Full of bittersweet emotions | Daily News
The Japanese Wife

Full of bittersweet emotions


Delving deep into her native roots of Bengal, Aparna Sen’s ‘The Japanese Wife’ portrays a charming love story which reaches across borders. An adaptation of one of Kunal Basu’s well loved short stories, the movie touches your heart because of its flesh-and-blood characters embodying emotions which you can relate to.

Rahul Bose plays Snehamoy, a young school teacher who makes contact with Miyage, a Japanese girl, as a pen friend in Yokohama. Both are able to write English though they cannot speak the language fluently. Over the years they write to each other regularly. Since both are shy people they reveal their inner feelings only to each other. They bond big time and their casual exchange goes as far as to make them agree to become man and wife.

Their only token of marriage is a ring which she sends him while he send her some conch shell bangles and vermilion to apply at the parting of her hair. Despite the fact that both will not be able to visit each other due to lack of funds and household responsibilities, they carry on with their relationship through snail mail and occasional phone calls.

Years roll on and the aging Snehamoy’s life takes a complicated turn with the arrival of an unexpected houseguest, the pretty widow named Sandhya. Though certain incidents happen to throw Sandhya and Snehamoy together, the latter keeps his distance. Meanwhile Miyage begins to suffer from a terminal disease. Snehamoy undertakes the task of trying to save her life by sending medication after describing her symptoms to Indian doctors. This brings a smile to the audience but it also touches their heart. It is a bittersweet emotion. What is truly touching about the story is that Snehamoy keeps his vows until old age event though he had not seen his wife for 15 years. Despite forming a domestic bond with Sandhya, Snehamoy remains Miyage’s devoted husband at heart. When each of them fall sick the other is frantic with worry and prays for their partner’s recovery.

The only drawback of the film is that the scenes drag on. Some episodes such as those in the kite flying competition could have been omitted. Some incidents roll by unhurried. The kite flying sequences remind us of Khaled Hosseini’s novel The Kite Runner, which had also been made into a film by Marc Forster.

The kite flying competition which Hassan and Aamir engage in Afghan landscape seems to be imported to India. However unlike in The Kite Runner where the protagonist emerges winner of the kite competition, Snehamoy was unable to save his Japanese kite. Interestingly the kite also has an emblem of a Japanese woman and the Indians cry out that the picture is of Snehamoy’s Japanese wife.

Bose carries on his character with skill. Chigasu Takaku too delivers a good performance as Miyage though she is rarely seen on screen because much of the tale is told in Snehamoy’s point of view.

Raima Sen is decent in the robes of a suffering widow who pines for Snehamoy’s affection but the eye catching performance comes from Moushmi Chatterjee who is Snehamoy’s feisty aunt.

She is not the typical stereotypical village woman but thinks ahead and encourages child education, long distance marital relations and widow remarriage. Each time she makes a presence she adds colour to the haunting atmosphere of the movie. The Bengal mood is beautifully captured on lens in its rustic landscapes.

Some Japanese tunes played in the background set the tone of the story which is mostly based on Indian soil. This element reminds us that this is a story which had emerged due to the alliance between Japan and India.

The theme does not provide much entertainment because it is not your typical glamour and romance filled love story.

However the undercurrent message encompasses an emotional theme which brings the audience closer to the lead pair.

Wonderfully shot and skilfully acted the movie needs to be viewed from an artistic standpoint. It is one of those rare films which stays with you after curtain call.

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