Friday, January 05, 2007

A Mosiac of memories

“If this fall into thy hand, revolve.

In my stars I am above thee, but be not afraid of greatness.

Some are born great,some achieve greatness,

and some have greatness thrustupon them”

It is not often that you find lines from Shakespeare mouthed in Indian movies and 36 Chowringhee lane revels in it, complete with a cat named Sir Toby.
The scene where Nandita, who was a student of Miss.Stoneham tries to recollect these lines of Shakespeare, brings back fond memories of my school days where we used to frequent the houses of our schoolteachers.

36 Chowringhee lane is the story of Miss. Violet whose loneliness might leave you depressed but also appreciative of the fact that she does not wallow in self-pity (inspite of her niece’s repeated invites to join her in Australia).Color enters her humdrum life in the form of her former student Nandita and her boyfriend,Somresh. Miss.Violet lets the young couple use her home as a writer’s abode (‘A James Joyce in the making’, as Someresh puts across) but who actually (mis)use it as a love-nest. This change in scene refreshes Miss.Stoneham’s boring life as she looks forward to the carefree joy that Nandita and Somresh share with her – whether it is a movie or their evening tea (didn’t someone say that when in love the entire world presents a rosy picture…)But their marriage ends it all leaving a disappointed old lady alone with her Shakespearean thoughts.

If not for Aparna Sen, this could be termed as a family film of Shashi Kapoor . Jennifer Kendall as Miss. Violet is the heart of the movie with a superb performance while her father Geoffrey Kendall plays her diabetic brother. Sanjana and Karan Kapoor play cameos in a dream sequence.

Aparna Sen in 1981 shows such talent in her debut movie which the supposed stalwarts of Bollywood haven’t done in decades. Make no mistakes, this movie is not only about old age it is also about the Anglo Indians fear of interaction with the local Bengalis, the local school politics where old teachers are favored for the new ones with scholarly degrees and most essentially the spirit of an old woman who refuses to succumb to self-pity but lives her own life in dignity inspite of her failing age.
There is a dream sequence which is wonderfully shot (and reminds me of a similar one in ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind’) which shows a younger Violet in search of her beau only to discover him dead.
But I thought the ending was too contrived and that was where Mr. and Mrs. Iyer scores way above this movie.

Having said that, this is arguably one of the finest movies of Indian cinema.
So be prepared to watch a well-made, sensitive and intelligent movie which might leave you a tad bit depressed especially since it ends with these lines:

“Pray, do not mock me;

I am a very foolish fond old man,

Fourscore and upward, not an hour more or less,

And, to deal plainly,I fear I am not in my perfect mind,”

3 comments:

Crouching Tigress said...

Oh I loved Mr and Mrs.Iyer. Aparna Sen's movies are refreshingly different. Did you watch 15 Park Avenue?

Raaga said...

I have not watched this movie... but I do hope to catch it soon.

Swathi said...

@c.tigress
yup i've watched 15PA- deeply disturbing movie.

@raaga
it has a tinge of meloncholy to it - beware.