Sandalwood tries ‘Locked-in Syndrome’, a first in India

Deeptii Mohan; a depiction of the Locked-in Syndrome. (DH graphics)

Cinematic capture of the ‘Locked-in Syndrome’ could get extremely tough. For, it demands that the actor mimic a fully conscious patient so completely paralysed that she cannot move or talk. A Kannada film ‘Gift Box’ has now taken up this challenge, its lead actor Deeptii Mohan donning the role with remarkable depth.

Directed by Raghu S P, the film breaks fresh ground in Indian cinema. But for Deeptii, a city-based model-turned actor, the challenge was tougher getting into the character’s psyche. “I kept myself aloof for a fortnight, preparing for the task ahead,” she recalls.

For 20 gruelling days, she read, watched and immersed herself in documentaries that delved deep into the Syndrome’s multiple facets. The role demanded that she visualise a totally immobile patient, communicating only with her eyes. All the senses, the mind and memory would be active, but trapped inside a body that just would not react.

Gift Box tracks the story of a woman, whose perfect life turns topsy-turvy after getting diagnosed with the Syndrome. As Deeptii says, “It is how you can hear, you can see, but you cannot express yourself, you are locked in your own body. Eye blink is the only movement possible.”

To look and feel real on screen, Deeptii had to rely on her eyes and matching make-up, a process unprecedented in its clinical precision. “It was excruciating,” she recalls. “The process lasted five to six hours every single day of the special make-up shoot schedule. I didn’t enjoy every moment of it, but when I saw the final look in the mirror, it would give me a sense of satisfaction.”

The glamorous model image of Deeptii had to effect a radical makeover for the role. “Having been involved in modelling since I was 17, I felt I had to explore the artistic side of me more,” says the actor. She was determined not to be typecast. “I believe an actor should be able to get into the skin of the character that one believes in.”

Sandalwood’s foray into this unchartered territory demanded the use of sync-sound, equipment that recorded sound at the time of shooting in arresting clarity. The implication was clear: No dubbing.

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Sandalwood tries ‘Locked-in Syndrome’, a first in India

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