In the days leading up to Partition, a Hindu woman is abducted by a Muslim man. Soon, she finds herself not only forced into marriage, but living in a new country as the borders between India and Pakistan are drawn.
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Meenakshi Iyer comes from a devout Hindu Brahmin family, purely vegetarian, who not only abstain from meat, but also food from restaurants, is the only child, married to Subramaniam Iyer from Tamil Nadu, has just given birth to a young son, Santhanam, and is visiting her mom. It is then they receive news that her mother-in-law is ill and wants Meenakshi back home in Calcutta. The parents arrange to drop her and her son off at the bus-stand, where they are introduced to a young photographer named Raja Chowdhury. Meenakshi's parents ask Raja to look after her, to which he agrees. The bus starts off, taking it's passengers through scenic hillside. The bus driver comes across a sign that the regular road is closed and he decides to take another route. After a few hours the bus comes to a stop as there is a line-up of vehicles ahead. The passengers are told that there has been a terrorist attack on a train resulting in the death of about 200 people. The region, predominately Hindu, believe... Written by
I love this film. It might further enhance the Western clichee of the uprising-ridden India as another reviewer states, but actually, that's beside the point: This film is a fairy tale. The voice over at the beginning tells of "a little red and white bus" ... and you're already in the fairy tale world. There is always danger in a fairy tale and I'll focus on that later, but criticising the film for not portraying real situations is like accusing "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" for inaccurate portrayal of lilliputians ...
The film is actually quite close to films by Mani Rathnam who also takes a politically hot topic and connects it with a personal drama (good example: "Kannathil Muthamittal"). With Rathnam, the focus always seems to shift more to the political side of this dual idea, whereas in "Mr. and Mrs. Iyer", the focus is more on the personal aspect. In this punctual uprising of extremist Hindus, the two leading characters discover how they themselves fall victim to distrust and prejudice. It seems an easy target to criticise the conservative Brahman woman's ideals, but the film doesn't do it harmful. In the end, the woman still is who she was before, but she opened up - especially opened up her heart.
And this is what the film is all about: Heart. It oozes love in so many scenes. The violence takes over for a couple of scenes, but then the film returns to the topic of love. There are incredible scenes that you won't easily forget: The "couple" in a diner telling their fictional story of their honeymoon, the fooling around in the woods in the morning, the killing of a man right in front of their window, the last night they spend together when she takes his hand to comfort herself. These are all very subtle but convincing scenes that don't primarily assault the woman's Brahman principles but tries to expand them. Again: It's a fairy tale and in this fairy tale world which is ridden by real-life violence, a woman and a man come closer - emotionally. Not with sex or a common way of love. It's a very heartfelt sort of love you don't usually see in movies. It felt extremely sincere to me - and the just cracked my heart.
"Mr. and Mrs. Iyer" is not your typical Bollywood movie because it's rather short, has no songs, no stars and is rather subtle. But it works on so many level. It is a cry for peace and unity - something Indians do so well since they live in the biggest democracy in the world. There are so many people in this country who still believe in living together and this is visible in many of their films. This is one, Mani Rathnams "Bombay" is another. Also, the film is a tribute to deeply felt and sincere love, a love that is more touching than many love stories I've seen before. I know the film is not fully realistic and of course there are a couple of problems that I have with the film. But if a film is this charmingly acted and poetically directed, I'd cannot but defend it and recommend it to you. Such a beautiful film.
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