Indian movies depicting dementia

While many Indian movies show seniors and problems of ageing, recently some movies have also started showing persons with dementia. This is often one of the few exposures for Indian viewers to dementia. Many viewers therefore tend to assume that what they see in the movie as a character’s dementia behavior and problems is medically correct. They may also assume that all dementia situations are like the one they saw. But movies are not documentaries, and they are not made to provide the audience a correct and comprehensive understanding of all types of dementia and care situations.

This page lists Indian movies where a main or important character has dementia (either duly diagnosed as dementia, or vaguely mentioned as possible dementia). A brief overview is provided for each movie. This can help people understand which aspects of dementia and care the movie includes, and how reliable this movie depiction is. It can also help families know what others may be assuming about dementia because they have seen a particular movie. The page also lists movies that depict someone with dementia where the depiction is superficial (often just for a plot twist) or even outright misleading.

The reviews and comments below contain spoilers.

Movies with major dementia-related depiction (recent/ still available as DVD or for online viewing)

Thanmathra (Malayalam)

തന്മാത്ര (Thanmathra) (Malayalam) , a critically-acclaimed award-winning Malayalam film, was made in 2005. It centers around an intelligent, active and popular Govt. employee Ramesan (played by Mohan Lal). The movie shows him slip into early onset dementia. He is still in employment, and with school-going kids, when he starts facing cognitive problems. Several small problems are shown, and they keep increasing and becoming more obvious and serious. Initial symptoms are assumed to be stress, but as he deteriorates and the behavior becomes distinctly odd, people around him realize they need medical advice. The movie shows the diagnosis, and the way care begins. Mohan Lal’s acting is excellent. Depiction of his early symptoms is very detailed, but the later decline and care work is compressed and rushed through. The film is considered one of the best dementia films in India, and has been used by many doctors and dementia organizations to ensure the medical aspects were properly explained and depicted. Relevant links: Wikipedia page on Thanmatra Opens in new window, a review on swapnawrites.wordpress.com Opens in new window.

Usefulness/ reliability note: The film is useful to understand possible ways early symptoms of dementia may be present, and the diagnosis process. It gives some insight on possible financial, social, and personal impact of young-onset dementia. It assumes a predominantly understanding and supportive environment which is not typical of most of India, and does not give enough insight into typical tough, heart-breaking situations and care challenges that early-onset dementia often results in for families. Late-stage care and challenges are not covered.

How to watch: You can view the movie on Hotstar. The DVD, earlier available on Amazon.in, does not seem to be available now, but please keep checking on online stores. Alternate spellings used on the Internet: Thanmathra, Thanmatra

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Mai (Hindi)

माई (Mai) (Hindi), a 2013, is a family drama where Asha Bhosle plays a mother with Alzheimer’s Disease, and Padmini Kolhapure is one of her daughters. The film revolves around family conflicts and drama around which sibling should look after the mother, and Mai’s behavior/ deterioration. Mai covers a range of changed behavior typically seen in someone with AD, such as wandering, confusion, accusing the maid of theft, and also shows typical family reactions. The medical angle is well done and fairly complete; we see the doctor asking her questions to diagnose, and also telling the daughter what to expect. There are a few short-cuts, of course, but then this is a movie. The family drama element is around sibling conflict and resentment about care, and also resentment of the son-in-law and granddaughter resisting Mai’s presence. Sideline issues about negligence are also present. Mai’s deterioration is very rapid, however, not giving viewers or the family time to adjust to the situation, and not allowing many disease-related angles to develop. While the film does a fair job of depicting dementia challenges, the family approach shown leaves the impression that nothing else could have been done. The family’s approach lacks any attempt to communicate or resolve issues, prevent crises and problems, etc. Relevant links: Wikipedia page on MaiOpens in new window, a review on swapnawrites.wordpress.com Opens in new window.

Usefulness/ reliability note: The film provides a useful depiction of the types of behavior challenges and family situations and conflicts that some families may face. However, for someone trying to understand how to help someone with dementia, the film can be distressing/ misleading/ depressing, because it dramatizes the problems. The film does not provide viewers any hint or data to suggest that there are ways to improve communication, reduce conflict, and improve the quality of life. The film may mislead viewers into erroneously thinking that nothing can be done to adjust with or to help someone deteriorating with Alzheimer’s.

How to watch (rechecked Feb 2019): The DVD is available (e.g., at Amazon.in Opens in new window).

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Astu (Marathi)

अस्तु! (Astu – So Be It) (Marathi): This 2013 movie is about a Sanskrit scholar who has dementia and wanders off. Starring includes Dr. Mohan Agashe , Iravati Harshe , Milind Soman , Amruta Subash ,and others. Dr. Mohan Agashe, the actor who plays the scholar with dementia, is a psychiatrist and a veteran, respected Marathi actor. The movie starts with the incident where the wandering happens and combines flashbacks as well as scenes from the present to portray the scholar in his days before dementia and as the dementia grows. Early symptoms, the suspicion of something being wrong, the diagnosis, the growing symptoms are all shown along with the adjustments and problems faced by his daughter and her family because of the situation. The wandering scholar is attracted to an elephant, and tags along with the mahout and his daughter. As he does not give his name or address, they take him with them, and treat him with affection and respect, viewing him as a holy man who has become childlike. The police finally manage to locate him and reunite him with his daughter and family. Characterization is very well done, and the acting is excellent.The movie has received very good reviews from critics and been appreciated by activists in the domain of dementia and ageing. Trailer: ASTU “SO BE IT” Opens in new window. Also, Facebook page of AstuOpens in new window.

Usefulness/ reliability note: The film provides a good depiction of the growing disorientation and memory problems of the scholar, and its impact on the family and the decisions they take. The movie’s weaving of the past and present gives a balanced picture, letting viewers see the man before dementia and the changes caused by dementia. The depiction makes it clear that dementia is a medical condition. However, the scholar is a mild-mannered man, and even with the dementia symptoms growing, apart from a few minor incidents, he does not show the severe behavior changes like anger, hostility, violence, severe delusions, accusations, etc. So one caution: this movie’s depiction should not lead viewers to assume that everyone with dementia will remain mild and affectionate all through. The movie does not give any insight about the more advanced stages of dementia.

How to watch(rechecked Feb 2019): The movie can be seen on Amazon Prime Video. Some special screenings for dementia awareness have also been arranged by requesting the producers/ directors.

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Godhi Banna Sadharane Mykattu (Kannada)

ಗೋಧಿ ಬಣ್ಣ ಸಾಧಾರಣ ಮೈಕಟ್ಟು (Godhi Banna Sadharane Mykattu) (Kannada) , a 2016 movie starring Anant Nag is a critically acclaimed, award-winning movie. Venkob Rao (Anant Nag) has Alzheimer’s and lives in an old age home because his son is in another city. One day, because of his son’s mistake, he goes missing. The story is about how Anant Nag gets embroiled in a crime, and ends up living with a family that the gangster is holding up, and how his words and actions affect people around him. In a parallel thread, his son and the doctor from the old age home, keep looking for him, and we see the other, younger side of Venkob Rao and how he lived his life and cared for persons around him. Anant Nag’s acting is excellent, the diagnosis and other information given about dementia is reliable, and the movie also shows how interactions with persons with dementia can be enriching and valuable to everyone. Characterization is very well done. Wikipedia page: Godhi Banna Sadharana Mykattu Opens in new window.

A Tamil remake of the film, 60 Vayadu Maaniram (also called Arubathu Vayadu Maaniram), was released in 2018.

Usefulness/ reliability note: The film provides a good depiction of the confusion of dementia and of a situation when young, busy children have to decide how to balance valuing their relationship and care work, as against career ambitions. The movie’s weaving of the past and present of the character serves well to emphasize the personhood of the person with dementia. The movie provides an impressive depiction of how a mild-mannered but very disoriented person with dementia can enrich lives of people around him, and be accepted and loved even by strangers. A caution, though: all this is shown with respect to a character who is by nature mild and affectionate and does not show aggression, hostility, or other extreme negative behaviors. This should not be extended to assume that everyone with dementia will remain mild and affectionate all through.

How to watch (rechecked Feb 2019): The DVD of the movie is available (like Amazon.in Opens in new window). Or view it on Hotstar.

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Mayurakshi (Bengali)

ময়ুরাক্ষী(Mayurakshi) (Bengali): This movie, released in December 2017, is directed by Atanu Ghosh. Starring includes Soumitra Chatterjee, Indrani Haldar, and Prasenjit Chatterjee. This award-winning movie explores the father-son relationship between a 84-year-old former professor of History with dementia and his middle-aged son Aryanil who is visiting from the USA. The father is shown having several cognitive problems, and viewers see their impact on the son and home staff, the social setting, etc. There are many situations caregivers can relate to. However, though the director has mentioned dementia in his IMDB summary of the story Opens in new window, viewers unfamiliar with dementia would only see it as a sensitive portrayal of father-son interactions and not get any information or insight into dementia as a serious medical condition that impacts the person and family. The word “dementia” is mentioned only once in the entire movie by a doctor while he is discussing multiple factors why the father may have delusions that affect his judgment (“neurological dysfunctions – confusion, depression and dementia”). There is no clear dementia diagnosis. The movie has nothing about how dementia may progress and how the care challenges may increase or how to cope, etc. The end is abrupt and unsatisfactory, an observation shared by some other reviewers. See a review by a caregiver: Thoughts, words, memories: ‘Mayurakshi’ and dementia Opens in new window. The Wikipedia page is here: Wikipedia page on Mayurakshi Opens in new window. Official movie trailer on Youtube: Mayurakshi | Official Trailer Opens in new window. Facebook page: Facebook page of “Mayurakshi – The Movie” Opens in new window.

Usefulness/ reliability note: The film provides a good depiction of the initial symptoms and how they impact the family and care. Unfortunately, the movie’s depiction of the diagnosis process is very sketchy and incomplete. There is no information on dementia in medical terms, such as what it involves, how it progresses, what care challenges may happen, how to help the person, and so on. The movie seems more around ageing and family interactions and is not effective in conveying dementia as a serious, progressive condition with associated care challenges. The movie does not convey anything about advanced stages of dementia.

How to watch (rechecked Feb 2019): The movie is available as a DVD (like at Amazon.in Opens in new window)It can also be viewed on Netflix.

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Others

60 Vayadu Maaniram (other names: 60 Vayadhu Maaniram, Arubathu Vayadu Maaniram), the official Tamil remake of Godhi Banna was released in August 2018. The movie is currently not available in movie theaters or online, but may soon be made available. See Wikipedia page here Opens in new window. See movie trailer here Opens in new window. More will be posted as and when information becomes available.

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Other dementia movies that have significant depiction but are not available any more

Movies in this section had a significant depiction of dementia and had received good reviews. They were considered useful to understand dementia. Unfortunately they are no longer available in cinema halls, as DVDs, or for online viewing. They are listed here as they may become available later or it may be possible to contact the directors and get a special screening. If you have any updates about their availability, please let us know at dementiacarenotes@gmail.com, thanks!

धूसर (Dhoosar) (Marathi)

धूसर (Dhoosar) (Marathi) is a 2011 film, directed by Amol Palekar. The story is about a mother-daughter relationship where the mother gets Alzheimer’s and the daughter is shocked to find a stranger living with her for the last two years when the daughter was not there. As per published reviews, the film is a multi-layered, sensitive depiction of how the mother changes with her Alzheimer’s. A news report here Opens in new window, and a movie trailer is available on Youtube: Dhoosar (Official_Movie Promo) on Full2marathi.com Opens in new window.

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Life Flows On (English)

Life Flows On (English) was released in Oct 2016. Starring includes Tom Alter. See their Facebook page: Life Flows On Opens in new window. The official movie trailer is available on Youtube: Life Flows on Official Trailer Opens in new window. You can also contact them using their email id. The movie was screened as part of a dementia awareness campaign, and was well received. It is considered a sensitive portrayal of dementia and its impact on day-to-day life and the social stigma around dementia Here is a Facebook post on one such event Opens in new window. You can see if they will arrange a special screening for you (the last such screening, as per their FB page (checked in Feb 2019) was in January 2019.

Maine Gandhi ko Nahin Maara (Hindi)

मैंने गाँधी को नहीं मारा (Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara) (Hindi) is a critically acclaimed 2005 film with a social message (this “moral” becomes obvious at the end). The main character, a retired Hindi professor, Uttam Chaudhary (Anupam Kher) develops dementia and the film depicts his changed behavior and the challenges it poses to the family that struggles to cope, mainly the daughter Trisha (Urmila Matondkar). Both Kher and Matondkar depict their respective characters superbly. The movie does a tremendous job of depicting initial symptoms, a spurt in the symptoms, the problems the family faces, how the family rallies around and reaches out to him. Love and affection are depicted, as are the very tough situations created because of the delusions and challenging behavior, and the family conflicts, social problems, and problems with the daughter’s prospective marriage. The film also includes scenes that show how the family members can interact with someone delusional/ difficult to communicate with. However, the film also has a twist ending that can be misleading. Also, the diagnosis process is vaguely incomplete and uses terms like “dementia, pseudo-dementia, Alzheimer’s kind of dementia”. Relevant links: Wikipedia page on Maine Gandhi ko Nahin Maara Opens in new window, two blog entries discussing the story and the ending, including what the director says about them a detailed review on swapnawrites.wordpress.com Opens in new window, a discussion on how fiction sometimes takes some license while depicting illnesses Opens in new window.

The movie was earlier available as a DVD but has been out of stock for a long time now. More details of the movie will be posted in case the movie becomes available again.

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Other movies with a person with dementia(lower/ nominal dementia-related depiction or misleading depiction)

Movies in this section have some element of dementia, but are not recommended to get a better understanding of dementia. Many have some character who has dementia, often a parent, but the movie has very little depiction of dementia and its impact. Usually the dementia is used in the plot to restrict choices a hero has/ explain away some decisions (this type of approach is often called a “plot device”). This minimal dementia depiction may be accurate or may be stereotypical/ misleading. Some have a major character with dementia, but the portrayal is either very shallow or is downright misleading.

As these movies are NOT recommended for understanding dementia, the coverage below does not include links on how to view them.

Black (Hindi)

ब्लैक (Black) (Hindi): This 2005 movie is a critically-acclaimed, successful movie that stars Amitabh Bachchan and Rani Mukherji and centers around Rani Mukherji and her multiple challenges and on Amitabh Bachchan’s role as a teacher. Bachchan develops Alzheimer’s Disease later, a plot twist to show reversal of roles where the student (Mukherji) now helps her ex-teacher(Bachchan). The movie includes some good scenes where Bachchan shows the early confusion/ disorientation. However, it does not show enough of the deterioration or problems of daily life, etc. The onset and progression of Alzheimer’s is not fleshed out. The medical situation is barely dwelt on. Bachchan is even shown chained to the bed with metal chains in a hospital, an unacceptable approach that should not be considered normal; such restraining is not acceptable and not the procedure that hospitals should follow. The movie is sometimes listed as a movie depicting “dementia”. While “Black” does give some idea of dementia, it is (for reasons given above) not recommended for understanding dementia. Relevant links: Wikipedia page: Black Opens in new window, a detailed review with respect to dementia depiction Opens in new window. .

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Mango Dreams (English)

Mango Dreams (English): Released in 2016, this movie is about a Hindu doctor who develops dementia and wants to resolve some past issues before the dementia gets worse, and a Muslim autorickshaw driver who takes him on a long road journey to do so. The movie is about relationships and memories, not about dementia. The doctor’s dementia is a plot angle to provide a reason for his undertaking the journey, but dementia symptoms are barely visible or mentioned in the movie after a few initial scenes. Dementia depiction is shallow and patchy. The movie does not provide any understanding of dementia or its progression or care challenges. It gives no medical understanding of the condition. Though “dementia” is mentioned in the movie’s blurbs and reviews, the movie is NOT recommended for anyone to get any idea of dementia.. Facebook page: Mango Dreams Opens in new window. Official movie trailer: Mango Dreams Opens in new window. Also, the movie’s IMDB page Opens in new window and Wikipedia page Opens in new window.

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Listen…Amaya(Hindi)

Listen…अमाया(Listen… Amaya) (Hindi), a 2013 movie, stars Farooq Shaikh, Deepti Naval and Swara Bhaskar. The film, set in Delhi, shows the interactions between Leela (a widow who runs a library cafe, played by Deepti Naval), a widowed photographer, Jayant ‘Jazz’ (Farooq Shaikh) and Leela’s daughter, Amaya (played by Swara Bhaskar). The movie is about a book that Amaya and Jazz work on together, which involves their roaming around in Delhi; also the movie shows the developing relationship between Leela and Jazz and the conflicts around it. The dementia aspect is subtle and only mentioned at the end as an explanation of some strange behavior and episodes around Jayant. The movie is not useful to understand Alzheimer’s, though it does give a glimpse of a few early signs. However, someone seeing it may remember this as a movie showing Alzheimer’s and may assume that the mild symptoms shown are all that will happen. The movie is typically not listed as a “dementia” movie and the movie is NOT recommended for anyone to get any idea of dementia. Wikipedia page: Listen… Amaya Opens in new window.

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O Kadhal Kanmani (Tamil)

ஓ காதல் கண்மணி (O Kadhal Kanmani) (Tamil), a 2015 romantic movie is about live-in relationships and has had a good reception. A young couple in a live-in relationship stays with an older couple where the wife Bhavani (Leela Samson) has Alzheimer’s. Bhavani’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease is used to introduce small problems and show how deeply in love the older couple is. The husband is shown as caring and gentle, mainly to support the story’s theme that couples deeply in love can make marriage a success. The dementia problems shown are mainly mild forgetfulness/ confusion, and two episodes of wandering. Dementia depiction is shallow and weird. For example, even after knowing of the Alzheimer’s and after an episode of Bhavani wandering and all the love people have for her, no one thinks she may wander again. They even start looking for her without carrying their phones or her photo to show around. The movie is not useful to understand Alzheimer’s, though it gives a glimpse of a few early signs. It is not useful to get any insight into practical care aspects (other than the need for love and patience). It does not show the progression and seriousness of dementia. The movie is NOT recommended for anyone to get any idea of dementia.. Wikipedia page: O Kadhal Kanmani Opens in new window. [back to top].

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102 Not Out(Hindi)

102 not Out (Hindi), a 2018 movie, stars Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor and shows a 102 year old father (Bachchan) and his 75 year old son (Kapoor). The movie is around ageing, positive approaches, and social issues like uncaring children, etc. A two-minute sequence in it is a narration by Bachchan about rapid progression and death of Kapoor’s wife from a “fast growing Alzheimer’s” to illustrate/ reinforce how uncaring Kapoor’s son was. This minuscule narration can be extremely misleading and is utterly unsuitable for laypersons to get any idea of how Alzheimer’s may present itself or get worse with time. In reality, most Alzheimer’s cases take several years to deteriorate. Even the more rapidly progressing forms of Alzheimer’s typically take 2-3 years from initial symptoms to death. The movie is misleading and NOT recommended for anyone to get any idea of Alzheimer’s.

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U, Me aur Hum (Hindi) (warning: depiction is major part of movie and is misleading)

U, Me aur Hum (Hindi), a 2005 love story movie, stars Kajol and Ajay Devgan. Piya (Kajol), when still in her twenties, is shown as forgetting things. Ajay (Ajay Devgan) and Piya fall in love, marry, and have a child. Piya’s episodes of strange behavior keep happening, including episodes of wandering/ other problems. The baby almost dies because of her disorientation. A doctor suggests institutionalization. Decision point. Hubby, after some initial wavering, decides against institutionalization, love conquers all, and problems vanish and we then see Kajol with a grown-up son. Even after several years of dementia, she looks perfectly groomed and very well-aware and coherent. While there are some persons who get Alzheimer’s in their twenties, it is very rare. And again, though most early onset cases develop fast, Kajol is shown as independent, well-groomed, alert, smart and witty even decades after her first symptoms appear. All scenes depicting Kajol’s disorientation and problems happen in the first few years of her dementia and then seem to vanish. The movie shows none of the problems the disease brings in day-to-day life, especially in a nuclear family with a working husband and an infant. It implies that there are no problems once the husband starts showering love. The dementia scenario depicted in the movie is so unlikely that the movie can be extremely misleading. NOT RECOMMENDED AT ALL Romance-craving viewers may think of it as a story of love and hope and miracles, but the movie cannot be used to understand dementia or care, not even early onset dementia. Wikipedia page: U, Me aur Hum Opens in new window.

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Others: Malayalam movie, “E” was released in 2017 and its promos mentioned dementia, but by the accounts received so far, it seems to be a plot around some supernatural phenomenon rather than the dementia angle mentioned in promos, and is therefore irrelevant or maybe misleading for understanding dementia.

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Pending Review

Uri: The Surgical Strike (released January 2019) has a minor depiction of dementia (mother of a main character), as per feedback received. Comments on whether this depiction is useful will be added later, after viewing the movie. Wikipedia page at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uri:_The_Surgical_Strike

House Owner, Tamil, (released June 2019) has one main character who has dementia, as per reviews. Comments on whether this depiction is useful will be added later, after viewing the movie.

Smile Please, Marathi, (released July 2019) has a main character, a young, award-winning photographer (played by Mukta Barve) developing younger-onset dementia. Comments on whether this depiction is useful will be added later, after viewing the movie.

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General note about movies that depict dementia

As can be seen from the above, no movie depicts all aspects of dementia problems, family situations, care approaches, etc. Each movie focuses on some aspects, and may also use some fictional liberties with what can be done/ what is available, etc. So no movie is complete and representative enough to be treated like a documentary. Also, in order to keep the audience engaged and the story line attractive, some aspects tend to be seen more in all movies, and some aspects are rarely depicted. Some observations:

  • Most movies depict the person as being quite young, or at most in the sixties. Actually, dementia can occur at younger ages, but is more typical at older ages.
  • Movies typically avoid a lot of the sordid and tiring aspects of caregiving, such as helping in the whole range of daily activities all day long, every day. They also avoid depicting problems that are awkward, like incontinence, obscene behavior, and extreme aggression. Late stage care and end-of-life decision conflict has, so far, not found place in movies. Even movies that show the person’s death often rush through that phase.
  • Movies usually tend to show either a very mild-mannered person or a very aggressive situation, and the impression of dementia impact that a viewer may carry could vary very widely depending on whether they saw a movie like Mai or a movie like Godhi Banna.

When watching a movie where someone has dementia, keep in mind that howsoever authentic the depiction, it cannot be complete and that the story-writer would have taken some liberties to make the plot interesting and fast-moving. We watch a movie, we connect emotionally and remember more than what we would if we just read some descriptions. For those watching such movies to understand dementia and its impact, it is therefore helpful to know what each movie’s focus is, and which aspects are not part of the movie focus, or are extensions where writers took some liberties with dementia facts to have a more interesting story.

Note: Some more details for some movies are available in the blog post: Indian Movies Depicting Dementia: Some Comments Opens in new window.

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Page/ post last updated on: July 26, 2019


Previous: Books on dementia and careNext: Selected Online Videospendingwork: https://www.flipkart.com/maine-gandhi-ko-nahin-mara/p/itmeev6vf7tkbxhf and movie awaited http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/entertainment/bengali/movies/news/Victor-Banerjee-to-star-in-ambitious-film-project-on-Dementia/articleshow/50088269.cms (I have the book, story is bare bones). Another awaited: (put Nilanjana on job to find more)”Sraboner Dhara”: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/entertainment/bengali/movies/news/soumitra-chatterjee-and-gargee-roychowdhury-to-play-a-couple-in-sraboner-dhara/articleshow/63762434.cms and URI and House owner and Vayadu Maaniram and Smile Please- see flipkart and amazon and netflix, primevideo, hotstar and erosnow/notestoself]