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An unemployed Manoj (alias Manu) is told by his mother that they need some money for his sister's forthcoming marriage, and he sets out to find some. For this purpose, he visits his former Calcutta-based girlfriend, Neerj alias Neeru, whom he was to marry, but who preferred to marry someone wealthier, in Calcutta. He rings the doorbell, and the door is answered by Neerja herself, and he is invited inside. They talk and update each other on their lives. Neerja puts on Manoj's raincoat, so she could go out and buy something to cook for him. She warns him not to open the door nor let anyone in. After Neerja leaves a man knocks on the door, and requests entry into the house to use the toilet. Manoj opens the door and lets the male use the facilities. When this male finishes his business, he refuses to leave, and sits and talks with Manoj. It is during this conversation that Manoj finds out the stark truth behind Neerja, her husband, and their married life. Written by
The entire script was written by Rituparno Ghosh in Bengali. Since Ghosh is not adept in Hindi, he sought help from theatre personality Usha Ganguly to convert it to Hindi. In fact Ganguly is said to have supplemented the main working script along with Ghosh. See more »
Raincoat was the opening gala movie at Filmfest DC (Wash. DC)last night. Filmfest DC is entirely foreign (non-US)movies--it goes on about 12 days. The theatre was almost filled, even at $40 a ticket, and the great majority of the audience were non-Indians (including me). The director, Ghosh, was there for a short introduction and a few questions at the end. I was able to ask him a question privately at the reception afterwards, but unfortunately nothing profound occurred to me at the time. Duh.
If you have read any of my posts on the Aishwarya section, you know I am enraptured by her. I am working my way through her movies, so of course I went to see this one. I read through all the previous posts here, and I think they're generally on the mark, but I have some additions.
Art as ambiguity--I think some of the comments about the movie being "art" or not are misleading. All movies are "art." But some art is better than others; great art needs several elements--one is that it's ambiguous enough so that each person feels it's directed to him/her personally, and each person sees something a little bit different in it, or interprets it in a slightly different way--and each way is backed up by evidence. Nor do the director/actors have to consciously intend each interpretation. You can see from previous posts that Raincoat certainly succeeds in this. Is Meena in love with her husband or not? Happy or not? Will Manu collect the money from his friends or not? Will the landlord keep his word or not? What is the significance of the rickshaw in the final scene? etc. The symbols in the movie (the raincoat, the rain, the shutters, the jewellery, the train, the wallet, etc.) all have various levels of meaning. And the themes--love, loss, truth, despair, failure--the movie has something to say about all of these. And even more, it makes you realize what YOU have to say about each. Say it together: It makes you think! Is the story consistent? One of the audience asked the question: "When Neeru went out to get lunch, why didn't she think Manu would look around her house?" Ghosh answered, correctly, that she expected Manu to act in character--he is reserved, not pushy, etc. Manu and Neeru spend the visit lying to each other--but that's what they did in their earlier lives, too, but in a different way. And, as we see Manu interact with his friend and his wife, he lies to them too. Everything is consistent.
Foreshadowing--actions, especially significant ones, shouldn't just pop out of nowhere. They need to be set up, so when you see them you think back and say, "Of course!" (back to consistency!) (Letter, doorbell, necklace, wallet, cell phone, sari....) Nothing extraneous--There shouldn't be anything stuck in that's not necessary. I think this is perhaps the chief virtue of the movie--I can't think of any item, any visual effect, any action, any piece of dialog, that could be taken out without detracting from the movie. Another post wanted more back story--longer flashbacks--No! We don't need to know more. Knowing more eliminates some of the ambiguity.
Atmosphere--everything very coherent. It reminded me of a first novel by an Indian woman who had just graduated from Princeton--I can't remember her name, but it came out in c. 1995, and I think the title was "Rain." It was about an Indian woman who married an Englishman, had a baby, and then decided to leave him--it was set in London. Different story than the movie, but the atmosphere was almost identical--same feeling of loss, regret, inevitability, etc.
Aishwarya--I have been comparing her other movies to my friends by saying they are like the Drew Barrymore/Meg Ryan movies. All these women are really playing versions of themselves--which is great! I like them all! But Aishwarya doesn't play Aishwarya here. Neeru is not Aishwarya at all. And the "flashback Neeru" is totally different than the Neeru in Calcutta--different look, different expressions, different voice, etc. I'll give the director all the credit he wants for this, but you know what? Aishwarya had to actually pull it off, and she did. Are there other actresses who could do this? Sure--Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron...hmmm, not too many others. If you can be grouped with people at the top of your profession, I'd say you were doing OK. Let's have no more talk about how she can't act--she can! Aishwarya #2--In the Aishwarya section of IMDb is a string of posts discussing plastic surgery, etc. Raincoat should have put an end to that nonsense--look at all the profile shots of her nose! This movie makes her look (I think) more "Indian." Fine with me. And she presents herself in scene after scene as less than attractive--whiny, superficial, too talkative, etc.--all part of the character, and certainly not the Aishwarya I've seen in other movies. A brave performance to put yourself out there like that--especially if your claim to fame is your beauty.
Faulkner was once asked what one of his novels was about, and he said "Christ." The questioner thought he was swearing, but he was answering the question. Star Wars, ET, and Lord of the Rings are about Christ too. It's hard NOT to reflect your own culture. To what extent does Raincoat reflect Hinduism? I think I can see some elements, but I'm not a Hindu. Resignation? Fatalism? A cycle of existence? The unreality of reality? Being trapped in life itself? Any thoughts?
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