True love doesn’t mean having to be together. This is the lesson I took away from Aparna Sen’s The Japanese Wife. The powerhouse and somewhat eccentric filmmaker took a stab at this bestselling novel by Kunal Basu, turning into a film which may have not been publicized enough but definitely worked its way through word of mouth, becoming a must see film. And if you needed more reason to watch The Japanese Wife, then here it is: Rahul Bose. Yes, Sen has recasted her favorite Bose, who is seen in virtually all her films simply because there are very few versatile actors left who can be as thorough and as apt as him. Read on to see if this one floats your boat.
The Japanese Wife opens in a village in the early nineties. Snehamoy (Rahul Bose) find solace in his lonely teaching life through his Japanese pen pal Miyage (Chigusa Takaku). When their friendship reaches a turning point, the friends decide to solemnize their friendship and marry over letters. However, even though they desperately want to be together, they constantly find themselves dealing with an obstacle; money or family obligations. This doesn’t stop the couple from preventing themselves from loving each other eternally and fully. Snehamoy and his Aunt (Mausami Chatterjee) are joined by her god-daughter Sandhya (Raima Sen) and her son, Paltu. Through Paltu, Snehamoy finds bliss in being a father and even in household chores. Time passes and even though emails, SMSes arrive on the scene, the small town finds itself living in a time capsule. Miyage falls terminally ill and is diagnosed with Cancer. This destroys Snehamoy who finds himself taken to the bed upon hearing this news. He is cared for my Sandhya before he dies.
As a director, Sen surprises with The Japanese Wife. For starters, you believe that such a couple could exist but definitely not in the new decade. This said, The Japanese Wife makes you think about love and soul mates in a new, perhaps old fashioned light. It is only in true love that one is able to stay away from their love and yet feel so complete. Sen manages to portray this very sentiment with The Japanese Wife. Is it applicable to the new millennium? Perhaps not. In a day and age where love is associated with sex, The Japanese Wife seems a bit outdated. However, it is so simple and honest, that you can’t help but gush at the film. It takes you back in time into an era where writing a letter and receiving one was such a joy. While you may not be able to relate to the film on many levels, you will shed many a tears while watching the film.
Rahul Bose pulls out an award winning performance. His characterization, accent and complete posture changes with The Japanese Wife. Bose delivers what is easily the performance of a lifetime. Fantastic! Chigusa Takaku is incredible. Watch her in the climax; she makes you stop in your track. Raima Sen is simply okay. But it is Mausami Chatterjee who surprises. She is back with The Japanese Wife.
The Japanese Wife is not meant for the masses. In fact, I can almost imagine the stallwalas rejecting the film calling it slow and boring. That isn’t the case at all. The Japanese Wife is for the more educated, art loving cinema goers. If you consider yourself one, The Japanese Wife is your knight in shining armor.