Raincoat had been on my list for quite some time. I got the chance to watch it last Saturday morning after a cinephile friend recommended it.
Had I attempted watching this movie in my teen years, when the world seemed to revolve around me, I am sure I wouldn't have finished watching it. This slow burn commands a certain level of patience and wisdom. Inspired by an O.Henry short story, The Gift of The Magi, this film shifted something in me. It didn't generate goosebumps or make my eyes well up with tears. I was neither ecstatic nor devastated after watching the whole thing. It just got me thinking. I kept mulling over the plight of the characters long after the movie was over.
Raincoat is a simple story of two lovers who weren't able to get married owing to circumstances. Manu, played by Ajay Devgn meets Neeru, played by Aishwarya Rai, after a long gap. Both of them catch up on their lives.
Manu's situation is made quite clear to the viewer from the very beginning. He is struggling financially and is in the city to borrow money from acquaintances on the virtue of a referral note from his friend. But Manu projects a successful and comfortable life to Neeru, who had chosen to marry a wealthy man instead of him.
One doesn't know what to make of Neeru. Unlike Manu, she is a puzzle. Enough hints are dropped about Neeru also lying about her idyllic life. The way she animatedly describes everything, one can easily suspect her character to be afflicted with schizophrenia. She is obsessed with keeping all doors and windows shut to ward off murderers during the broad daylight of Calcutta. The servants are mentioned, but apparently, they waste themselves away playing cards. Manu is forbidden to move out of the living room or use the bathroom.
Neeru is hauntingly cheerful and sad at the same time. The setting is gloomy with all the darkness inside the house and the non-stop rain outside. Somehow, when she leaves for the market to buy Manu some snacks in the heavy rain, wearing Manu's raincoat, you don't get a good feeling about the whole thing. You feel something untoward might happen to her. And then emerges the sneaky landlord played by Anu Kapoor.
When the landlord is let into the house by Manu, Neeru's warning words about murderers roaming about in the afternoon keep ringing in my head. I disapprove of Manu's decision to let a random stranger into the house. I would not have let him in had I been in Manu's place. The landlord could easily be a thief making up the whole rent non-payment story. His narrative of Neeru sub-letting her furniture seems skeptical- until the landlord finally shows Manu the state of the bathroom that Neeru had so vehemently been guarding against Manu. Manu then realizes that Neeru's been equally dishonest about her own life. Fearing that the landlord will evict Neeru, Manu pays him the entire amount he has borrowed for his sister's wedding.
Manu's sense of embarrassment at his friend's place concerning his sorry state of monetary affairs hits one hard. It's intriguing how the same helpless Manu becomes decisive and in control of things when he gives up on the borrowed money to ensure Neeru's well-being. Similarly, Neeru, who hasn't got a thing in the kitchen to feed herself and doesn't care much about the bland khichdi she eats for lunch, won't have her beloved Manu eating the same humble khichdi. After all, we all try to take good care of our loved ones and tend to neglect our lonely selves. Lucky are those who get to be with the ones they love.
Once Neeru is back home, Manu decides to play along and not mention the landlord. He instead leaves a note under the sofa informing her about the payment he has made on her behalf. Once he reaches his friend's place, Manu finds two bangles and a note in his raincoat pocket. Neeru finds out about his financial situation through his friend's letter requesting acquaintances to lend Manu money. That's when we get to know how both the characters played along and put up with the charade despite knowing each other's reality. The 'raincoat' becomes the silent messenger of hard truth and then a silent medium of help, making it the perfect title for the movie.
Apart from 'raincoat,' the movie recurrently features the 'bathroom.' Neeru expresses her fear of getting trapped in the bathroom a couple of times. On the other hand, a troubled Manu finds solace in the bathroom in his friend's place. For Manu's friend's wife, Sheela, as hinted multiple times, the bathroom is an escape from her misery and a place to grieve covertly. Interestingly, a financially sorted and married Sheela, contrary to what one would assume, seems as trapped in her life as the two lead characters.
The lead pair displayed remarkable acting finesse and brought out a whole lot of emotions on the screen. The depiction of the two characters lying about their harsh realities is very poignant. Both characters feel pitiable and abhorrent at the same time. Whatever they do, despite its absurdity, eventually feels quite relatable. And that makes the film a winner.
It is tough to believe that the shooting of this film was wrapped up in just sixteen days! Despite the limited sets and props, the movie holds the viewer's attention with its drama and dialogues. The flashbacks are well-placed. The film beautifully employs imagery- be it Neeru lighting the match signaling her jealousy or the dripping raincoat hinting at Manu's state of helpless lust. The movie's music album is a gem in itself.
In the end, this masterpiece by Rituparno Ghosh is a stunning take on the deepest and darkest of human emotions.