Movie Reviews, Commentary & More

Mr. and Mrs. Iyer

Movies on religious extremism are abound. It's usually an act of tightrope walking for the writer and director in creating such films because there's immense room for one to tilt towards his/her preferences or construct scenes which may project something not meant. 'Mr. & Mrs. Iyer' like 'United 93' offers a balanced treatment by keeping its protagonists as spectators who rarely get into the thick of action, which is very unlike 'Munich', where the protagonists are responsible for all the action. I guess the primary motive behind such characterizations is that a common man (or a woman) can easily identify with the leads in the movie, where a he/she is usually a witness or a victim. I'm not belittling such a perspective, but I want to state upfront that I have a leaning towards movies that dissects the mind of a terrorist, like in the brilliant 'Syriana'. I'm not suggesting that Aparna Sen, the writer/director of this movie took an easy way out in a script dealing with religious extremists, but only hint that it's a high-responsible task to make movies that has a religious fanatic in the lead.

Meenakshi Iyer (Konkana Sen Sharma) is a conservative among conservatives. Deeply religious and sentimental. she is the kind who regrets for having drunk water from a Muslim co-passenger. Raja alias Jehangir Chaudhry (Rahul Bose) is a wild life photographer who has almost abandoned his religion and is a pure rational humanist. Chance brings them together on a bus journey through a communal riot prone zone. When Hindu activists go on a rampage pulling Muslims out of the bus, Meenakshi claims Raja as her husband which puts him in the safe group. (Earlier, a passenger is stripped to check if he's circumcised, which should have built up tension for Raja). Later, curfew because of the riots and a lack of accommodation brings them to a lonely house in a forest area. What happens here is the crux of the screenplay - where Bose's words, actions and courage spills over and melts her conservative boundaries to enable her to see him as a man, not as a Muslim. The movie's success upto this point is diluted when it drags on to an unnecessary romantic angle in the final twenty minutes.

The movie starts out like a college video project. Many new faces with amateurish performances delivering made-up lines. When the bus had a sample of all communities from India I thought this was another moral story without any force. But the theme picks up after the first half an hour. Aparna Sen sizzles when it comes to writing tender moments but her direction has uniformly lacked a grip. From the basic missteps like showing a well groomed face after sleep to important ones like extracting credible performances from the supporting cast, Aparna Sen doesn't impress. Rahul Bose plays his part to perfection - a cultured man who has acquired wisdom through meeting a lot of people by traveling a lot, he never loses his cool and paints a perfect gentleman's role. Konkana Sen Sharma has a kind of beauty that keeps growing with the running length. Her body language is apt: adjusting her bra strap when required, faking a husband/wife relationship in front of co-passengers, a gradual shortening of the distance between Raja and her with time.... I would like to see more of her.

Having seen, read and heard quite a lot about clashes based on religions, regions and ethnic differences, this movie is another in the long line where the filmmaker tries to have his audience introspect. As in most cases, this movie entertains and might stir up a few conservatives to reassess their relationship with a neighboring community but its not powerful enough to make the cat-on-the-wall guy (who under duress could become an extremist) into a humanist. Art must be capable of that. And this movie doesn't aim that high. But as a 100-minute entertainer, this definitely passes. Expect nothing more.

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4 Responses to “Mr. and Mrs. Iyer”

  1. # Anonymous Anonymous

    When making such movies, the director should flow counter-current. Such sensitive topics should ruffle a few feathers and slap hard on face. The director would have achieved the counter-current flow if the *woman* had been a Muslim and the rational-humanist had been a Hindu. Maniratnam had the balls to attempt at such a thing.


  2. # Blogger Prasad Venkataramana

    And he paid a small price for that too...  

  3. # Anonymous Anonymous

    My point is that the movie would be stronger if the flow is counter-current.


  4. # Blogger Prasad Venkataramana

    I absolutely agree. All I'm saying that I comes at a cost. Not everybody has the guts to chase a guy who has hurled a bomb into the premises of your home.  

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