Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Japanese Wife+ 2 

The Japanese Wife

A film by Aparna Sen is an event to wait for. Sense, sensibility and a high degree of aesthetic quality are a given in her films.

The Japanese Wife, based on a Kunal Basu story, is a delicately narrated, beautifully shot elegy to love; it's biggest fault being that it belongs to the wrong period. A slightly bizarre story of a marriage between two people who have never met sounds very strange now. But Sen tells it with love and empathy for her characters, with gentle acceptance for their quirks, and makes it almost believable.

Snehamoy (Rahul Bose), a shy schoolmaster in a remote Sunderbans village, starts a pen friendship with a Japanese woman, Miyage (Chigusa Takaku). She proposes marriage and he accepts, but they are both unable, due to family and financial constraints, to travel to meet each other. So the marriage remains long distance, but their love and concern for each other endures over many years, as letters and gifts fly across the seas.

Back in his modest, riverside home, his aunt (Moushumi Chatterjee), stoically accepts the odd situation, even though she harbours hope for a marriage between Snehamoy and the Sandhya, the daughter (Raima Sen) of her friend. Later, a widowed Sandhya moves in to the home with her son, and both make space for each other, that allows them to care, but without any direct imposition.

Till the story unravels with tender humour (the energetic kite-flying scene) and some whimsy, Sen keeps a hold on the audience, in spite of the leisurely pace (tighter editing would have helped), but when news of Miyage's illness arrives and Snehamoy runs around seeking treatment, the film, sadly, descends into bathos.

But, its painterly frames (Anay Goswani), relatively unexplored location, and wonderful performances make up for the improbability of the story. This kind of pure love story brimming over with repressed sexuality would probably work better if the setting was the early 20th century. In the present, it seems ridiculous and the two characters completely unhinged. In spite of this Sen can make their story moving and affecting, it is her skill as a director... to channel emotions without seeming manipulative.


Every once in a while comes a film that tries to fly before it can walk, and ends up tripping on its shoelaces. There was Drona and there was Veer there’s Prince, so awful that it is enjoyable. You have to see it with a crowd of irreverent college kids, or better still an upper stall audience—they rattle off lines before they are spoken on screen, come up with cheeky responses to the film’s soggy punch lines, hoot with derisive laughter and get their money’s worth this way or that.

It’s just bad luck for Vivek Oberoi that he got saddled with a film for which is so clearly unsuited. To pull off the non-stop nonsense that goes on in Kookie Gulati’s Prince, a guy has to be cute like Matt ‘Bourne’ Damon, or sexy like Daniel ‘Bond’ Craig— Oberoi is neither. He looks like a sad wannabe in black patent leather amidst Batman-like gadgetry.

All the fuss and bother in Prince is over a gold coin that has a chip embedded in it. This chip has memory-altering functions that can be used, as the villain says, to conquer the world. It has already been used to erase the memory of ace thief Prince (Oberoi), and every time he is in a stressful situation, he clutches his head, twitches and faints. Not much of a ‘hero’ – also too many ‘duh’ moments for his own good.

Seeking the coin is villain Sarang (Isaiah) with a bionic limb, the CBI represented by Khan (Sanjay Kapoor) and a top-secret government organization called IGRIP—so secret that its gunmen wear jackets with the name embossed.

There are also three women called Maya trying (and failing) to sex up the proceedings—Neeru Singh, Nandana Sen and Aruna Shields. Prince, with a puzzled frown on his face, is hurtled from one misadventure to another—and all the action takes place in South Africa, with the local cops not even batting an eyelid at the mayhem taking place in their backyard.

The sad fact is that Bollywood maybe able to copy Hollywood action (and stunt director Allan Amin does a lot more than all the actors and the director put together), but how about a new storyline to match the latest gizmos on screen?

Jaane Kahan Se Aayi Hai

Hindi films are usually quite verbose, but Jaane Kahan Se Aayi Hai goes one step ahead— it tells and then shows. Like if a character says that ever since he was born, girls turned away from him, there is a shot of three babies in a crib and two of them turning away… the shot holds for sometime. You get the point, but director Milap Zaveri shows the boy being rejected by girls in school and then teenagers too.

But the crucial piece of information—why is he such a turn-off—is never explained. Does he have bad breath? Body odour? Rajesh Parekh (Ritesh Deshmukh) does manage to turn the audience off, because when he is not talking (and telling us what we can already see!) he is whining, or he is weeping, or he is goofing off with best friend Kaushal (Vishal Malhotra), who is obsessed with pornography—this generates a lame running game involving a porn DVD.

Still, Tara, a girl from Venus (Jacqueline Fernandez) visiting Earth to discover what Love is all about, chooses to land in Rajesh’s lap. It is supposedly an advanced civilization—Tara can do some magic tricks—but the girl is dressed in bad cabaret dancer costume, and came to another planet without preparation. Don’t they have the intergalactic equivalent of Google on Venus?

Rajesh lives in a palace, but works as Farah Khan’s (as herself) third assistant and puts up with mistreatment, like tea being spat on his face. He falls in love with the sister (Sonal Sehgal) of the film’s ‘superstar’ Desh (Ruslaan Mumtaz), but of course, she turns him down. So he falls in love with the alien, but to teach her about love, pushes her into Desh’s arms.

Don’t even ask why, this is not the kind of film that makes sense. How did Zaveri (who preens on screen a couple of times) even get to make it, and garner a great deal of publicity for it? After Aladin and now this Jaane Kahan… Ritesh Deshmukh must have figured out that he is better off doing multi-starrer comedies; one more Sad Sack act and his career will fly to Venus. If there is an award for most annoying performance, it should go to Vishal Malhotra. And as for the one-expression-wonder Jacqueline Fernandez, maybe she could go to Mars and learn how to act.


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