what Aparna Sen wanted to say with the movie, ‘Japanese Wife’.
The pace is slow and uniform, the photography is wonderful. But that is where the best part of the movie ends!
English is not Aparna Sen’s mother tongue. A Bengali makes a movie in English, based on a Bengali English writer Kunal basu. Everything about this movie is extremely artificial.
The hero of the movie, a primary/ secondary school teacher, is a Bengali too. His written English is as good as, or as bad as, a sixth grade student. His spoken English is as good as a third grade English student.
The heroine is a Japanese, whose written and spoken English is worse than our hero. The man cannot speak woman’s language, and the woman cannot speak man’s language.
Accidentally, they become pen-pals, while writing in English. They fall in love through their English letters. Here comes the most awkward part of their personalities! They even get married through letters!
They hardly speak to each other. Telephone calls are very expensive to make one from India. The hero does not have a land-line or mobile, and decides not to have one for 15 years! Most importantly, when they speak to each other in English, he cannot understand her, and she cannot understand him, because their accents are so different!
They struggle to express day-to-day happenings in English. Both characters behave as if their IQ is less than 80. Both are introverts. Both speak less. Both don’t read any literature, watch any movies, write poetry. Their love is, hence, is not palpable on the screen. This is the most unromantic movie ever made!
They remain faithful to each other for good 15 years. It might be possible for the Japanese girl, because she is suffering from a cancer (which cancer?), but what about our hero? He belongs to one of the few respected professions of Indian villages - a teacher; he is is handsome; he has his own house; he has got a mother who keep insisting to get him married. But still our hero decides to remain bachelor (i.e., married to her virtual wife).
Unfortunately, the film never gets deep. The kite festival takes a big portion of the movie, but it remains disconnected from the main content of the film. Apart from the hero masturbating in a lonely boat, and having enormous feeling towards the widow, the film never deals with digs into complexities of human life. The content and style of the letters never rises beyond 6th grade, even after 15 years! The same can be applied to the film too.
The film would have been a beautiful ode about the married people who live away from each other for years. The film would have been a complex portray of struggle of an introvert, who finds solace in his virtual life. But the film is just wasted in repeating telegraphic English.
There is one line of poetry though: The film ends when two widows, attached to the same man, meet.