Director: Aparna Sen
Cast: Rahul Bose, Chigasu Takuku, Moushmi Chatterjee, Raima Sen
Despite its leisurely pace and its wildly implausible premise, The Japanese Wife, directed by Aparna Sen, is a film that stays with you.
It's the charming love story of Snehamoy, a mild-mannered schoolteacher in the Sunderbans (played by Rahul Bose), and Miyage, a chatty girl in a faraway Japanese village (played by Chigasu Takuku), who start out as pen-pals, fall in love, then get married and stay committed for 17 years without ever meeting face-to-face. Their romance unfolds through a series of letters and occasional phone calls.
Adapted from Kunal Basu's short story, Sen's film reaches out and touches your heart because it's populated with believable, flesh-and-blood characters who have real fears and anxieties that you can connect with.
Moushmi Chatterjee puts in an inspired performance as Snehamoy's garrulous aunt who wants him to marry her best friend's daughter Sandhya (played hauntingly by Raima Sen), but must accept with a heavy heart that he is already married in spirit to Miyage. Years later, Sandhya returns as a widow with a young son to live in the aunt's house. A bittersweet love triangle is born, even as Snehamoy remains committed to his Japanese wife.
Aparna Sen's assured touches come through in scenes like the lively kite competition between Snehamoy and the villagers, which escalates into something of an Indo-Jap tussle. Or the scene in which Snehamoy accompanies Sandhya to the market where the ease between them reminds you of a long-married couple.
There is no denying the fact that The Japanese Wife gets bogged down by its indulgent pace. But stay with it and you will be rewarded. I'm going with three out of five for director Aparna Sen's The Japanese Wife. It's an unusual piece of cinema that lingers in your memory for its luscious visuals and heartbreaking emotions.
Rating: 3/ 5