WARNING: MILD SPOILERS
If you have read O. Henry’s “The Gift Of The Magi”, you will have an idea of how Raincoat is going to turn out. For those who don’t, it will be interesting to see the turns this story takes. Rituparno Ghosh is able to weave visual magic from this premise and gives us one of the more understated romances in Bollywood. Ajay Devgn and Aishwarya Rai play these characters in the past and the present with a real tenderness and almost a sense of innocence. I kept wondering why this film did not do well at the box-office. Could it be because of the pace of the film or the general feel of Raincoat? Whatever the reason may be, the real success of the film lies in the performance of Aishwarya Rai. She’s at times heartbreaking and heartwarming.
The scenes where she’s trying to hide her actual life from Devgn finds her delving deep into her repertoire of emotions and coming up trumps. Ghosh seems to be more interested in reactions than actual actions. His camera focuses on actors responding to what’s happening around them. At times, Raincoat feels like a play and this is evident in the way certain dialogues are delivered. But all of this adds up to a story on lost love, broken dreams and the yearning for a better life. Though the film is set in Calcutta, we do not get to see famous locations from the city. But through the descriptive dialogue, we get a sense of the place Neeru (Aishwarya Rai) lives in. This adds to the magic of the film’s visual language.
This is one of the defining images from the film for me. The candle lights up her face and we can see just how weary she has become. In the beginning of the film, Mannu (Devgn) tells her that he wants to see her in the light but she is hesitant. Perhaps she is ashamed of what she’s become and especially as this the life she used to reject Mannu with in the first place. All these are emotions one would expect to come bubbling over but Ghosh isn’t interested in doing that. By focusing more on the pauses between the emotions, Raincoat is able to tell us so much about these people.
You and I might not react the way these people do but that is precisely what makes Mannu and Neeru unique. Even after so many years, they still feel like children who are keeping secrets for and from each other. Devgn is brilliant at handling Neeru like a baby especially once he realizes that things are not quite the way they seem. His little smiles here and there fill the screen with a tinge of sadness yet there is a sense of hope that remains. Above all, Raincoat is proof of how logic can go out of the window when it involves someone we love/loved. Would these people like to be together? Definitely. But like Neeru says, if God wanted us to be together we would have been married already. Sometimes that’s the way life is, us reacting to what happens. It won’t always be as tender as Raincoat but sometimes magic can happen like it did here.
Until next time, bye.