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The Japanese Wife

'The Japanese Wife’s improbable plot,based on a novel of the same name-- a Bengali schoolteacher falling in long-distance love with his Japanese pen pal-- turns into a beguiling romance in Sen’s skillful hands.

Written by Shubhra Gupta | New Delhi |
April 9, 2010 4:15:05 pm

Cast: Rahul Bose,Chigusa Takaku,Raima Sen,Moushumi Chatterjee

Director: Aparna Sen

Rating: ***

One of Aparna Sen’s best qualities is that she captures the rhythms of the life of her characters so well that you can’t imagine them doing anything else. ‘The Japanese Wife’s improbable plot,based on a novel of the same name– a Bengali schoolteacher falling in long-distance love with his Japanese pen pal– turns into a beguiling romance in Sen’s skillful hands.

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Snehamoy ( Bose) teaches at his village school in the Sundarbans. Miyage ( Takaku) lives across the world,in Japan. The distance that separates them is immense,yet they are very similar : both solitary creatures,both finding kinship in a person they’ve never set eyes upon,both speaking different languages,yet deeply connected with each other.

Sen builds up the love affair quietly,Bose’s seldom-slipping thick Bengali-accented English running over the scenes in voiceover,counter-pointed by Takaku’s gentle tones. The span of nearly two decades is shown,again unobtrusively,in the graying and thinning of Bose’s hair,and in the slightly heavier gait of his ‘wife’ across the seas,who learns to wear saris,and bangles,just like he learns to fly kites that come from Japan,and decorate his room with objects which Miyage sends.

A kite-flying scene that gets stretched too long ( this is the one in which Bose takes out his Japanese ‘bou’s’ kite,much to the vocal resentment of the villagers) mars the smooth flow of the film. Moushumi Chatterjee,the aunt who brings up the parentless Snehamoy,is the only one who’s obviously acting : the rest of the actors get into the skin of their characters,even Bose whose urban persona is so far removed from the dhoti-clad poor schoolteacher’s. Raima Sen as the young widow who comes to live in Snehamoy’s house with her son,and whose proximity to Snehamoy contrasts with the far-away-ness of Miyage,is effectively understated : the little boy is good,too.

In it’s most effective parts,the beautifully-lensed ‘The Japanese Wife’ is like a haiku,saying a lot without underlining too much,a rare thing in our movies.

shubhra.gupta@expressindia.com

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