That Drenched Feeling
by Somdutta Roy
TLR Rating: 8 1/2 Reels.
“To make a great film you need only three things, the script, the script, the script.” -Alfred Hitchcock. True to the dot!! According to me the script plays the same role as the base does in makeup, if the base is not strong and not put properly, the other elements like the eyeliner, the lipstick, the blush will all wash away, similarly if the script is not well built, the direction, the acting, the music, even if spellbinding will not have the same effect and will fade away. The Bengali Mastermind, Rituparno Ghosh clearly had this idea and thus was near to flawless in his storytelling. God!! The man knew his job or, maybe the Aliens helped him, yes! Surely the second one, otherwise it’s inhuman to deliver so perfectly.
‘Raincoat’ (2004), an adaptation of the short story The Gift of the Magi (1906) by O. Henry is one of Rituparno’s indelible imprint on the sands of Indian Cinema. It’s a critic’s fantasy, an unsurpassed tale of love and torment showing us the excels of story-telling, direction as well as acting, for which it was graced with the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi and was nominated for the Crystal Globe for Best Feature Film at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.
The film starts by putting the viewers in the shoes of an unemployed young lad Manu (Ajay Devgn) from Bhagalpur who, in the wake of losing his job at a jute mill in his hometown, finds no other way than to set off for Kolkata and ask for monetary support from his old friends to set up a new business. At Kolkata we see him being guested by one of his very close friends Sameer, who is now trying to help him write a plea letter to their friends asking them for their help. We can see Manu’s self-respect creeping in as he is not sure he wants to do this “begging” in front of his friends, but helplessness sitting spitefully on his shoulder makes him finally agree upon seeking his friends help. We can see his agony as we find him crying in the bathroom (we can imagine his wretchedness) only to be found out by his friend’s caring and hospitable wife (Mauli Ganguly) who is now ready with breakfast. Her caring nature is backed when she helpfully asks Manu to take her mobile (as he has never used one) and also a raincoat (yes the ‘raincoat’, the film prop!!) as it is raining cats and dogs. But then something ticked our ears, a conversation between Manu and Sameer that Manu wants to meet someone eagerly, someone from his past and we get a vague idea that, that someone might be Manu’s past love interest, someone who broke his heart. The substratum is set!!
We now see Manu collecting as much bits and pieces as possible from his friends and finally arriving at “The” door and rings the bell and then we get the memo, it’s a flashback narration!! Taking us back to the time when the door is opened by a bubbly Neeru (the ever beautiful Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), but now we see a bland woman with hair all over her face. Neeru looks plain and depressing.
She invites him in, a dark room with all windows closed and filled with antique furniture and two souls of old lovers, which is quite clear as they talk to each other in a caring but authoritative manner, something which comes when you know each other your entire life. They are curious, curious to know about each other, how they have spent their lives apart. Neeru seems to have been leading a very lavish life, servants to serve her, silk sarees to wear at home and yes a wealthy husband too, who is always at tour. Neeru boastfully claims to be happy and contented with her life which makes us feel a little vexed as we soon come to know from a series of providing flashbacks that she had left Manu just for the sake of having a secured life owing to the fact that Manu couldn’t meet ends back then. Poor guy!! We see him begging her, wailing in front of her, pleading her not to leave him but she is a stone, she’s indifferent, as if she never loved him (Yes Womanhood, it has a lot of surprises, you will know soon)!!
Our Pity for Manu increases as we see him bluntly lying to her about almost everything that how he has managed to set up a flourishing channel and is also living in an expensive house back in Bhagalpur. He even lied about having a secretary to which Neeru is seen to develop a bit of jealousy but why, she hardly loved him or did she?!
Now we are about to witness the turning point of the movie, the one which will answer your question of why I am obsessed with Rituparno. Neeru is seen going out of the house to bring some food for him as there is nothing in the house except porridge as suggested by her dietician (riches perks). He is all alone at the house when he hears a knock at the window to find out that a Man (the underrated gem Anu Kapoor) in his forties maybe, wants to come in as he is in urgent need of going to the washroom, being polite Manu calls him in. Who is he? We are taken aback, as if something has hit us, Spoiler alert guys. The Man is Neeru’s landlord who reveals that Neeru is no rich woman. Her husband is a con man and they hardly meet ends. We are stupefied, we feel that pinching sense of soreness down out gut and it increases as Manu explores the house just to find out that it’s no palace, instead it resembles more to a beggar’s burrow, old torn clothes hanging from the rope, cockroaches breeding on utensils, and even the washroom resides inside the kitchen. We both can’t see it, Manu and us as its pains our soul. Alas! Neeru is a brilliant actress, she managed to make us believe that her life is brimful while it’s hollow like an empty drum.
So was this the agony we should have felt? Was it all about the Pain?! No, not at all, love has still to make its way. We are still to get the weight of the title.
There are movies which tells you a story and wants you to enjoy it, to appreciate it, to love it and may be sometimes even believe and relate to it and then, there are some which wants you to live through it, to feel it, to have that soaked numb feeling of being overwhelmed by it! ‘Raincoat’ undoubtedly falls in the second category, after watching which you will be there, there sitting and just breathing in the petrichor of cinematic Marvel and only one word in your head. WOW!
The author has always been intrigued by the stories we read and see, as we are in one ourselves. She loves watching sci-fi, suspense-thrillers, and adventure / action films and for her the whole world is divided into two types of people: one which loves harry potter and the other who doesn’t exist for her!!!