“ The Japanese Wife ” got released this Friday. I watched the film and was awe-struck. Ms. Sen has mastered the art of telling poignant stories with finesse and a distinctive touch of her own. Unfortunately I am yet to meet her personally but I became her ardent fan, ever since I saw her first film “ 36 Chowringhee Lane ” in 1981. The last shot of the film moved me to tears. The hurt face and teary eyes of an aged Anglo-Indian teacher walking all alone in the lane on a Christmas night, with a cake in her hand and a feeling in her heart that she was simply used by her students, still haunts me. I was traumatized then. This role played by Jennifer Kapoor is so well etched in my memory that I am unable to forget it even today, a full two decades later. I am a teacher myself and I know that there are some students who don’t reciprocate your love and feelings. They just use you to further their goals and aims and pretend to be nice to you but when their work is over they simply fly away like birds, without caring for the branches of the tree where they made their nests and where they spent some memorable moments of their lives. They have so many other skies to fly into, so many other heights to scale. Who cares for a decaying, dying, old, leafless tree, which gave them shelter, when they needed it most. Birds fly away without even looking back. Same thing happens to a teacher also. I have personally experienced it some times. A female student of mine, whose film got released this Friday, didn’t bother to reply back, when I sent her a congratulatory message on twitter. Another student of mine, whose second directorial venture was released last week, ignored my congratulatory tweet. At the trial show of “ Sadiyaan ” a female student of mine saw through me. Is it demeaning to say “ hi ” to your teacher/trainer ? Does it take too much time to tweet and say thank you ? Is it too tedious a thing ? A teacher doesn’t need or demand anything but it makes them happy when they see their students working successfully in various fields. I empathized with the teacher of “ 36 Chowringhee Lane ”. She was used because she had a place and her students were in need of it for their sexual escapades. They used her nicely and dumped her without qualms. I will never ever forget that film. “ 36 Chowringhee Lane ” is part of my life. If a film maker can touch your life with a film, I think she/he had succeeded in her/his endeavour. I was crestfallen when that year’s National Award went to Rekha for “ Umrao Jaan ” instead of Jennifer Kapoor.
“ 15 Park Avenue ” is the next film which I watched after “ 36 Chowringhee Lane ” . Once again I was mesmerised. Film had breathtaking camera work and some marvellous acting by Waheeda Rehman, Shabana Azami, Rahul Bose and Konkona Sen Sharma. Konkona gave marvellous performance as a schizophrenic girl. Again the end of this film moved me to tears. I remember that next day I had to spend hours explaining the real meaning of the end of the film to my students. They were thoroughly confused and I had to explain it to them.
And now “ The Japanese Wife ”. It is very moving and touches you deeply, if you have a heart. Some critics wrote that it is slow and boring. They further wrote that in days of internet and facebook, who will write letters. I would have appreciated their point of view, had the film and its characters were based in New York or L.A. This is a story of a teacher who works and lives in Sundarbans. In the primitive and pristine village of Sundarbans, where modern civilisation is yet to descend, do you expect a school teacher to be net-savvy ? Do you really think that he can tweet his feelings to her beloved in Japan and can communicate with her through a webcam ? Even now when I go to my native place in Uttar Pradesh, life stops after 8.00 P.M. There is no electricity, no internet. If this can happen in U.P., what can you say about Sundarbans ? I would like to submit very humbly that facebook or twitter is not the only thing in life. Letters had its own charm and nostalgic value. I still remember how eagerly I used to wait for a letter from my home, when I was in a hostel or came to Mumbai to be a part of the film industry. May be in this age of internet boom, one is hooked to networking sites like facebook or twitter, but letters have a charm of their own. May be for some techno music is flavour of the season, but Raveendra Sangeet has its own charm, soothing effect and longevity. May be for some lovers of fast and riveting cinema, “ The Japanese Wife ” is slow and boring but for me it is sweet and soothing like Raveendra Sangeet, sonorous like a Sonata and as melodious as Lata Mangeshkar and Hemant Kumar singing in tandem.
Thanks a lot Aparna ji for making such poignant films. Your creative genius is an inspiration for me. I am not alone in my praise of your film. I am quoting a tweet :
RT @taran_adarsh: Just back from ‘The Japanese Wife’. Emotional & moving experience. Brilliant performances by @RahulBose1, Raima, Moushumi & Chigusa Takaku.