Sunday, January 16, 2005


Inspired by O Henry, directed by Rituparno Ghosh—it should have been a winning combination. If Raincoat doesn’t quite make the grade, it’s because it tries to stretch a short story to a full length feature, and cannot quite fill the gaps to make the happenings interesting to the viewer. The melancholic mood, long silences, inane conversations in mostly one location, a world inhabited by unhappy people—it would take a particularly hardy cinematic constitution to digest.

Newly unemployed Manoj (Ajay Devgan) comes to Kolkata from Bhagalpur to raise seed capital for a business from old school mates. While he encounters incredible kindness from friends, an old wound still gnaws and he must go and see childhood sweetheart Neerja (Aishwarya Rai), who had dumped him for a man with better prospects.

On a rainy day, in a borrowed raincoat, he lands up at her doorstep. Neerja lives in an old, gloomy house and the two obviously miserable people concoct colourful lies to prove to the other that they are happy and successful.

In a touching O Henry twist, both find out the other was lying and the ending is worthy of a Rituparno Ghosh film.

Ajay Devgan is such a wonderful actor, and his emotional responses are just right, but he looks and sounds all wrong for the part—no trace of a Bihari accent, gym-toned body, appearing not in the least poor or desperate.

Aishwarya Rai, with her dishevelled look, could pass off as a middle class housewife—but whose idea was to have her bra strap show all the time? Or paint her eyes in exaggerated hues of anguish. Her coquettish act grates after a point.

Plus points-- evocative music (Debjyoti Mishra), superb camerawork (Abhik Mukhopadhyay) and a lip smackingly wicked cameo by Annu Kapoor.


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