Writer and director Kamal Musale has given us a gift with the film Mother Teresa & Me which opens at theaters across the US for one day, only on October 5th. In the present day, India-born Londoner Kavita (played stunningly by Banita Sandhu) has just found out- by accident and after being struck by a car- that she is pregnant by her band-member boyfriend. When it is clear that boyfriend wants nothing more to do with her, Kavita must decide what to do about the new life she is carrying. Thus, the cross that Kavita will bear for the rest of her life is established- and so is the theme of the value of life and how that value is so easily discarded by our modern culture.
Kavita goes to an abortion clinic and is moved by seeing a woman emerging from a treatment room, crying. She dials her discarding boyfriend and gets the ironic voice mail answering message, “Hi, this is Paul; you know what to do…” It’s not too much of a *spoiler alert* to share that Kavita really does know what to do: she runs out of the clinic, setting the stage for a new life of pursuing a faith-filled life.
Kavita decides to travel back to India- to a state on the Malabar Coast that announces population of 34.63 million people to escape the pain of the rejection and seek the love and affection of a woman she knew in childhood, Deepali (played beautifully by Deepti Naval). Deepali, we will later discover, knows Kavita because of Deepali’s work with Mother Theresa before her passing.
Mother Teresa (Jacqueline Fritschi-Cornaz) is ensconced in her convent when she has a revelation from Jesus that she is supposed to expand her ministry outside the walls of the convent she is serving. “Jesus told me, ‘I want you to serve the poorest of the poor,’” she- hesitatingly- tells her priest supervisor when she asks him to get permission from the Pope to release her to this duty. Years later, Mother Teresa receives the (presumably Pope’s) blessing. She’s been granted just one year’s time for this service outside the convent, and she is depicted in a touching scene seeking the blessing of her priest for her white sari vs. Nun’s Habit.
The film begins a series of cut-away’s which compare Kavita’s struggles in our current day and Mother Teresa’s in her own time, including her first day attempting to introduce herself and minister, walking in her startling white and blue sari amidst the filthy tropical hovel conditions. We are shown how difficult it was for her to endure the mistreatment of the poor- people who, sickly or dying, would be left to die because they could not pay a hospital care fee. We are also shown the challenges Mother Teresa faced in establishing The House for the Dying, her facility which, eventually, took in these people and , at no charge, cared for and, often, hospiced them despite their being leprous.
What Kavita will discover is that even “holy people” face challenges and struggle with their faith- some to the point- like Mother Teresa- of encountering the “dark night of the soul.” As we walk with both of these brave women, each overcoming severe rejection, degradation, and abandonment, we not only admire their faith but are inspired by it.
Featuring ingeneous sets by Production Designer Rekha Musale, and being magnificently shot by Japanes-born and San Diego-educated Cinematographr Kiko Nakahara, this film is both gruesome in its realistic depictions of life in a slum and exquisitely captivating. Yes, this film calls us to discuss when, in fact, life begins- but it also directs our attention to when it is that life should be permitted to end as well. May we all answer the Holy Calls we are each given.
For information and to find a theater near you please visit the film’s web site here.