Friday, July 01, 2005

36 chowringhee Lane - 1981

A beautiful movie.I felt only a female director like aparna sen could bring out a sensitive movie like this.A simple story told in an elegant and touching way.

The movie totally has 6 are 7 characters and only 3 are the important ones.The story is about Violet Stoneham.An old anglo indian teacher who is leading lonely life.Being a women who was born and bought up in india.She does not want to move out of the country, fearing the uncertainty involved with it.

------------- The story -------

Violet stoneham(jeniffer kendal) leads an empty and lonely life which consists of a certain routines. Nandita(Debashree Roy) and Samresh(Dhritiman Chatarji) are lovers who meet in parks and make out in taxi's.Nandita an old student of miss violet, meets her accidentally when going around with samresh.Violet insists that they should come and visit her.Samresh thinks that miss violets house would be a perfect place for there meeting.Nanditha tells how samaresh the amateur writer is having trouble writing at his noisy house.violet offers her house for him.Nanditha and samresh use violets house for there sexcapade. For lonely violet the entry of these love birds in her life, changes her regular routines and she thinks there attention towards her as friendship and genuine concern for her.In the end violet recognizing that it is not so.


The movie belongs to 2 people.Jeniffer kendal and aparna sen.For Aparna,her first movie, supposedly is her best.The movie got wide recognition and raised eyebrows for talking about pre marital sex in early 80's.From her own words
'It started as a short story,and then it just kept growing'.She remembers how the words formed pictures and the story quickly evolved into a screenplay. But it was an English screenplay at a time when crossover cinema was an undiscovered genre and English cinema originating from India was unusual.

She went to Satyajit Ray, described as her mentor, who told her he would read it after two months. He called her back after that period and told her to make a film. 'Really?' she remembers wondering, uncertain about the prospects of an English film. Approaching producers, she was repeatedly asked what she was trying to sell. 'Sex? Violence? What are you trying to sell, they would ask me,' she says about producers. 'And I would answer: a small human tale.'

Following advice, she sent a synopsis of the plot to Shashi Kapoor, who shared it with Jennifer Kendal and Govind Nihalani, all of whom liked it and asked her to come over to Mumbai. That was the beginning of 36, Chowringhee Lane, which went on to win many national and international awards.more

The violet character is beautifully acted by jeniffer kendal(wife of shashi kapoor).I didn't first appreciate jeniffer kendal acting.I thought she is prety much what she acts in the movie.Then i realized that she is the same woman who comes in shashi kapoor's other movie junoon(she is the mother of a british girl, whom a pathan wants to marry).That character was different than this.She uses a different accent, walk and body language in this movie.Jeniffer has created the violet character in its entirety. She expresses so much in subtle & elegant way.Distant looks, childish laughs, controlled expressions & expressionless face at time, jeniffer is just awesome in the movie. It is unfortunate that the national awards that year went to rekha for Umrao jaan.I was wondering whether jeniffer kendal was overlooked because she was a foreigner ?.

I have seen so many movies with BGM by vanaraj bhatia.If asked this is his best.There are lot of scenes where there is no music at all, to show the emptiness of jeniffer's life.But at places beautiful BGM adds so much to the movie.As the main character is an anglo indian lady,he has cleaverly avoided indian instruments and has struck with scene enhancing western scores.

Art direction by bansi chandragupta(chakra).THe movie was written and directed by Aparna sen.Aparna sen is great in the movie.She took liberty to stray away from the main story at 2 places.In a dream sequence and a song showing night in calcutta, nothing major though, those were very insignificant deviation.At least the song was adding to the already lonely feeling of violet but the dream sequence did not fit into the movie.But i have to admit that the dream sequence was intresting though.A young Violet shown in black and white is searching for davie(karan kapoor) her lover.she then sees her house and pushes the door,which opens to a view of a grave yard next to a ocean.A strange ritual is being performed. Marriage wows are told in a funeral setup and davie(who dies in a battle) gets into the coffin himself. Troops start shooting jeniffer and in fellini's style everybody in her life is there at that function.

Aparna depicts the violet character so beautifully.This is a character that is lonely inside and outside.You are made to pity at her.she is a meek character that is ignored by every one from her school principal to a shopkeeper in the fish market.Living in a old apartment all alone with a cat, she is demoted to teach the dry grammer after teaching dramatic shakesphere for decades(imagine a anglo indian woman who recites shakephere as and when she wants, teaching adverb and noun), she spends time with her retarded brother,reads mails from her granddaughter(soni razdan), visit's the family graveyard etc.All these scenes of her life depict's her loneliness.Lot of scenes or told in visuals.The visuals like her gaze outside the window from her class room,the antique objects in her house,out of order lift,the cat etc all makes us understand her solitude and take pity on her.Again the visuals in her house/apt are done with less light,which adds to the gloomy feeling.Cinemetography by Ashok Mehta.

The movie does not get too emotional anywhere.Subtle emotions and beautiful acting by jenniffer kendel makes you feel violets pain deeply, without making you cry.A breezy and sensitive movie.

This movie has the 3 generation in it.Geoffrey kendall(jeniffer's father),jeniffer and her son & daughter karan,sanjana kapoor.
(Eddie Stoneham played by Geoffrey Kendall)

young violet played by sanjana kapoor(jeniffer's daughter)

karan kapoor

Understanding the true nature of nandita and samresh's.violet the shakesphere fan, ends the movie with quotes from shakeshphere's king lear.she takes solace by reciting the words of another old person, who was lonely and foolish in believing others. King lear gives his kingdom to his 2 daughters, who publicly tell how much they love him.King lear later realizes that all those words were false.Now after being sent to jail by his 2 daughters he tells these lines to his other daughter who didn't praise him publicly(kurosawa fan's would have guessed what movie this is).
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. --(King Lear, Act IV, Scene VII)
And Lear's last words to Cordelia:
Come, let's away to prison;
We two alone will sing like birds in the cage:
When thou dost ask me blessing, I'll kneel down,
And ask of thee forgiveness; so we'll live,
And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh
At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues
Talk of court news; and we’ll talk with them too.
Who loses and who wins; who’s in, who’s out;
And take upon the mystery of things . . . --(King Lear, Act V, Scene III)

some other shakesphere qoutes used in the movie.
Malvolio in "The twelth night"

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 thrust
upon ’em
The film won the Grand Prix (The Golden Eagle) at the Manila International Film Festival.Jennifer Kendall won the 1983 Evening Standard British Film Award for Best Actress and a BAFTA nomination for Best Actress that same year.

In india it fetched aparna sen the coveted best director national award for her first film itself.But it was not represented in film fare and other awards.Maybe cause it was an english movie.

An unforgettable movie, which has made Jeniffer kendal immortal.

king lear summary
36 C Lane in sujatha's list of top ten movies

Absolutely wonderful movie...
The story of this old woman still puts me back into thought.. And yeah, the cat and the bathtub!
Sen's last effort Mr. and Mrs. Iyer didn't match up with this movie.
Yep.This one is a classic.
senthil 36c is instead a awesome one.
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The TFM tag has been honored :-)
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