The Futility of Revenge: A Film Review

“Revenge” as a subject has been under the spotlight of innumerable pieces of literature and art. This investigates the deep realms of the human psyche and its most innate desires. Back in the days of our ancestors letting an action that goes against your ego, so to speak, without seeking vengeance marked you as prey, even something as petty as a slap. Uncooperative behavior also had its consequences for the entire group- as the popular Darwinian theory of ‘survival of the fittest’ goes. Hence it was these vengeful acts that kept our ancestors alive.

Call it retribution, karmic balance, getting even or settling a score; researchers and psychology experts label revenge any act that harms someone who has harmed you. This act may even be unconsciously done.

The Hungry is a work of art directed by Bomila Chaterjee that is a modern-day retelling of Shakespeare’s ‘Titus Andronicus. This play visited its author’s darker side unabashedly, and was an indication of the violence that was to ensue in his later works. The film begins with a New Years’ Party going awry when the young scion of the wealthy Joshi family is found with his wrists slit in the bathtub, suicide implied. This is on the eve of his marriage to the daughter of Tathagat Ahuja played by Naseeerudin Shah, who seems to the relish the relatively rare opportunity to play a villain, giving the movie its homicidal edge. The deceased’s mother, Tulsi, suspects foul play from the very beginning. She has her back pushed against the wall but is hell-bent on taking revenge. It is during the preparations for Tulsi’s wedding to Tathagat’s buffoonish son who is much younger to her that her elaborate, all-consuming revenge starts to bear fruit. Old debts are settled, lives are taken and all the guilty secrets of the past come into the open as flashbacks reveal what really happened to her son and who was responsible. She achieves this with the help of Tathagat’s right hand man whom she has managed to wrap around her little finger.

All of this is set in the backdrop of her wedding, with her younger child taking revenge in his own little way by beating up and pulling the tongue out of Tathagat’s daughter and his dead brother’s old girlfriend. When Loveleen escapes injured and makes her way home the next day, Tulsi hangs her to death in order to further her own vengeance. On finding the body, Tathagat tries to keep the matter under wraps and even preserves his own offspring’s body using ice till the marriage and business contracts can be signed and sealed. It is during these moments that one ascertains that Tulsi’s motive behind revenge is relatively right as opposed to her contemporary’s ruthless hunger for power and money. She is quietly desperate – a stark contrast to Tamora, a diabolical empress – whereas he is moving in a cool and methodical manner. The movie in itself is an imaginative, intermittently engaging attempt to give contemporary weight to a Shakespeare classic.

The concluding scenes of the movie show how nonchalant the human mind can get to further its own interests. Tathagat’s right hand man goes against Tulsi to get a few shares in his name, and is subsequently murdered in cold blood by his employee. Tulsi’s younger son who was trying to leave the country in an attempt to run away from his crimes is also tortured and murdered in a gruesome manner. The viewers then witness Tathagat making a feast for the newlyweds very meticulously. The couple then gorges on the food, enjoying every last morsel till it is revealed by the chef that they are consuming none other than the bride’s own son. Tathagat then proceeds to kill the groom and tries to talk Tulsi into becoming his by playing with her emotions, and is then killed by her as an answer to his pleas.  Tathagat’s wife, who is in a comatose state, is shown with tears streaming down her face as she witnesses all of this and Tulsi is shown lamenting her decisions before the curtains close.

This film shows how futile revenge is in a pretty straightforward format as all is lost towards the end. Nobody achieves the end they set out to, nor are the means they used while attempting the same justified. There is plenty of deceit, homicide and treachery going hand in hand in this family plotline that is awash in blood. What one must focus on is the deeper aspects of the human psyche the film tries to intimate us of, as did Shakespeare himself many moons ago. Why are some bent on avenging perceived wrongs, slight or significant, while others can just let it go? In what situations is injustice so keenly felt that retaliation — whether physical violence or a wounding remark — becomes reflexive? There’s been surprisingly little research on this topic given its enormous impact on individuals and society. But what is known is that nobody is above revenge. And rarely is it ever sweet.

When honor or identity is threatened, the most vengeful reactions tend to be provoked, such as being spurned by a lover or maligning one’s family or religion.

Any type of humiliation or breach of social or moral standards is also probable to produce instinctual outrage.In addition, anything that breaks one’s feeling of reality and security tends to generate a strong response, this is why many – no matter how successful they become – never forget their childhood bullies. This is why when an Australian entrepreneur creates a platform where you can mail an envelope full of glitter to someone who even mildly got on your nerves, his entire website crashes in a day because of the traffic.

But the thing is, not only does it fail to avoid future damage when individuals take it upon themselves to exact vengeance, but it does not eventually make the avenger feel any better. While they may experience an original intoxicating rush, study shows that individuals feel much less happy after reflecting after taking vengeance than they thought. It turns out that what victims really want is remorse from the individual who wronged them, along with a heartfelt apology that involves a commitment to reform and rectify the scenario as much as possible, rather than inflicting pain, which they ironically move further away from after seeking vendetta,

What one has to imbibe is that “what goes around comes around” as this is the law of nature and must thus withdraw himself from these petty feuds and immaterial vendettas. It is true that when people treat people badly, eventually there will be negative consequences psychologically and socially, so one way or another they will suffer.

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