Afsos, the protagonist Nakul, played by Gulshan Devaiah, firmly believes that all his problems will go away once he embraces death. He reasons that just like when he was a kid, all his worries used to vanish the moment he went to sleep early whenever he had a bad day. Death will put an end to all the predicaments of his adult life. But there is one problem: death is elusive. 

Even after ten attempts to take his own life, Nakul is alive and we are introduced to him when the poor soul is in the middle of his eleventh suicide attempt. Lying on railway tracks while stargazing, Nakul is waiting for the inevitable when he suddenly starts feeling a little uncomfortable. This time it appears death has finally arrived, but Nakul survives. 

Nakuls’s own desire to live that somehow stops him from actually taking his own life.

The first season of Afsos comprises eight episodes and all the important characters are introduced in the first episode. One of them is Shloka, who is the therapist of Nakul. Played by the talented Anjali Patil, the character arc of Shloka gets more and more interesting as the story unfolds. Being someone who’s not afraid to try unconventional methods in treating her patients, Shloka is particularly empathetic towards the plight of Nakul.

She tries to drive home the point that deep down it’s Nakuls’s own desire to live that somehow stops him from actually taking his own life. But Nakul knows best. He must die and so he gives the contract of his killing to Emergency Exit, a hit squad which caters to people who want to commit suicide so that nothing can come in between. 

All hell breaks loose as Upadhay, the hitwoman who is assigned the task of eliminating Nakul, is in a hurry to complete the job. Played by Heeba Shah, she is a fascinating character who certainly draws inspiration from some of the most iconic figures of the literary world as well as films. 

No points for guessing why Upadhay knows so much about Beethoven and his music, which plays in a restaurant while she is dining with her colleague. Also, the appearance of an advertisement of a detergent named “Fargo” now and then in the frame can’t be a mere coincidence.

Indeed, the characters in Afsos have many layers which unfold as the chain of events, or should we say death, links them in one way or the other. There is a young journalist, a Russian tourist attached to a camera, a small-town cop and of course, Fokatiya Baba, a failed sadhu (saint) who is on a mission to find the Chiranjeevi (immortal man). 

Death is omnipresent in the series and it does not even spare a famous stand-up comic who goes by the name Biswa Kalyan Rath. Nakul is inadvertently responsible for a lot of the lives lost. But the creators of the series have kept things very light as far as the overall treatment is concerned. The humour and the premise may be dark, but the director resists from the temptation of painting a sombre picture of the world or surroundings that Nakul finds himself in. 

Afsos becomes an effortless viewing experience, but it comes with its own set of distractions. At times the audience can take things for granted, which may take away the edge from a few plot twists. It’s an uncharacteristic style of filmmaking, that one associates with the Coen brothers who directed Fargo

Hitman hired by Nakul to kill himself.

Interestingly, a bullet stuck in the wrong place and a little bit of inspiration provided by Shloka makes Nakul realise the value of his existence. He has a change of mind and decides to give life a shot, literally. But Upadhay is one killing machine who will stop at nothing to add to her tally of kills, even if it means putting a bullet hole in a dead body. 

Now the cat and mouse game between Nakul and Upadhay has turned on its head and fate conspires in such a way that Nakul finds himself back on the railway tracks where it all started. Only this time, he faces a new dilemma that may haunt him forever. 

The premise of Afsos, where death is an ever-present phenomenon, rings true to the current problems that have enveloped the world that we live in, courtesy of the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s something Maria (played by Ratnabali Bhattacharya), who runs Emergency Exit along with Upadhay and Vikram, offers their customers. The choice is between bullets, rope or a gentle push from a cliff. 

The series, in a very subtle way, sends across a strong message that life must move on amidst all uncertainties and miseries. It’s the very nature of existence.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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