|Asha Jaoar Majhe a.k.a Labour Of Love(2015)|
Language : Bengali | Running Time : 84 Minutes | Director : Aditya Vikram Sengupta
(This post contains spoilers)
I sat through 3 minutes of clothes moving, being pushed by material newly hung. It didn’t take me long to figure out how the clothes were being moved or their placement, I was after all brought up by a woman very familiar with the indigenous ways of using nylon ropes and verandahs. I also knew that the clothes would dry and then be pulled back, in the same order by another person. The husband hangs them to dry, the wife takes them off from the clothesline. In the first few minutes of the movie, you expect this to happen.This is an experimental film, whose labour is visible, whose love is supposed to be poetic and surreal but it is so devoid of any character or plot conflict, the journey is 84 minutes of mundane, unbearable obviousness. The sun sets, fish scales are removed, cereals are transferred to boxes, tamarind powder sits proudly and there is a small cooking class that Masterchef would most likely complain about.
If one’s idea of poetry is to stare at yellowing walls and daily activity without being able to appreciate or feel any positive emotion for the people who participate in it or the stories that have occurred in the yellowing, then Aditya Vikram Sengupta’s “Asha Jaoar Majhe” is poetic. It is surreal because he intersperses a black and white background with colour wearing people whose life itself is so black and white, so one dimensional to observe it is surprising that there is a dream of togetherness.
The story is about a man (Ritwick Chakraborty) and a woman(Basabdatta Chatterjee), married and yet apart. She works in a handbag factory, he in a printing press and their schedules differing, literally, like day and night. They both eat cakes from the bakery, they sleep on the opposite sides of the bed, but without each other. He stays at home during the day, listening to music, hanging already washed clothes for drying, buying fish and sleeping on his side of the bed. She works through the day, washes the clothes, removes the dried clothes, cooks their food and sleeps on her side of the bed. They meet for almost 10 minutes a day, interrupting their solitude, their love – the labour of the day before 10 minutes of stoic staring. Wong Kar-Wai’s “in The Mood For Love” is a story about waiting – for love, for the opportune moment where solitude can be burst. In the cinematography of “Labour of Love”, we see traces of the slo-mo and the shadows, inspired by the Hong Kong master’s masterpiece. Sadly, neither do the characters nor their daily grind nor their 10 minute interlude warrant the same emotion that Wong Kar-Wai manages to evoke in his movie.
It doesn’t surprise me that Labour Of Love has won accolades at European Film Fests and Indian Film Festivals abroad. The movie’s languid pacing and technique is typical film festival and art-house bait. There’s Calcutta, in all its glory – languid, beautiful and tram run, coloured and designed to stand out. Every scene is beautifully shot. There’s work here of the highest calibre. It is all over-directed to a fault. I can’t see the poetry or hear the blissful melancholy of solitude tug at me. Maybe it will be beautiful for some because we seek beauty in the daily grind. All I find is tiredness, a boring and excruciating tiredness in seeing the sun set and the clothesline move.
The very things I dislike about this film might be the things others enjoy watching. After all, my poetry cannot be the same as yours. I would have enjoyed the charade of love here if there was some kind of subtlety, some sense of drama but here there’s an obviousness that sticks out like King Cantona’s upturned collar but where the collar is majestic, the obviousness is sore. I will stick to my Wong Kar-Wai to experience beauty in the togetherness of waiting. It is the kind of imagery which I find poetic, sublime and infinitely engaging.