Monday, January 29, 2007

5.Mr & Mrs Iyer

When a movie is specifically termed as a "commercial" one, one could pretty much gauge the sanity and fantasy levels within the same. Brand it an "Art" movie, regular movie watcher would shun it like the plague. The common perception that art movies are something where one has to engage their gray matters in order to enjoy them, art movies aren't really accessible to an average movie-goer, art movies are too close to the real life and one doesn't need pay money to be reminded of his every day life when he could watch it pass by without any extra charge, are some of the reasons why the parallel movement hasn't really caught on, like the independent film movement in Europe or in America. Of late, be it for the reason that commercial movies has wandered off into the deep end of the mess pool, or be it because of the fact that people started accepting more reality than theatricality in regular fares, movies like "Hyderabad Blues", "Show" etc are finding wider acceptance and larger recognition.

To look back upon Mr & Mrs Iyer, it is difficult to make out, if it is a love story against a communal riot backdrop or a social commentary woven around human emotions, but it clearly succeeds on both fronts. Aparna Sen, who made a brilliant debut with "36 Chowranghee Lane" in the early eighties, deftly balances both the plot points, without going overboard on either of them. A large-scale tragedy seldom affects somebody until it is given a human face. Communal riots, which usually tend to polarize the public opinion, one way or the other, would be viewed under a wholly different light, if the tragedy strikes too close to comfort or the if it is visited upon somebody too close to the heart. Aparna Sen (along with Dulal Dey) weaves a simple story around this point and manages to hold the audience heavily dreading for the tragedy to hit the lead pair and hugely rooting for their safe escape from the clutches of communalism at the same time.

The movie has uncanny similarities in Maachis and Ijaazat, both Gulzar's movies, with regard to plot and its sensible dealing with the issues - be it personal or communal. With patriotism (or essentially communalism) translating to flag waving hero killing the neighboring country's enemies by the dozens and with secularism equating to the hero singing communal harmony sermons on the top of his voice, along with the obligatory members of the minority communities, a realistic treatment of the above mentioned two important issues of the society, was either largely missing or hugely wanting. Govind Nihlani's Tamas, Gulzar's Maachis and to a certain extent Mahesh Bhat's Zakhm, handled the growing menace of communalism, pre and post-independence, not with the heavy-handedness that it is usually dealt with in the regular fare, but with the sensitivity and sensibility, the theme truly demands. These two aspects tend to give the movies their rough and real edges, assaulting the emotions and disturbing the psyche.

The emotional aspect of the movie aside, the setup of the love story (if it can even be called one), no matter how familiar and formulaic, feels fresh and vibrant, thanks to the players before and behind the camera. Konkana Sen Sharma (daughter of Aparna Sen), carries off the role of a devout traditional Tamilian house-wife (fitting the accent and mannerisms perfectly), stumbling (and at times, hamming) during the first act, but regaining her ground, and pulling it off with great conviction at the end. Rahul Bose (of Bombay Boys fame) plays a good foil as a calm and composed Mr. Iyer to a temperamental Mrs. Iyer. The one aspect that sticks out as a sore thumb, is the "too realistic" yet ordinary photography by Gautam Ghose, which captures characters talking in the dark, AS characters talking in the real darkness. The music director, Ustad Zakir Hussain's, a percussionist himself, conscious usage of stringed instruments for the background evocative score, is commendable, for his involvement in understanding of the message of material - strings that tug the hearts and strings that break them.

Mr & Mrs Iyer demonstrates how involving a movie watching experience can get, if it just sticks to the basics. It teaches the importance on the clarity of understanding of the material at hand, by the maker. It just shows how the "ordinary people in extra-ordinary circumstances" theme should be dealt with, by treating extra-orindary circumstances not in a ham-handed way but in an ordinary way. And who better to learn all these than from the master, Aparna Sen!

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