The Japanese Wife
Bengali movie with English Subtitles. Dir. Aparna Sen
This is the first Bengali movie I watched in a theatre. I was already feeling guilty of the fact that while I was well on track of watching all IMDB Top 250 movies, I had missed out on most good Bengali movies. And The Japanese wife is indeed a good way of starting the cultural resurrection process.
Set in idyllic Sunderbans where rural Bengal is beautifully shot in all its pristine glory , the story revolves around the relationship between a mild natured and sometimes clumsy school teacher, Snehamoy ( played by Rahul Bose ) and his Japanese pen pal Miyage ( played by Chigasu Takuku). Snehamoy decides to marry Miyage in spite of never having met her and remains faithful to her during the years of marriage. In between he calls her up, but the calls are brief because he finds it difficult to express in English. In fact few of the memorable moments of the movie are Snehamoy’s conversation with Miyage which are intercepted with heavy Bengali accent and words. The letters are much more expressive and both of them are able to bare their soul.
Though the pace of the movie is a bit slow, I would assume that the slowness helps us to absorb the characters better. All the characters are beautifully etched and the audience also feels the same gamut of emotions of pain, joy, anxiety, guilt, helplessness which the characters feel.
My favourite character is Snehamoy’s aunt played by Moushumi Chatterjee. She wants him to get married to her best friend’s daughter Sandhya (played by Raima Sen) but accepts the fact that Snehamoy is married to his pen pal. The scenes where she lovingly addresses Miyage as her daughter in law depicts her kind nature and her garrulous and yet understanding temperament. She also manages to get most of the comic scenes in the movie through her immaculate expressions.
The love story is almost surreal in its innocence. There are many beautiful moments in the movie – the arrival of a big box from Japan which arouses the curiosity of the entire village, the kite competition which eventually transforms into a India- Japan tussle, the conscious restraint of Sandhya even though she falls for Snehamoy.
The movie is not for those who want an action packed, adrenalin pumping story , nor for those who want the normal song dance formula. Its for those who have the patience to let the character and the beautiful locale sink in and enjoy the ups and downs of the characters.