Remembering Venkatesh, young chess player who inspired Kajol-led 'Salaam Venky'
Revathy's directorial Salaam Venky starring Kajol and Vishal Jethwa talks about a life-and-death situation and a mother-son bond. The film is inspired by the life of chess player Kolavennu Venkatesh, who passed away due to debilitating muscular degeneration in 2004. The differently-abled young player was fighting a long and bitter legal battle to attain euthanasia aka assisted suicide. Here's more.
Why does this story matter?
- In some European countries, euthanasia is legal. In India, the Supreme Court passed a landmark judgment in 2018 where passive euthanasia was legalized under strict medical guidelines and the petitioners have to be either terminally ill or in a vegetative state.
- In 2010, Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Guzaarish starring Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan was about the same topic.
First, here's a bit about 'Salaam Venky'
Salaam Venky is reportedly based on a 2005 book titled The Last Hurrah by Shrikant Murthy, written on the inspirational life of mother Sujatha and son Venkatesh. The 2022 film also stars Rahul Bose, Prakash Raj, Aahana Kumra, and Priyamani, among others. Aamir Khan also has a guest appearance. The screenplay is written by Sammeer Arora and Kausar Munir.
Chess became little Venkatesh's purpose to live
Since Ventakesh was six years old, he was put in a wheelchair because of muscular dystrophy. He found a purpose in living by playing chess and his mother Sujatha K set up a chess academy too. Eighteen years after this struggle, he was hospitalized in Hyderabad in December 2004 when the disease degenerated. The 25-year-old knew his situation and wished to donate his organs.
Sujatha and her son's legal struggle
Sujatha wanted to fulfill her son's last wish of organ donation. Filing a request to Andhra Pradesh High Court, she argued that performing euthanasia would also help in donating his organs. However, the court rejected the plea. By the time the petition arrived before Supreme Court, Venkatesh had passed away. Ultimately, only his eyes were donated as other organs had been infected by then.
Other cases of euthanasia in India
In India, there have been several cases of euthanasia appealing in the past. Pre-2018, none of the pleas were granted. Some of the most famous cases include the Aruna Shanbaug case, where the 25-year-old nurse was sexually assaulted and remained comatose for 42 years before passing away due to pneumonia. The case was taken up by her friend-social activist Pinky Virani.