Awake reminded me of William and Mary, a short story by Roald Dahl. A philosopher dies but his brain connected to one eye is kept alive, as part of a science experiment to which he had consented. His wife is at first upset with the arrangement, but slowly, she begins to enjoy the power she has over him, something she never had in their unequal marriage. It's a dark, disturbing and rewarding read.
The premise for Awake, presently streaming on YouTube for seven days as part of the global online film festival on the 'We are One' channel, is more muted but evokes a similar disquiet.
Directed by Atul Mongia, Awake is about a photographer named Sameera (an excellent Ishika Mohan Motwane) and her comatose husband Vikram (Yudhishtir Urs, as stone-faced as required). On the surface, Sameera appears to be a devout wife, cooking a special dinner for Vikram and buying him expensive clothes although he's unresponsive.
However, the quick flashbacks in this 23-minute long film make you wonder if there's more going on. We understand that Vikram was the partner who was calling the shots in the marriage. Atul literally places Vikram in the driving seat when he announces a major decision to Sameera, without consulting her. The flashback appears as Sameera's recollection - when she's in the driving seat with a comatose Vikram in the present.
Her female friend, whom she meets for dinner, thinks Sameera must move on in life but the latter is not ready to do so, even if it means giving up a career opportunity that she'd been waiting for. The woman's male companion, who is Vikram's friend, remarks that Sameera has dressed up Vikram in a way that he wouldn't have approved had he been conscious. I found this exchange to be the most interesting scene in the film - is Sameera a hapless wife who can't break free of the shackles of her marriage even when her spouse is comatose OR does she enjoy being in control so much that she doesn't wish to move on? The Vikram who never listened to her earlier, is now 'pleasuring' her whenever she wants, and she's happy to lie on his unmoving body and watch cartoons, laughing openly and happily.
The title of the film - Awake - is clearly not about Vikram, who is asleep all through. Does it then imply that Sameera has come 'awake' and alive now that the lights have gone out of Vikram? Or do we interpret this to mean that though Vikram is asleep, he still has a hold on Sameera?
Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in between.