Review: From a legal and moral standpoint, the discourse on euthanasia is like walking on a tightrope. On the one hand, there’s the sufferer’s dignity and pain to be considered, but on the other, the possibility of misuse if legalised and the question of right or wrong. Salaam Venky is a sensitive tale and a conversation about whether mercy killing must be legalised as terminally people have the right to die with dignity and be released from the distress of painfully fading away. But, another layer in Revathy’s directorial venture makes arriving at a conclusive verdict more challenging.
Venkatesh, aka Venky (Vishal Jethwa), is in his early 20s and full of life but suffers from a rare disorder, Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), which worsens rapidly. The young chess player decides to plead for euthanasia to donate his organs. His mother Sujatha (Kajol), opposes it at first but comes around and joins him in his legal battle.
The film takes a balanced look at why euthanasia should be favoured or opposed. But the most beautiful parts are the relationship between the mother and son and the positive attitude that Venky lives with. He cracks jokes about his condition (much to his mother and sister’s consternation). There are many delicate scenes, such as when Venky loses his voice and communicates in sign language, and when the journalist (Ahana Kumra) gapes at him in awe, his mother sheepishly translates his message. When the judge presiding over the case (Prakash Raj) meets him at the hospital, Sujatha tells him that he may not see it, but Venky’s smiling behind the complete facial muscle movement loss.
Of course, the sensitivity with which Revathy has handled the story is laudable, but equally compelling is the public prosecutor’s (Priyamani) argument. Besides the main plot, the back story of Venky being abandoned by his father (Kamal Sadanah) as a dead investment and Sujatha bringing him up against all odds, and the love and care that flows in for him from his doctor (Rajeev Khandelwal), nurses, sister and girlfriend are also heartwrenching.
Vishal and Kajol are both outstanding in their roles. Kajol’s understated and controlled portrayal of grief and hope to let her son live through organ donation and, on the other hand, the dilemma of a mother letting her son go will win your heart. Rahul Bose, who plays his lawyer, Parvez Alam, delivers a power-packed performance. Aamir Khan (a mysterious figure who’s Sujatha’s conscience) is a delight to watch, too.
The story also touches upon red tape and how the committee formed by the government deliberately dilly-dallies giving its report, knowing Venky does not have too long to live. The film does not pass judgement on the verdict and clearly states through Prakash Raj’s conversation with Venky that it’s challenging to change the law in a matter of days, but his plea has started an important conversation.
The last scene is so poignantly powerful that it will leave you misty-eyed. The heart-touching fare, replete with positivity as much as pain, is a must-watch.