Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Japanese Wife - An Unusual Love Story!


I am a big fan of Aparna Sen, both as an actress and a film maker.  I remember admiring her first movie as a director, '36, Chowrangee Lane', in which Shashi Kapoor's wife, Jennifer Kendal played the main character.  It was a serious movie.  Most of you must have seen her 'Mr. & and Mrs. Iyer', a beautiful movie, in which her daughter, Konkona Sen acted as a heroine (opp. Rahul Bose, who is the hero of 'The Japanese wife'). I was interested to watch this movie just because it was Aparna Sen's movie.

Now, to 'The Japanese Wife'! Snehomoy Chatterjee (Rahul Bose), is a school teacher, in a small West Bengal village. The village is like an island.  Only boats connect it to other surrounding towns.  He is fascinated by English and comes across the 'Pen Pal's section in a magazine and starts writing letters to a Japanese friend Miyagi (This girl's sweet English accent is interesting and has acted well). This goes on for a few years and without meeting one another, they plan to get married.  He sends her the white bangles, which the married Bengal women wear, to her.  He wears a wedding band sent by her. They continue to send gifts and mails to each other for many years.  His aunt wants him to marry her friend's daughter, Sandhya, but he continues his friendship with his Japanese wife.  Then the friend's daughter comes and stays with them with her son, as a widow, after her mother's death.  As per the local custom, she wears a white saree and never comes face to face with Snehomoy.  Slowly after sometime, they come to talking terms and even though he becomes slightly attracted to her, he goes back to writing letters to his Japanese wife.  Her son comes closer to him.  That boy also acted very well. Then Miyagi gets ill and Snehomoy goes to all types of doctors and sends herbs and golis to his wife and talks to her over phone to console her, with his broken English. His expression while searching for doctors for his wife's illness is superb.  He is so much in love with his wife that he takes 6 months' unpaid leave to search for doctors to cure her illness. Such devotion! The love and concern for his unseen wife is visible in his face, so well.  Then one allopathy doctor asks him to bring his wife to him for treatment, he gets very upset.  On the way back, he is caught in a storm and then dies of pneumonia.  In the end, they show his white saree clad Miyagi, with shaved head, coming to his/her home.

Moushumi Chatterjee who has acted as his aunt (mausi), was a famous actress in her hay days and here, she has done her job superbly. Raima Sen (Moon Moon Sen's daughter) as Sandhya was a surprise.  I know her as an average actress - sort of 'item girl' actress. Her acting is superb, here, in this movie. She must be a director's actress.  If the director is good, she is good! She has got huge, expressive eyes! Rahul Bose, is a good actor.  Here, the subdued acting as a villager, takes him to a higher level. His body language is just like a villager's. His slow English with typical Bengali accent is very endearing! He keeps on saying, "my English while writing is better than while talking"! Miyagi's (Japanese actress, Chigusa Takaku) English also matched with his English! Her soft voice and expression is very interesting.  Oh, I have to mention about the kite competition, which is very interesting! Snehamoy sends the kites his wife sent him, to the sky, as if he is connecting with his wife. I liked the way the villagers' and Sandhya's son's interaction here. The movie is like our normal movie in this portion! The picturization of the movie is superb!

The first half of the movie is tooooo slow.  You need lot of patience to continue watching! The next half of the movie speeds up a bit.  But in the end, you feel that you have watched a good movie! Rahul Bose and Aparna Sen give us that feeling! I watched the movie without sub-titles for the first half an hour, thinking that I will just follow it with Hindi words with an 'o' accent! But no, it was difficult! Well, did I tell you? This is a Bengali movie!

Let me show a small video clip, so that you can have a taste of the movie. The way Rahul Bose grows up from a young man to middle aged man...his hesitation in body movement in the middle age...well, he is superb, thanks to Aparna Sen. A clean movie to watch...no item songs or dances! No songs at all! Still, I had a good feeling after the movie was over!

Picture courtesy: Google

Edited to add on 21.12.11: Though I have given the wikipedia link to the movie, I thought I should mention that the movie is based on the novel of the same name by the Bengali writer, Mr. Kunal Basu.

Edited to add on 22.12.11!: Please read my friend Kavita's comment in the comment section! It is interesting!


R. Ramesh said...

A clean movie to watch...no item songs or dances!?? aiyo aiyo..no item song na engala maadiri ilaiznyargal eppadi padam paarpango? haha..hey sandhya ji thanks yar 4 passing by...

Destination Infinity said...

An unusual story alright! The era of pen friends should have been interesting. Just like blogs, but without the Internet bills! :)

Destination Infinity

SM said...

nice review
story is excellent and team is good sen,bose,etc.

kanagu said...

Making a note of this movie... these days not having the patience to view the slow paced movies :)

Will check sometime. Thanks for introducing :)

And congrats on the award too :)

Sandhya said...

R.RAMESH: I can understand, Ramesh!!!!
Yengalukke romba porumai venum! Aanaalum ithu different type of moviennu paarththein! Niraiya idangal/scenes pidichchathu!

DESTINATION INFINITY: Yes, your angle is interesting! Some of my school friends used to have pen friends!

SM: Thank you, SM!

KANAGU: You will like Vijetha, I think and Mr.& Mrs.Aiyar, not this movie!

Thank you, Kanagu!

Renu said...

I have read the novel and the idea is quite intriguing to me..how could one live like that..pen friends are ok, but pen wives and husbands?

BK Chowla, said...

I havent seen it yet.May be some day i will

Sandhya said...

RENU: It is not logical, but Aparna's characters have shown that it is possible in a beautiful way, Renu! Because it is an unbelievable story, we take a long time to settle down with the movie. All the actors have put their best effort here and so we feel sort of 'I saw a reasonably good movie' feeling in the end.

BK CHOWLA: Please do, but it is not a happy movie with all our masalas, Chowlaji!

Deeps said...

Have been meaning to watch this movie for a while now. I even want to read the book. Have been unsucessful on both regards so far :(.

Hope to be able to fulfil least one soon.

Thanks for the review, Sandhya :)

Bikram said...

wow seesm to bea good movie to watch .. at least not one of the typical bollywood ones


L KRUPAA said...

A nice review. The movie was really good and though slow, it was absorbing.

Anonymous said...

Great review! Sounds like a lovely film, Sandhya! The story is so interesting and unusual.

I'll definitely try to see it!

Sandhya said...

DEEPS: Happy to know that you would like to watch this movie! Please do, you won't regret, Deeps!

BIKRAMJIT: Yes, this is an unusual movie! All the actors acted very well.

L.KRUPAA: Welcome here, Krupaa! Have you watched this movie? I am very happy to know that you too liked it! Even I didn't think to stop viewing, though it was slow in the beginning.

MANJU JOGLEKAR: Yes, this is an unual movie. You will definitely like it, Manju! Like Pankaj Kapoor says, 'It's different'!

Kavita Saharia said...

I am going to love this movie ,by your review i know that .I am too a fan of Aparna Sen.Sandhya my best from from dental college married her pen pal .All the five years that we studied together i saw their letter exchanges (and some were read aloud too ... romantic).After five years when they met for the first time they decided to get married and they finally did and are living happily ever after.

Sandhya said...

KAVITA: Your story about your friend is very interesting! We think that this thing will happen only in films, but it has happened in real life too! Thanks for the information, Kavita and tell me what portions you liked most in the movie!

I loved the way Snehamoy and Miyagi were talking over the phone, their voice and expression. Loved the way Snehamoy and Sandhya were comfortable with each other, their shyness, when they went shopping together! I still remember their expressions. Unless the movie touches our heart, we won't remember these things, Kavita!

dsdsds said...

when a blogger had posted a review about this book, I added it to my to read list.. then forgot about it.. interesting review.. i am looking forward to watch this film (thru youtube ofcourse :))

radha said...

Interesting review, Sandhya. Rahul Bose is a good actor.

Sujatha Sathya said...

i too like Aparna Sen & have watched Mr & Mrs & liked it but have not this one yet. i think the concept of pen pals is fascinating

Sandhya said...

HEMA: Please do, Hema! You will definitely like it!

RADHA: Yes, he is! He was the reason I liked the movie!

SUJATHA SATHYA: Mr.& Mrs. Iyer is one of my favourite movies. Have watched it many times!

This is an unusual story, Sujatha Sathya!

Jyoti Babel said...

Going to watch it soon.. Have heard a lot about it..

S. Susan Deborah said...

Dear Sandhya:

Glad to visit your blog. I have seen all of Aparna Sen's films and have liked almost every single one. In spite of liking the concept of the film The Japanese Wife, I found teh narration a bit monotonous with Dear M and Dear Snehomoy. Sometimes I really got annoyed by the monotone of the Japanese actress' voice. But what I immensely enjoyed about the film was its wonderful cinematography with breath-taking visuals and colours. The kite flying episode and shots of the river and the boat were done very well.
Looks like Aparna Sen adores Rahul Bose for he has acted in three of Sen's movies.

Joy always,

Sandhya said...

SUSAN DEBORAH: Welcome to my blog, Susan Deborah! Happy to read your comment.

The movie itself is very slow. We need patience to watch this type of movie and love the small small things the director exhibits.

The kite scene was lovely, I remember and the river too! I didn't feel bored when Rahul spoke in his halted English! I like him too. He did very well in Mr.& Mrs.Iyer too! That was an entirely different type of movie.

Shail said...

I think I'll first read the book! Your reviews are always interesting, I could visualize the movie! ��

Sandhya said...

SHAIL MOHAN: I loved the movie and Rahul Bose is my favourite actor!

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