telling story, like a journalist

chaitra bose

Indian English films appear now a day like mushrooms after a rainfall. These films, which claim to have revolutionised aesthetic sense of average Indian film viewing mass, are even seen getting recognised in International film festivals. This just indicates the overall drought in world cinema rather than the rise in standards of Indian cinema. When big names of Indian cinema like Aparna Sen, Goutam Gosh and Zakir Hussain join hands to create yet another Hinglish film, Mr & Mrs Iyer, it would be interesting to find out how different this film is from its counterparts.

An orthodox Tamil Brahmin woman, Meenakshi Iyer (Konkana Sen Sharma) meets a Bengali Muslim wildlife photographer, Jehangir (Rahul Bose) on a bus. The bus runs into trouble in a riot-affected area, where Hindu fanatics are indulging in a wild hunt for Muslims. Meenakshi saves the life of Jehangir by declaring him as her husband. Thus he becomes Mr.Iyer. Her motive behind saving his life was only for her own self-security. But during the course of their journey they come to discover each other.

While this love story unfolds, communal riots and killings continue uninterrupted. (Don't try to write-off this film as yet another love story, as it has already won National awards and even a prize at the Locarno International festival, we should believe that there is something special about it!) Most of the travellers in the bus are seen taking sides, while even forgetting that the trouble that they have landed itself is the result of such polarisation. A Jew traits a Muslim couple to save his own life.

Mr & Mrs Iyer can boast about its technical quality, simplicity in telling the story and excellent performances by actors. Rahul Bose's acting remained so controlled that the National Film Award jury couldn't notice it, may be because it doesn't satisfy the Indian standards of acting, moving all possible body parts and facial muscles in order to express something. But is that all what the art of cinema is?

Telling a known thing to someone who knows it very well, in a well-known fashion is a form of journalism. A work of journalism cannot be classified as art. One's reaction while seeing or hearing something well known to him, is the satisfaction that he gets while knowing that somebody else too know what he already knew. Beyond this superficial sense of satisfaction, it completely fails in evoking one's inner feeling. The very moment the images on the screen disappears, one returns to the reality around him, he starts forgetting this feeling he had while seeing this work of journalism, he remains untouched, cold. Mr & Mrs Iyer too is such a perfectly picturised piece of journalism.

What is the relevance of a work like Mr & Mrs Iyer in the present Indian reality? It can be taken as a mature step towards popular film viewing in India, where the film-viewing public still remains in their juvenile stage, where they get easily provoked by seeing references to naked realities of the society. This has always forced Indian filmmakers to dilute their voices by hinting indirectly about "one community" and the "other community" while dealing with communal issues. Or at least they agree for compromises in a 1:1 formula. Aparna Sen boldly speaks about Hindus and Muslims indulging in mindless fight.

But it still doesn't go beyond bold journalism.

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