Raincoat; and spikes

Yesterday and the day before, we saw (twice) one of the best Indian movies ever. It was certainly no less than the great films of Adoor Gopalakrishna, Benegal, Ray, etc.: Raincoat, by the Bengali director Rituparno Ghosh (I love Bengali names – Rituparno is such a pleasure to say). During most of the film there are only two characters on screen, both of them played by mainstream Bollywood actors who are here just very good actors: Aishwarya Rai, who, in mainstream films, often looks doll-like and shallow – but who can also be bruised and fragile; and Ajay Devgan, who started out as an "action hero", but who has been getting better and better, and who doesn’t put a foot wrong here.

According to Ramesh, the story comes out of a Bengali romantic tradition, in which two people love each other, perhaps even from childhood, but the girl is married to someone else, and the boy never marries at all. In the most popular version of this paradigm, Devdas, the hero quickly drinks himself to death. In this version, the two characters have both failed, or been failed by, life, but they go on, as people actually do. One afternoon they meet again, talk for a few hours, and part. That's most of the story. It was quiet, delicate, intimate.

There were so many small, perfect things in this film. Some humour, no melodrama. Most of the film is set in a musty room full of dark furniture, on a dark, rainy Calcutta day with the windows closed. The sound of rain, and street noises, form the soundtrack much of the time, with some haunting semi-classical songs in the background at other times. Flashbacks are golden, bright, full of colour. Annu Kapoor has a small but vivid role as the landlord, which reminded me again what a good actor he is. The screenplay was so carefully written that everything is explained, loose ends are tied up. The plot twist, inspired by O. Henry, is made believable, because you are prepared for it...

Go see this film! Or get the DVD. Everyone should see it!

Listen to Songs from Raincoat (the song Mathura Nagarpati, a hymn about Krishna, sung in the background by Shubha Mudgal is haunting and beautiful)
A (fairly dull) interview with Rituparno Ghosh (not his fault – silly questions)
A review

Since I started writing this blog, I have had three spikes in the number of visitors (modest spikes -- this is a very small establishment): first, when I linked to articles about the suicide of poet Reetika Vazirani; then, after the tsunami (which was comforting, because at least some of those people were wondering what had happened to me); and now, courtesy of the recently-departed actress, Parveen Babi. Death and disaster. Sex would do it too, obviously, if that were on offer here: how many desires I have failed to satisfy, for pictures of 'Aishwarya Rai without chaddi (underwear)' and such…!

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