The film and Mrs. Iyer is a Hindi film written and directed by Aparna Sen in 2002. The story moves around a south Indian women (Tamil girl) from a Brahmin community going to see her husband who is in Calcutta with her little kid in a bus. The story plot is given below:
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 that 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 that the attack was carried out by Muslims and there is retaliation by Hindu extremists. Curfew has to be imposed by the police to prevent further riots and casualties. It is then that a Police Jeep containing Police Officer Raj Arora drives by, asking all passengers to board their respective vehicles, as the area is under curfew. The passengers complain, shut the door, and wait for the traffic to clear.
It is now dark and the silence is broken by men with fire-lit torches asking the driver to open the door of the bus, which he does. A group of extremists ask the passengers to identify themselves, and prove to them that they are Hindus, some have to take their pants off. Meenakshi identifies Raja as her husband, Mani. A Jew loudly claims that there are only two Muslims and points to Iqbal Ahmed Khan and his wife Najma. Iqbal is taken off the bus, a visibly upset Najma follows him, and they are killed. It is then the truth unfolds that Raja is not the young man's name but he is Jehangir – a Muslim. An upset Meenakshi must now come to terms with her Brahmin background, which brings her from coming into contact, drinking water, sharing food, with even a non-Brahmin, leave alone a Muslim, especially now that she has identified him as her "husband "to protect him from being killed. The question remains this "marriage" last or will Jehangir be discovered before they reach Calcutta.
This film has been made for the international market show of the culture, lifestyle, geography and mannerisms of India. The music track composed by the famous Indian tabla Ustad, Zakkir Hussain which gives a nostalgic feel of Indian Hindustani music. The film preserved the cultural and artistic values of India.
The story is written by Aparna Sen and Dulal. The roll of the Muslim photographer is played by Rahul Bose. I feel that he is fit for that roll and the performance the character demands was clearly reflected. The roll of the Tamil girl is played by Kokana Sensharma for which she has won the best actress award. The way she talks and behaves and her expressions suit the roll.
In the coming pages I would like to appreciate the film sequence wise pointing various aspects like story, camera work, acting, sound, direction and editing, color and light etc…The director shows montages of war and terrorism before starting the movie and it fades to a quotation by a 10th century Indian poet saint.
For what shall I wield a dagger O Lord?
What shall I pluck it out of
Or plunge It in to
When you are all the world?
After watching the movie we will come to know that the film speaks more emotions than terrorism. I do not know why the director has put these montages before the movie. May be she was inspired, to write this story seeing terrorism happening all around the world or to dedicate this film to those innocent people who have lost their life.
Next is an establishment shot of the green hill geography of India followed by a narration of the country and gives an intro. to the story that "a little red and white bus carrying two strangers back to there homes in the plains"
Here the director establishes the space through a direction which was a very good way to start this story. The narration gives a very good information about the religion and language of India. The color tone over here gives a misty feel of a journey through a cool place and since it establishes the geography of the country. Now the super title comes and is followed by chirruping sound of birds which shows the time is early morning.
The scene cut to the close shot of a goddess photo and a Tamil lady doing the prayers. The full conversation is in Tamil. And the director is showing that the girl is getting ready for a journey. All the shots in this scene are close shots and the cuts are also matching from scene to scene. This scene shows the religious and traditional thing of Hindu family by showing the mother putting sindhooram on the girls fore head and putting the prasadam into the bag. The sindhooram also shows that the girl is married. It also shows the culture of south India that woman use to put flower garland on their hair. And holding one hand while taking things after pooja also is a culture of Hindus. There is one shot in which the girl crosses the frame and a table shown in which a water bottle is shown on the table. The sound of the mother telling the girl to take the water bottle and the girl forget to take that. This shows that the girl is in a hurry. The director and the cinematographer have maintained the rhythm of the movements by using the close shots and compositions.
During the journey to the bus stop also he used the close shot with the rear view mirror of the car. The greenery of the location is shown here. While they are establishing the bus stop in that long shot they tried to show almost all characters in the bus walking. The duration of the shot is long which is a very good aspect. A pan and a truck in and a pan.
While the doctor is introducing the 2 ladies the OS shot of the two ladies is a very good way of composition. From the starting of the scene if we are keenly noticing the camera is changing the position from one cut to other in a clockwise manner.
The Bengali style of murmuring local slang is also noticeable. When the doc. tells "this is iyer …" cut to a close up of her face and she telling "iyer Meenakshi iyer". Here the director establishes the name of the film. And a cut to the close up or raja telling hai also reveals the importance of the character. From the conversation of this scene it is very clear that they are going to Calcutta and the parents are happy with raja taking care of her. Now the script writer sets a stage for the character to move the story which is seen in the next coming scenes.
Now comes the title song which is a very good classical western musical but having a very good feel to the scene. The type of musical genre they have varies is very good to the scene. Meanwhile in various long shot with good composition the director shows journey down the hill … The shot in which the bus takes a hair pin turn is excellent.
After the song fades a close shot of a newspaper in which something is covered is shown. The headlines of the newspaper also shows the conflict between religion happening. The director chose it to show the conflict indirectly. Inside the bus shots the director is showing the reaction of each character to the environment around them. Each character is introduced in a much organized manner and created the mood of a journey with the ambience inside the bus. The youngsters singing song add the spirit of the journey. The parallel cuts to the youngsters while introducing other characters also added good mood to the scene.
When raja is shown reading the book when the other man near to him offers him pan masala, he wont here, then he ask "excuse me". This shows that he is very much interested in what he is reading. Later when it is shown that it is a photographic magazine whose passion for photography is again highlighted. While the other man see the pictures of camera after seeing nude pictures turning his face also establishes the character in him. All the shots are close shots. Camera shakes to an extend is avoided. The kid when in the bus and the facial expression of other passengers make the audience also feels that they are also one among the passenger.
The expression of the lady sitting near to Meenakshi reveals that she is a very hard sort of personality and even the costumes especially the broad specs. When the kid wears the expression of the Sikh man is artificial that it is not suit for the scene he is smiling.
The long shot of the bus shows that the time is past. And again the man offering Beeda to the women sitting near to her. Still the kid is crying.
Meenakshi's English is not fluent that easily the audience can compare it with raja who is a north Indian. A comparison between village girl and a guy from town.
The conversation between menu and raja is now shown as each others point of view shot. The shot selection was excellent.When the cerelac cup falls down raja sponge it out this shows his helping mentality. And when he comes and sits near meenu a couple like feel is created. After when he help her in feeding the kid. A cut to guy playing cards and girls talking about their next trip contains a holyday trip mood. When the girl goes to take the guitar the comment of the old man on her dressing is also noticeable with the kind of composition and expression. And the old man telling her wife that when I saw u for the first time, even your hands were covered. Now the close shot of the old women's fully covered hands. The director has added this kind of scene to compare the new generation which is a very good way of film making. Next when one man mixes a drink the handicapped boy sitting next to him hold his jacket and when they passes the comments and giving the coke bottle to the boy the mother stops them and taste it first and give it to the boy. This scene also tell how much care a mother gives to their child not to get spoiled. She tastes it before giving it to the boy and telling thanks to the man who got it.
Extreme long shot of the bus, to establish the geography was a very good option of the director. The language slang used by meenu is very matching to the character. Some feel irritated with this, for some it will be a fun, but its very realistic. The handling of language and the expression, gesture is played excellently by the actress konkana.
When Meenakshi is drinking water she drinks it without touching it to lips. Now it cuts to a close shot of meenu. Here the composition is not come good, the face is getting cut. A tilt down movement is suggestible so that we can fix the subject movement inside the frame itself.
When raja is talking to meenu in the bus against terrorism around the world is highlighted and a newspaper close shot while a man is reading the news paper. The director tried to show the nature of the world at present in the current space.
When they comes near to the bridge where it is written the road is closed the director and the cinematographer planned very well to take it in a way that the road feet very long than its actual length. The film shows the religious faith of an old Muslim when he prays in time. The screen play writer might have developed the plot in such a way that in the next coming scene should give a very good emotion when that man is killed by Hindus. And the comment of the young man shows the feeling of disgust for Muslims based on Kashmir issue. In another scene another passenger calls the Muslims as Mother fuckers.
When all of them getting down there is a shot of both of them sleeping on the seat and the hand of Meenakshi is resting on top of rajas and moving her finger rhythmically like a mother do it on a baby. But here the emotion that the audience feels is a kind of relationship growing between them. And when they are getting down and she gives the baby to him, he will understand what she really wants and shows a place to her as a very good partner. Now we can see him walking back and he looking tensed when he see people shouts and comes. This along with the background music and the police officers dialogue increases the tension of the scene. The director succeeded in creating this emotion.
And in the next shot when we see meenu coming back and talking with raja and when he tells that he is a Muslim her expression works out that neatly that tells that there is a great distance between two religions which are extremely opposite in there customs. The girl is a Brahmin that they are pure vegetarians and they are very specific in their relations also. But a Muslim is a non vegetarian, who kills animals and eat … all created a vomiting sensation In her. She thought raja was a Bengali, normally vegetarian. And she walks back to the bus. Now he comes and touch her and she tells him "do not touch me" the background score increases which shows that it's a consistent plot of the story. And raja comes after her, now the police officer tell him to get inside .. if he goes another way the story might have ruined. So the writer give a movement to the character by creating this scene.
The director has shown the introduction of the Hindu extremist coming to the scene by using reflections on the surface of the water. This is a very good way because what I felt is like it shows the feeling of time being passed.
When the extremist enter the bus the terror on the face of the passenger is established along with the background music adds the strength to the opponent. And the leader has a vellanish look with his expression. The guy with a red turban also adds terror to the scene because his face looks very cruel and the costumes were well well designed.
One of the Hindu passenger answers that all of the passengers are Hindus and suddenly the face of raja is shown which builds up the scene. Now Jewish passengers tell them about the old Muslim man and them gout with them. The scene is very emotional when the old man is given his artificial teeth and specs.
The Jewish man is given the roll to betray the old man might be because the Jew has proved to the history by betraying Jesus Christ. Later in the scene when he cries for what he has done the fellow passenger ask "what happened" and he tells that he must also have been killed if they ask him to snip off the pants because he is a jew and he does not have a foreskin.
When raja sees the extremist going to kill the old man, he get up to show himself which shows the love for ones on community. Now the girl gives the kid to kill which make him sit their, shows that he is committed to sit with them.
The background score and the rhythm of acting gives the mood of the scene. When the extremist come to raja and meenu and ask for their religion, she interrupts and tell Mr. and Mrs. Iyer. Now the lighting is very low which keeps the mood of the scene. There is a noticeable difference in lighting in the two shots in which raja and meenu is shown. When he starts to get up it is low key lighting where the same space when they are shown during the time when the extremist comes to them and asking for religion is a high light comparatively.The mentally retarded boy hits the Jew on the shoulder is a very symbolic scene.
The very next day morning the arrangement of shots in a photographers point of view snapshot arrangement were excellent which gives a good message and established the mood of different fellow passengers and the old mans murder.
After that they both are moving to the nearest town to make call to their home. Meanwhile an excellent roll play is done by raja when she ask him to act like the manager of the bus. Now the change in slang is noticeable and along with meenu showing actions make it bit relaxing. The shot is a single shot in which a small cut to an old lodge is shown.
Then raja goes in search of rooms and finds no rooms vacant and the police officer comes and take them to an old forest bungalow. The dialogue delivery of the police officer is in a hurry that it lifts the rhythm of the scene.
They are taken into a very old room in which both faces some discomfort. But meenu with the kid show off more which really irritate raja and he is very much angry even in the case of food she tells strictly non veg he is not agreeing. The writer builds up good conflict in between the character which is really interesting. After food he comes to her room to take his things and he moves out. In the morning when she woke up she will not see him around and get tensed. He asks the man in the house and he tells he is gone out taking all his luggage. The way he tells is "I have seen with my own eyes" is bit funny and meaningful. He comes down and cries and speaks to herself. Now the frame composition is like frame inside frame which add beauty to the scene. And suddenly when she sees him sleeping on the grass outside she is very happy and runs with the kid to him, the BG score is also very strong to convey a very romantic mood. The lighting is also perfect which gives a morning feel.
The next shot in which she tells sorry to him is very romantic with the music and they take some snaps. This seen is build up in a way that it shows that they are getting more close and shows a kind of discomfort between them in terms of shots. The next scene is the other passengers sitting in a place and talking now. and Mrs. Iyer comes. And they are coming to know that the fight us going on. And the curve is not going to get finished soon. The music tenses the scene. The conversation between the police officer Is the next scene. They land up in a solution that they are going to get a train tomorrow. They sit with the youngsters and acts like a husband and wife and creates a story about there love. Young girls cross question him about their language and accent and they make out good answers and is trying to tell how they met. This scene is made very romantic by building very good narration of their honey moon by raja while Meenakshi was very shy about it. The music and the way he told the event add the romantic beauty of the scene. The scene comes to an end when kid sandhanam eating the sugar.
They were taken back to the bungalow by the police officer. On the way the rifle is shown getting strong when a farm house is burned. In the evening when he was sitting in the balcony of the house and typing she comes and give him a blanket and sit near him. They talk each other about the costumes and beliefs. After a couple of romantic times the watchman comes and tells them to lock themselves inside because the extremist are again coming. They get inside but a man is killed and Meenakshi see this and she get vomited. He calms her. The color tone and light of the above scenes were extremely good. He take her to bed and eh look after her for the full night.
The next day they board the trucks and is taken to the railway station. And next scene is inside the train both of them talking. She ask him about the name of the place which they have told that they have gone for their honey moon. He tells the place and she ask him if eh have gone their alone. Then she asks him where he is going after this. He tell the name of a forest in orissa. She asks the same question again "alone". He tells "yes without u come with me". Now she move away from the subject by telling she wants some water for santhanam. Now eh goes and help her and call her Meenakshi. She tell the meaning on the name and he call her "the fish eye lens" all the conversations keep the romantic mood along with the music. She is in a state of love wit him but when turning back to her own life she can not go for it. When he goes to kiss her a man comes in-between and passes by which disturbs.
The next morning he sips water from his bottle touching his lips. She sees it and buys the bottle from him and drinks some water which is exactly opposite to the scene in the bus. This show the intimacy grown between them.
The train reaches the next junction and he ask her for tea and eh goes to get it. They drink it. She sleeps on his shoulder. The train reaches the station and her husband is waiting fir her. She introduces raja to him and husband thanks him taking care of his wife. He looks at her and goes. A close up shot of she looking at him walking … he stops and comes back to her and opens her camera and give the film roll to her and tell her "its for you, good bye Meenakshi .." she replies "good bye Mr. Iyer "eh walks and it fade to the credit titles …
As a total evaluation the movie was emotionally realistic. The director was successful in telling the story by proper usage of shots, dialogue and expression. She tried to maintain the continuity in tone and character property through out the movie. But she has figured the Muslims in abusive language but it is balanced by the characterization of Hindu extremist who are equal and opposite.
The film is actually quite close to films by Mani Rathnam who also takes a politically hot topic and connets 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. There are incredible scenes that you will not 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 it takes his hand to comfort herself.
These are all very humble but convincing scenes that do not primarily assault the woman's Brahman principals 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 do not usually see in movies. It felt extremely sincere to me – and the just cracked my heart. Over the course of the movie, the characters learn to trust from each other and understand that they do need each other. The evolution of their relationship makes this movie a must-see. Aparna Sen's gentleness is very evident throughout the movie.