Love in times of
THE best love stories on celluloid are narrated against the backdrop of war. Waterloo Bridge, starring Vivien Leigh and Robert Taylor, is a prime example. The uncertainty of the future brings out the poignancy of love and though Mr and Mrs Iyer isnít a war-time movie, the mini-war or communal riots which form the backdrop are no less stunning or heart-stopping. It is also very relevant today in the light of the saffronisation programme gaining much momentum accompanied by the politics of hate. "There is no war in my country, not yet --- but the communal riots that have torn it apart in recent months have been no less violent, no less ruthless," says director Aparna Sen, whose debut film was 36 Chowringhee Lane a couple of decades ago. And hence the catchline: "Love in the time of violence", with apologies to Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It is a simple story of two dissimilar persons thrown together in a crisis and how they react when death stares them in the face.
On a bus that descends on a narrow, winding hilly tract is conservative South Indian Brahmin Meenakshi Iyer (Konkona Sen Sharma) and her nine-month-old baby Santanam and wildlife photographer Raja Chowdhury (Rahul Bose). Meenakshi is a Hindu and Raja a Muslim. They are introduced to each other by a common friend so that the man can help the woman on the journey as she was travelling alone with a child. The bus passengers are an assortment of characters, from an elderly Muslim couple, a cranky middle-aged woman to a group of collegians on a holiday.
The establishing shots are good and
give the story a headstart. That Meenakshi and Rahul are drawn together
is purely a matter of convenience. But when the bus is attacked and
Meenakshi saves Rajaís life by saying he is her husband Mr Iyer, Raja
is indebted to her. Still, it isnít for a difficult, culture-conscious
South Indian Brahmin to get along with a modern, near-liberated Muslim
and though the rough edges keep rubbing every now and then, it could
pass for the normal skirmishes in any married coupleís lives.
Rahul Bose is excellent as the hero, who, in spite of himself, falls in love with Meenakshi and his change of mood is quite convincing. He is fast becoming a leading English actor on the parallel domestic cinema circuit. Konkona Sen Sharma, Aparnaís daughter in real life, gives traces of her motherís talent and is brilliant in essaying the typical South Indian but at times she is a wee bit stilted. Zakir Hussainís music is a bonus in this rather watchable (despite its flaws) film.
The same cannot be said, however, about Slap Her, Sheís French , which is clearly a C-grade American movie centred on a rich, spoilt kid Strala Grady (Jane McGregor) and her obsession to become a TV star and host the Good Morning, America show. Another thing sheís proud of is her Texan origin, the land of President Eisenhower and other lesser known celebs, even though she has never crossed the state border. But all that simplicity is soon overcome when French exchange student Genevieve LePouff (Piper Peraboo) pulls the rug from under her feet. How she goes about setting things right for her takes all of 93 boring minutes of very predictable but far from funny anecdotes and flat one-liners. Director Melanie Mayron seems to enjoy the cheap humour and dishes it out in large insufferable and sitting through it calls for stoic endurance and giving your grey cells a complete holiday. May be the slap is directed at the wrong person.