Filmmaker Tanuja Chandra’s (Dushman, Sangharsh, Qarib Qarib Singlle) paternal aunts had been persuading her to pay them a visit in their village of Lahra, Uttar Pradesh. In 2018, she finally took the time to go and meet them with a small film crew to capture their fascinating lives that would eventually form the basis of her documentary, Aunty Sudha Aunty Radha (2019). The two aunts, Sudha (an octogenarian) and Radha (a nonagenarian), started living together at their ancestral home in Lahra after losing their husbands. Both sisters were leading the best days of their lives together, free of any responsibilities or obligations, along with their extended family of domestic aides ready to serve and take care of them at all times.
Aunty Sudha playfully tells Tanuja in the film that as she is the younger sibling, she will die after Aunty Radha has passed away! Both sisters were never afraid of their impending death but admitted that if either of the two were to die, it would be very difficult for the other to live alone. Such was the bond and interdependence that had developed between the two self-dependent women. Despite having diametrically opposite personalities leading to occasional arguments, the two sisters were filled with love for each other. While Aunty Radha was extremely adjusting and easy-going and never complained about anything, Aunty Sudha was a stickler for perfection. She would get irritated if things didn’t happen her way and would scold the domestic aides often. But her anger would last only for a few minutes, so the extended family used to laugh it off. One of the elderly servants jokes with Tanuja in the documentary that at least she should remain angry for an hour to be taken seriously!
All the aides are shown to have immense respect and love for the aunts and consider it their moral duty to serve the elderly women. There is a watchman who keeps guard and is readily available in case of any emergency at night. One of the lady servants comes daily at 5:30 am in the morning to prepare tea and serve it to them. Aunty Sudha and Aunty Radha have distributed pieces of land owned by them to these aides as a token of gratitude for their years of service. The camaraderie and bond that this entire family of diverse religious and socio-economic backgrounds shares warms up the screen and is a reflection of the culture of inclusivity that they have fostered.
The 48-minute documentary is replete with heart-warming moments and funny anecdotes that made me smile and laugh frequently. Aunty Sudha is seen consuming tobacco, coconut, and pan-masala in her leisure time. She stealthily eats chocolates at midnight after her sister has dozed off! The two siblings relish fruits soaked in Milkmaid and want to enjoy the best of everything in the autumn years of their life. Aunty Sudha is finicky and wants her yogurt and cheese to be made from cow’s milk – but the tea has to be buffalo’s milk! She calls the shots when it comes to the daily meals prepared in the kitchen whereas the garden and lawn matters are decided by Aunty Radha. Adjusting to the differences in their personalities and respecting each other’s space has helped them live happily together. The playful nagging and teasing between the two are endearing moments that are bound to make the viewers miss their own siblings.
This wonderful documentary, exuding so much warmth and affection, is a testament to the precious wisdom that old people carry and that is greatly undermined by society. There is so much we can learn from Aunty Sudha Aunty Radha.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.