Konkona Sen Sharma (Aparna’s daughter) gives a distressingly compelling performance as Mithi, stricken with schizophrenia as a young woman and now suffering elaborate, chilling delusions. Mithi is cared for, sometimes with more patience and other times with less, by her older sister Anju (GOAT's favorite, Shabana Azmi). Anju is a driven and accomplished physics professor, but she can’t seem to manage a personal relationship. Among Mithi's delusions, she believes that she is married to Jojo Roy, a man she was engaged to prior to her final psychotic break. When the real Jojo (Rahul Bose) reappears, all three of their lives are shaken.
I expected a lot from this film – Aparna Sen has a stellar track record and the cast is fantastic – but 15 Park Avenue did not quite match my expectations. The early portions of the film were the strongest. Aparna did a brilliant job of handling the schizophrenia sensitively while still making me squirm with discomfort watching some of the more difficult scenes. In one scene, she allows the viewer to hear one side of a telephone conversation but not the other, contrary to the usual movie convention of viewer omniscience. The result is a disquieting sense that one is eavesdropping, intruding on the characters' private space. And Aparna Sen's script and direction extracted a stellar performance out of her talented daughter - Konkona chillingly captured the earnestness and confusion of Mithi's distressing, delusional shadow world.
But as delicate and spot-on as these aspects of the film were, many of the scenes without Konkona had a woodenness of dialogue that was distracting and disappointing. Shabana did a good job even with the weaker material she was given - her Anju was complex and subtle, part selfish, part protector. The fact that she was a scientist was, unfortunately, a token, a shorthand for her rationality and uber-competence. No delicate metaphors were built on this, though they could have been. (Still, as a former physicist, I got quite a charge out of listening to my beloved actress’s honey voice talking about quantum mechanics.) But Rahul Bose, though I like him, was not quite up to the task of giving life to Aparna's less well-crafted dialogue.
The film's ending was ambiguous - some viewers may enjoy the open-ended conclusion, but I found it abrupt and unsatisfying, one of several ways in which 15 Park Avenue failed to live up to its rich potential.