(Recommended by SI Blog reader ‘Hari‘)
Most Indian movies are horror shows churned out by thieves and dodos, featuring murderers, convicts, rapists and retards and watched primarily by half-wits who can’t/won’t wank off without the crutch of a skimpily-clad Bollywood siren gyrating obscenely on the screen.
Mercifully, once in a rare blessed while, like the Halley’s Comet, we encounter a bright streak of light like film-maker Aparna Sen and Anurag Kashyap, actors like Irrfan Khan, Naseeruddin Shah, Rahul Bose and Konkona Sen-Sharma and a small bunch of moviegoers who believe crass and class have completely different meanings in the dictionary.
Thanks to the suggestion of a SI reader, we happened to see one such decent film, Mr and Mrs Iyer (Konkona Sen-Sharma, Rahul Bose) on DVD the other day (via Netflix).
Directed by Konkona’s real-life mother Aparna Sen, the English language movie was released in 2002, shortly after the 9/11 attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Center and other violent incidents in different parts of the world.
The movie’s narrative is in English but occasionally strays into Tamil and Hindi.
Who are Mr and Mrs Iyer?
Mr and Mrs Iyer is a look at communalism, a murderous plague that often bedevils India, setting man against man and ravaging the landscape leaving behind a carpet of blood, tears and the broken shards of lives brutally cut short.
Albeit, a quick look at communalism through the actions of two individuals suddenly caught in a maelstrom of communal conflict and extending over a period of about 36 hours involving a bus and train journey.
The film is mostly a view of a slice of eastern India as seen through the eyes of primarily Mrs Iyer and, to a lesser extent, Mr.Iyer.
But the slice of eastern India is a microcosm of India when it comes to the canker of communalism.
Mrs. Iyer or Meenakshi, an orthodox Tamil Brahmin girl is played by Konkona while Rahul Bose plays Mr.Iyer.
Meenakshi is returning to Kolkata with her young son after visiting her parents in the hills. Her journey involves, first a bus trip and then the train.
Raja Chaudhri (Rahul Bose), a nature photographer, is on the same bus and lends a helping hand to Mrs.Iyer.
Before long, communal violence breaks out between Hindus and Muslims in a village on the path of their bus. All traffic is stopped including our protagonists’ bus.
Violence is in the air.
Soon, a bunch of Hindu communal beasts enter the bus beating the drums of death.
For whom does the bells toll?
Of course, the bells toll for the Muslims on the bus.
It’s now we see the trifecta of humanity, inhumanity and self-preservation come into play.
The Humanity of an orthodox Hindu, inhumanity of some Hindu communal beasts and the self-preservation instincts of a Jew come into sharp relief.
Orthodox elements on the bus, who only moments earlier were ruing drinking water from the same bottle as a Muslim, suddenly turn unorthodox before a young life can be cruelly snuffed out.
Most of the events in the movie happen during the bus journey and its forced break due to the communal riot.
Rahul Bose and Konkona Sen are fine actors, beacons of hope for Indian moviegoers starved of watching quality acting. And the duo does not disappoint here too.
It’s one of the great tragedies of Bollywood that talent like Aparna Sen, Konkona and Rahul Bose are relegated to the while two-bit shit-heads like Kareena Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Katrina Kaif and, lately, Kajal Aggarwal rule the roost.
Not just Rahul Bose and Konkona, even those with minor roles like the old man (caretaker of the old dilapidated travelers bungalow where Mr and Mrs.Iyer shelter for the night), the police officer, the woman with the handicapped son and the Muslim couple in the bus do a commendable job.
If we had any misgivings about this film, it was in the labored Tamil accent of Konkona Sen (or whoever was dubbing for her) and the sudden, inexplicable attraction of Mr and Mrs.Iyer as the journey transitions from the bus to the train.
Both seemed truly odd to yours truly.
Aparna Sen deserves kudos for calculatedly straying from the Indian film-makers’ idee fixe with love and tackling an interesting subject like communalism within the framework of commercial cinema.
Besides directing the film, Aparna Sen also co-authored the story (with Dulal Dey).
Your favorite blog SearchIndia.com recommends Mr and Mrs.Iyer to all ye schmucks.
Other Films by Aparna Sen
15 Park Avenue
Thanks a lot for your review & for giving me a mention!!
Glad to see you liked it!!
Will suggest a few more movies!!
I don’t believe anybody dubbed for Konkona – she won the National Award for the Best Actress for this movie and someone else dubbing for her would probably have ruled her out.
Aha, she won the Best Actress National Award for this film, is it.
We thought she overdid the Tamil accent in some places.
Dubbing is fairly common in South Indian films given that most of the girls come from up North (to pander to the Southern fetish for fair-skin).
Have you seen ‘Life in a metro’?
It is again an off-beat movie mostly in English. I liked it a lot.
No. One of our friends from India got us the DVD. We’ll watch it one of these days.
But the sight of Shlipa Shetty gives us the heebie-jeebies. 🙁