This time Aparna Sen's camera has demobilized from "Chowranghee" or " Park Avenue" to the largest peninsula, presumably, in order to read the pulse of the soil. Humanitarian attribution has, ever, been incidental in every film she has created, but this time the treatment has come up in wider level, essentially because some remote nook of the Sundarbans, a far cry from the madding crowd, has been synchronised with the catchy landscapes of the rurals of Japan, uninterrupted either by Kolkata or by Tokyo. The marriage between Snehamoy and Miyagi is suggestive of a nuptial-tie between two rusticities physically cut asunder from each other because of a few thousand miles.
Snehamoy Chatterjee, a school teacher by profession is introvert, timid, meek and mild must be gifted with extrovert alter-ego, for which he keeps cementing pen-palship with a young Japanese girl Miyagi. He is brought up by his Mashi who takes him for the apples of her eyes. Mashi wants him to be married to her friend's god-daughter Sandhya. But Snehamoy has already deepened her relation with Miyagi, not of course, by flesh and blood, but only in black and white. A bizarre marriage comes to pass between them, not by virtue of any rituals, but bartering with a silver-ring and conch-bangel sent by the bride and the groom respectively. In the initial stage, Mashi takes the news as somewhat sticking to her throat but gradually exposes positive disposition. But, she feels, such marriage never multiplies bloodline. Miyagi has to attend to her ailing mother. So she cannot come all the way to India to meet her husband. When Miyagi herself falls ill, Snehamoy ransacks all the schools of medical science. He visits Gosaba, comparitively populous place from where he communicates verbally with his broken English from a booth. 15 years have passed of their married life with physical contact hitherto unknown and untasted. Sandhya, the Mashi's friend's daughter comes back widowed, sheltered by Mashi in her house. She sets the disorderly set Snhamoy's room, happens to see the photos of Miyagi and tries to fathom the depth of Snehamoy's psychological attachment with his wife. The woman in her takes this to heart and at the dead of night she bursts into sobs. Snehamoy, on the spur of the moment, sooths her by caressing. Emotinally fragile she keeps her head on his body, and withdraws quickly. Snehamoy too feels guilty and unloads his supressed emotions to his only respite, his wife. The story advances to a tragic culmination. Snehamoy is laid up with pneumonia that numbers his days. The tragedy is a foregone conclusion. Mashi with her hands stretched on the naked bed trying to sense the fleshy contact of her adopted son who is no more. Miyagi whose days are numbered too as a result of cancer, strains all the way to the husband's hearth. She is with borderless white sari taking after the traditional Indian suit of widowhood. She has her head shaved, as her husband once wrote, some of the Bengali wives have their heads shaven depending on how much they are devoted to their husbands. But Miyagi is still wearing conch( sankha) as her husband has not mentioned anything about its usage in widowhood. The two widows stand face to face ( Sandhya and Miyagi).
Visual is the asset of this film. The azure firmament, cloud-vaulted skies, the storm, the swelling Matla river, use of silhouette are. in a word marvellous. One of most notable feature is the Kite-flight. The contradiction amongst some rustic folks to dwarf magnificence of wonderfully-designed, shaped and coloured Japanese kites indicatively throw light upon cultural antagonism compounded with xenophobia.The episode is an instructive milestone in Indian Cinema. Another noteworthy feature is the location. The place where the story of the protagonist is set seems separeted by the river Matla that symbolically bisects the world of Snehamoy and the world at large. Hence, the river Matla turns to be a character in the film. The Matla may be the LOC for Snehamoy as some Miya or Mogami for Miyagi. A section of audience may wish for a meeting between the husband and wife in persons. But Mrs Sen tends to interpret the phrase "The Japanese Wife" in her state of widowhood. She virtually becomes the Japanese wife in absentia. The movie is not for movie's sake but for human sake. It has a bold message. At a time, when matrimonial nexus is chiefly based on physical cohesion, psychological unision is at a low ebb.Without the utterence of mantras in society-ordained rite,the vow of "Yadidang hridayang taba" can be put into practical practice. It is not the movie of Platonic love. But a love that has the power to remove any barrier,natinal, communal, racial and even geographical. There can be the Japanese wife in any woman under the sun.
As for acting Aparna Sen's favourite Rahul Bose has championed in this role of challenge. Till now, no other film. he has acted is so complex. Raima Sen speaks less, her body language and physionomical displays have spoken more. Mousumi Chatterjee as Mashi has done brilliant job, though her appearence, at times, are not in consort with ill-bred, rustic, mouthy lady. Her pronunciations of typical South Praganas dialect could have been more meticulous. Chigusa Takaku as Miyagi has done justice to her role.The roles portrayed as cameo by Kharaj and Paran and Fatik are so authentic. In fine, The Japanese Wife will certainly add another feather to Sen's cap who has endeavoured to stress on (ja)PAN humanistic documentation.