(2004) Raincoat Reviews

Unrequited unconditional love

The underlying theme of Rituparno Ghosh’s film Raincoat is unconditional unrequited love, immersed in a subliminal mood of surrender and sacrifice in Bhakti Yoga. Rituparno Ghosh is one of the most interesting film directors around and because of the implied nuances of Bhakti, Raincoat has become one of my all time favorite films. It cuts deep into the heart of pain and hopelessness to reveal the interior nature of perhaps a beginning of real freedom.

What follows are a series of comments I made on Raincoat as I watched it over time, again and again. On the surface most of the film takes place in one room with two people who have not seen each other for years – but still waters run deep and I found the more I saw the film, the more I understood.

Rituparno Ghosh is his own man and in some ways this film stands on its own, resisting any comparison to other films. If you have ever read O’Henry’s short stories, which Raincoat is based on, you will have the context of sentiment, the strange mood of the tale. Life is what happens – not what we want, not what we dream of, work for, and not even what we plan. There are no promises, no particular fairness. Life is just what happens and we must make whatever we can out of that.

There is a kind of irony nestled within Fate that always leaves us completely baffled. There is humor in hopelessness and often surprise in our loneliness.

The film is artfully shot in uniquely subtle colors, shadows and light, mirrors all reflecting the utter despair of the two characters played by Ajay Devgan & Aishwarya Rai. Even though they did not marry each other, they share the memory of their youth’s innocent love back in their village. Neither has anything left to hope for and they attempt unsuccessfully to hide their anguish and personal pain from one another. All they have is the thin sham of pathetic pretense that life has turned out well for them.

Ajay is truly brilliant! The scene in front of the bathroom mirror will tear out your heart – my God how did he learn to make such an expression of pain? Mr. Devgan’s acting is getting better and better. I hope he continues to intelligently explore the depths of his emotions as he is doing here.

I completely understand why this film was loved in Paris. Raincoat has definite shades of Trauffaut or Goddard complete with the charade of meaningless conversations and the kind of petty bullying that people who know each other all too well inflict on one another. I was lost in that room with them through the entire film.

Somnolent and subdued, moving across thin ice, Aish is superb. Raincoat is perhaps some of the best acting she has done thus far. She wears very little make-up and the sad shadows around her lotus eyes belie her pretense to happiness. She rushes to assure her old love Ajay that her husband does not beat her – but, as she so wants Ajay/Manu to believe, loves her very much.

Even the best of dreams can go bad. The evenness of her depression and the futility of her life unceremoniously bleed into her silly chatter of money, expensive antique furniture, and the traveling successful provider – all lies.

The stark evidence of empty bottles, filth, and enormous cockroaches is hidden behind the facade of a closed door with opaque milky glass.

Neither of these two can hide the terrible ravages of truth. Life has been cruel to both of these hapless creatures. All that remains is their tender tragic mutual need to pretend and to secretly sacrifice whatever little they have for one another. This is a great film and certainly not the usual BollyWorld masala. Raincoat is great in its honesty, its simplicity, its essence. We all dream and then, as they say, Life happens.

I was so moved by this film – it just drew me in and stayed with me.

Raincoat happens underneath your skin, deeper, profound, and probably for those who have had some experience with `the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’!

This film is a landmark in cinema, and perhaps that explains why many people who just want to be entertained, as I often do, have trouble grokking Raincoat. It has more kinship with a play and the old Greek or Sanskrit drama, where the audience gets involved and actually learns something about life, real life that is, not prepackaged and sanitized entertainment for consumers – but actual life and its metaphysical implications.

We all try to hide our failings, especially from those we love.

The sacrificial gift that these two hopeless people offer each other, through the symbolism of the actual ‘raincoat’ lays bare the grand opportunity life now and then offers. What do we do when we are hopelessly up against the wall? How do we behave? Are we generous, humble, and loving in the midst of our heartbreak – or do we in our weakness give in and succumb to anger, greed, and tyranny. It often seems to me that this Life we live is a game only a God living in eternal bliss would want to play – but nevertheless it is the predicament we all find ourselves in.

I can’t say enough good things about the acting in Raincoat. I read that Ajay Devgan said he would do films like this over and over, even if they failed at the box office. This film is classic and brilliant in so many ways. And after seeing it again and again I like the friend’s wife character Sheela, played by Mouli Ganguly, more and more. She is the perfect mirror.

Perhaps the finest and the most heart wrenching scene is Ajay/Manu tenderly trying to assure Aish/Neeru that she should not give up all hope and that someone will surely rescue her. With all his passionate feelings for her reined in, still pent up inside him, his terrible anguished love revealed only in his eyes, he tells her not to be afraid. If she should ever have the courage to fly to London and her absurdly ridiculous and obsessive fear of being locked in those horrible little bathroom cubicles should happen, then surely someone will come a rescue her.

She is crying pitifully, while he seems still too afraid to almost touch her. The interaction between these two in this moment is so tender, endearing, and tragic. Here Ajay, who in the 1990s was India’s Mr. Action-Hero, is at his most vulnerable and this makes him all the more loveable, admirable and attractive.

Aish’s character is terrified of believing that anything good could ever happen to her again. I loved Aish’s acting in this film. And I will say again and again that Ajay Devgan is shaping up to be the finest actor in Indian cinema.

Ajay is already a big star in India’s Bollywood. He is not the teen pin-up heartthrob type. But this interesting man has an emotional depth and passionate intelligence that keeps growing and showing up in his performances. I expect to see him around for a long time – and if he is offered better opportunities to act in varied and deeper roles, we will all be the happy enjoyers his superb talents. He would be a wonderful Hamlet. In fact he will be taking on the role of Othello in 2006!

***

I realize that many of you may initially find the emotional tone of this film overwhelming. But I invite you to see it as a work of Art. There are so many excellent artistic qualities to this film that make Raincoat worth watching more than once. For one thing, the skillful composition of the frames shows a high degree ‘painterly’ intelligence that greatly adds to the mood of the story. The scenes from Ajay and Aish’s younger days are bathed in a colorful golden glow suggesting that sweet hope and exuberance of youth in its innocence, yet unaware of how grim the future might be. These golden days contrast brilliantly to the cold harsh light of the interior of Aish’s house, the rooms that have become her godown `prison’.

The light within that haunting heartless room changes with candles and rain and thunder as only a painter might see the mysterious effects of light. The director, Rituparno Ghosh, knows well how to use reflections in mirrors to draw you into other worlds. The whole film has a kind of dreamy and unreal quality to it, which illustrates both Aish and Ajay’s characters unrealistic nature. Neither of these two seems at all suited to deal with the realities of the cold cruel world. Life has seemingly treated both of them badly. Or is it simply their inevitable destiny playing out?

***

Ajay and Aish share an emotional landscape – of course, these are just my intuitive feelings. But nevertheless the chemistry here is powerful and certainly a bonus for the director. This chemistry between Aish and Ajay is not overtly sexual. Rather I would say this is a chemistry of feelings where two people just stand on a kind of emotional common ground and this sharing makes their performances here all the more interesting.

I do not understand how anyone can dare to say that Aish can’t act after seeing this film. Here she is subtle, sad, forlorn, petty, lonely, desperate, and hopelessly brave in the face of utter destitution. She delivers her lines with the innocence of a worn out and down woman – not the proud or arrogant Miss World as people wrongly sometimes perceive. Besides being now considered perhaps the most beautiful woman on the planet, Miss Rai is an intelligent talented actress – and a great dancer!

The ease with which her character Neeru lies to Ajay about her life makes one realize that long ago she began to lie to herself. She treats him as if he remains the taken-for-granted but loved man in her life and he timidly cherishes every minute of it.

Ajay’s contained adoration for his childhood sweetheart is something to behold. Mr. Devgan does that compression-of-passion thing so well! One feels that his character has never been able to let go and express himself – except once, the day before her marriage, when it was too late. Even now in that soulless eerie room he smokes one cigarette after another and holds everything in, while he glances longingly at her, hoping she will not notice. Like a thirsty man drinking water at last, Ajay/Manu listens intently to her singing softly in another room as she prepares tea. He does not want to her to leave him to go to the corner store for his lunch. He cannot bear to be parted from her again even for a minute.

“I’m not a fool anymore…” he sweetly tells her. Ajay’s performance in Raincoat is one of his best and is deeply moving. The heart breaking moment in front of the mirror, with his face absurdly covered in shaving cream, is only the beginning.

***

If one sees Raincoat as a work of Art, you experience Indian cinema at its very best, along with some incredibly beautiful music. Raincoat is a work of ART! The more I watch this film, the more I love it. I am constantly amazed at the subtle interactions that go on between Ajay and Aish, as if they are living on the same emotional plane. The way he maneuvers her into being jealous of his imaginary life is fascinating.

With just a slight gesture, a subtle turn of his head or a half smile, Ajay manages to convey his intensely suppressed love for this girl whose life has become mired in a web of deceit so deep one wonders if she even knows the difference anymore. And Aish is magical spinning her lies of pretense in the face of utter hopelessness, while chewing her necklace (fastened with a safety pin) and haughtily calling Ajay/Manu a country mouse!

***

Rituparno Ghosh has carefully intelligently crafted every frame to express the emotions between these two people. They both suffer from the weakness of a kind of unconscious paralysis. Neeru’s silly petty selfish greed is somehow the perfect balance to Manu’s inability to effectively express his feelings. They are both prisoners of their own flawed character.

The music in Raincoat is powerful and devotional. I love Hariharan’s voice and the soulful resonance he creates in the song PIYA TORA KAISA ABHIMAN is superb. The theme song MATHURA NAGARPATI sung by Shubha Mudgal is one of my favorite songs ever. I often listen to this song at night before I meditate.

The lyrics relate to Bhakti Yoga and Krishna’s return to visit his beloved Radha. He leaves his palace and his wives, and heads for Gokul. Krishna will be reunited with his Radha.

The underlying theme of Raincoat is unrequited, unconditional love immersed in a kind of subliminal Bhakti mood. Ajay’s character Manu is there in the face of all rejection, disregarding the advice and warnings from his mother & his friend. He has lied and promised not to stay long, but it is evident that he wants nothing more than to bask like a child in her presence, to listen to her sing, and gaze longingly at her through the milky glass.

As Rituparno Ghosh said:
“Unrequited love is the most precious love of all.”

Hindi Song Review

Filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh’s first film in Hindi travels deep into the nostalgia. It makes an intense search about the meaning of important moments in human life and relationships. Raincoat, with Ghosh’s excellent treatment, a talented crew, and stunning performances, has come out as one of the greatest romantic films Indian cinema have ever produced.

Raincoat is a film of love. A love that was lost because of practical compulsions. Like every great director, Ghosh believes in showing than telling. His film language depicts a strong sense of visual medium. Unlike the mainstream films, Raincoat does not depend on the beauty of female body and picturesque locations. It creates an exclusive language with a deep understanding of the medium. The way Ghosh narrates the story requires that the audience should be able to read the sub text rather than the text itself.

The storyline is so simple that it doesn’t inspire when somebody tells you the synopsis. It revolves around an afternoon encounter between two estranged lovers. But the way director presents the whole thing makes the experience unforgettable.

Manoj (Ajay Devgan) is looses his job, sunk in debt, and utterly lost in life. To redeem his life, he wants to set up a small business. Since he is left with little money, he goes to Calcutta to borrow money from his erstwhile acquaintances. But there is also a hidden motive in his travel to Culcutta. He longs to meet Niru (Aishwarya Rai), his childhood sweetheart. They parted ways 15 years ago, as their love gave way for the likes of money and stature.

He does meet Niru in Calcutta. When the two meet during one rainy afternoon, they find each other mere shadows of their former selves. But in order to maintain appearances and protect their egos, they hide their real position to one another. Manoj pretends to have a successful career and Niru tries to present herself as a woman who has marital bliss.

The moment of their life, the afternoon, continues. Manoj and Niru interact with each other and slowly the truth reveals itself.

It is quite refreshing to see a film with so much of subtleties and nuances. It also boasts of the existence of an uncompromising directorial voice. Though the film has two of the leading stars, the movie clearly belongs to the director. The Bengali auteur does not succumb to a single commercial Hindi cliché; he keeps his artistic grip over the film. He created a celluloid experience that defies synthetic. The narration is simple – a series of interactions interwoven with a lot of flashbacks. A single room is large enough to bring about the entire world of the protagonists.

Ghosh’s mission would not have been complete without the support of a marvelous crew. The production design (Indranil Ghosh), cinematography (Aveek Mukherjee), and score (Debojyoti Mishra) are amazingly excellent. More importantly, all these components contribute to the wholeness of the entire experience.

Ajay Devgan has regained his form through Raincoat with a dazzling and accomplishing performance. The ease with which he conveys volumes of pain, frustration, and confusion is amazing. The bathroom scene in which Manoj breaks down is one of the most heartbreaking scenes of the recent days.

Aishwarya Rai has rendered her most impressive performance after ‘Devdas’ and ‘Chokher Bali’. Her depiction is so powerful that she seems to have immerged into the character. We just can’t imagine any other actress in the place of Rai in the film.

Aishwarya Rai proves beyond doubt that her beauty is not mere skin deep. She has come out with such a beautiful performance that should be placed among the finest acting talents in India today. Rai deftly portrays her role of being a passionate young lover and a depressed housewife. Her expressions have the stamp of conviction and finesse. Hats off.

Annu Kapoor is the other person who gets a sumptuous role and impresses amidst strong performances by Devgan and Rai.

Raincoat doesn’t end in delayed joy like other routine love stories. It leaves behind a baggage of thoughts and words that are not shown or uttered. It makes the audience feel and experience the innermost aspects of nostalgia in a poetic film language. In fact the entire film can be termed as a fine cinematic contemplation on the nature of love, pride, and selflessness. The astonishingly original script, simple storytelling, and award-worthy performances make the film wonderful and probably the best film of the year.

Filmthreat Review

While Aishwarya Rai is busy announcing herself in the West as a movie star to be reckoned with in “Bride & Prejudice,” back home in India, she continues to prove her true acting mettle by gamely taking on challenging roles in sometimes uncommercial projects. “Raincoat” marks her biggest departure to date, and the indifferent reaction at both the Indian and overseas box office reflect that; in fact, the film’s theatrical distributor for the Non-Resident Indian market in North America basically gave the film an unusually tiny release, dumping it only on a pair of screens in San Jose, California and New Jersey this past Christmas Eve. While this somber, nuanced, talky, song-and-dance-free drama is just about the across-the-board antithesis of Indian popular filmmaking, it’s everything a serious, art-minded cinephile would savor: a moody, expertly-acted and -directed meditation on the realities of love, loneliness, and life.

The man at the helm of “Raincoat” is writer-director Rituparno Ghosh, who previously directed Rai in the 2003 film festival favorite, the Bengali-language “A Passion Play: Chokher Bali.” As in that film, the de-glammed Rai in “Raincoat” is a far cry from the one we’re used to seeing in Bollywood musical extravaganzas, but here even more startlingly so. Stripped along with her makeup is any trace of her famous glow, whether through hope, general contentment, or any other source. From the lips of Rai’s housewife Neeru spin ornately woven tales of lavish luxury, but her sullen eyes and voice tell another, less fairy tale-ready story. As the truth behind “the game of words” (as the tagline goes) slowly, subtly, reluctantly reveals itself as the film progresses, Rai’s beautifully shaded emotional transformation is heartbreaking. Neeru’s fellow player in this game is long-lost love Manoj (Ajay Devgan), who shows up on her doorstep one rainy afternoon some six years after their last meeting, which occurred just prior to her wedding. As with Neeru, the intervening years have taken their brutal toll on Manoj, and as the two catch up on each other’s lives, the false armor of inviting words both conceal and ultimately confirm the greatest truth shared between them.

And that truth, of course, is love. Through brief but carefully placed flashbacks, we witness those years-ago final moments between Manoj and Neeru, and while one could understandably say that these scenes and, hence, the pair’s past relationship are underwritten, Ghosh understands that nothing can speak more about the relationship than what the actors bring to it. This marks the fourth time Devgan and Rai have shared the screen, and here they display the same poignantly understated rapport they lent their first and most celebrated collaboration, 1999’s “Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam.” It’s not a playful chemistry nor a classically smoldering one, but something more of a consistently-felt, low-key burn that then flares up for some piercing moments. Who knew a line as seemingly innocuous as “I’ve applied for a car loan” could carry with it all the innocent hope and resigned disappointment of love and life itself?

Devgan’s quietly wrenching performance can be described in the same way. While the presence of Rai certainly commands more attention to this small, delicate project than it otherwise would–and she more than justifies it with her performance–Devgan is onscreen from beginning to end, and he doesn’t squander the showcase. Emotional desperation is paired with the brooding intensity Devgan has finely honed in his long line of tough guy roles, clearly delineating that this is a man who is not so much a passive victim of life, but one actively defeated by it. This one encounter with Neeru is but another noble, possibly futile attempt to fight against circumstance, however hopeless the chances of true redemption.

As powerful as his leads and the few supporting players are, the one who ends up dominating “Raincoat” is Ghosh, who is in full command of his filmmaking gifts from the opening title sequence. Expertly cut to a haunting love song, beautifully composed by Debajyoti Mishra, movingly performed by Shubha Mudgal, and featuring poetic lyrics by Ghosh himself, the sequence not only traces Manoj’s journey from his small village home to the big city of Calcutta but sums up the entire emotional journey of the film. Such attention to detail is reflected in every aspect of the production, from the moody photography to the graceful editing to, most impressively, the production design. Most of the film is devoted to long conversations between Manoj and Neeru in the living room of her house, which is an enigmatic triumph; cluttered with furniture, often lit only by candlelight, it can alternately be read as romantic, run-down, spacious (Ghosh and cinematography get a bit of mileage out of the many angles the space offers them), and suffocating.

If Ghosh’s direction places “Raincoat” under the skin, then his writing makes it linger there. The film is remarkably dialogue-heavy, but the words feel and flow naturally and beautifully illuminate the layers of the characters. And while a raincoat–which Manoj borrows from his best friend’s wife–literally plays a prominent role in the film, the title has more powerful thematic significance. By film’s end, one can conclude that in the monsoon storms of life and love, a flimsy raincoat is perhaps all anyone can realistically hope for, but it is also the most beautiful and valuable gift anyone can give to another.

Efilmcritic Review

William Sydney Porter aka O Henry, a master of surprise endings, is arguably the best short-story writer that has ever lived. But strangely, unlike the Kings and Grishams, his stories haven’t been much accessible to the cinema-going audience. It probably takes a genius to recognize a genius. So enter Rituparno Ghosh- a nonconformist young director sans any apprehensions of clinging to established traditions. Mix this hot bundle of talent with the best work of the former, and what you get is a delectable piece of cinematic magic called ‘Raincoat’.

‘Raincoat’ is anything but run-of-the-mill. Never in the history of Bollywood cinema(and it’s a long one) has there been a story told with such serene meditation. The encounter between the two principal characters is a study in human nature. Both Manoj and Neerja are in a state of derelict. But both make attempts at concealing this from each other. Their façade is not so much a show of pomposity as much a sacrifice that they are willing to make just to ensure that the other person isn’t bothered with their own condition of ruins. So while Manoj plays as a successful TV serial producer, Neerja makes stories of her grand lifestyle with servants, chauffeurs, an ever-touring husband et al. Ghosh succeeds at making their dialogues at once, both comedic and dramatic. The thin line between humour and pathos slowly begins to vanish until they absorb into one.

Credit goes to Ghosh for his ingenuous style and attention to detail. In my review of Swades, I had written that Gowariker managed to create a picture of India because of his attention to detail. Well, Ghosh does pretty much the same thing, albeit at a micro level. Whether it is Manoj’s ignorance to using a cell-phone, Neerja’s biting on her chain or the casual way in which her bra-strap shows- Ghosh splendidly achieves capturing mannerisms. Also note the credit titles which rechristen cinematography as image and editing as montage. Novel and a masterful stroke!

‘Raincoat’ is furthermore about wonderful performances. Ajay Devgan in the past three years has portrayed memorable characters(Company, Gangaajal and Raincoat) and with ‘Raincoat’ he emphasizes once more just how comfortable he has become with the camera. Here is an actor who essays roles without ever allowing the camera to catch him unawares. Aishwarya Rai has always been a director’s actress. Like Bhansali, Ghosh manages to extract from her a perfect balance of poise and restlessness. The fact that her character basically plays out her part also helps. And finally this movie review will be incomplete without the mention of one Mr. Annu Kapoor. Kapoor plays his part of a landlord with such effortless ease that he reminds us of what a great talent he is and how we have wasted him. There was another Kapur this year that made us do the same thing- Pankaj Kapur in Maqbool. Due mention must be given to Bishwadeep Chatterjee’s work on the sound and Shubha Mudgal’s vocals in the background. One can argue that she could have been used with more discretion, but that will tantamount to nitpicking!

‘Raincoat’ is an elegiac tale told with earnestness- Ghosh’s gift to an intelligent audience. Watch it and be overwhelmed.

Apunkachoice Review

An evening’s encounter between two estranged lovers who pretend to each other ‘how fine life has turned out’, even as they keep repressing their dormant and smoldering love – Rituparno Ghosh’s ‘Raincoat’ is a simple and sensitive tale of how love stories usually end in real life.

To start with, the film has a beautiful setting. A rainy evening and the hero Manoj (Ajay) borrowing a raincoat to go and meet Niru (Ash), the beautiful girl whom he loved but who got married to some rich guy because Manoj did not have a social standing to assert his love and claim her hand.

The scene then shifts to Niru’s neglected house. Even as Niru goes about telling Manoj the tales of her lavish marriage and the affluent life she has been living, the dilapidated state of her dimly lit house insinuate that reality perhaps is the contrary. Similarly Manoj too pretends to her that he has been doing fine and earning his living making television soaps.

But their fancy facade gradually begins to fall apart as they get into conversation, punctuated with flashbacks from their amorous past and underscored with their emotional outbursts that linger somewhere between anger and love.

‘Raincoat’ is a finely written story replete with thought-provoking dialogues and silences that are pregnant with meaning. Rituparno has kept many things open-ended in the movie and instead of tying the story in a neat knot he has kept things unsaid and open for the interpretation of the viewers.

Above all, the film has excellent performances from both Ash and Ajay.

Worth a watch

Planetbollywood Review

Manoj’s (Ajay Devgan) trying journey to Calcutta effortlessly sets the tone of the film; the discerning viewer will immediately become clued in to the fact that a masterful filmmaker is at work. Director Rituparno Ghosh’s focus on the incessant rain, Devgan’s melancholy expression, and Debojyoti Mishra’s hauntingly evocative score effectively conjure more atmosphere and subtext in the first few shots of “Raincoat” than most films are able to invoke in their entire running time.

And all of this is accomplished without dialogue. As with all great filmmakers, Ghosh excels in his ability to show rather than tell. The opening shots gently acclimate audiences so that they may attend to the right details as this gem of a film unfolds; we’re being told to savor the subtext of each shot – to read between the lines, as we will soon be forced to decipher truths by carefully examining lie after lie.

Such an emphasis on subtext is crucial in a complex film like this. The storyline, a towering achievement in originality and inspiration, involves an afternoon encounter between two estranged lovers. The synopsis certainly appears simple, but is actually anything but.

Manoj is desperate – out of a job, in debt, and utterly lost in life. He’s traveling to Calcutta to borrow money old acquaintances in order to start a small business. But that’s not his only motive in visiting the city. He’s also intent on seeing Niru (Aishwarya Rai), his childhood sweetheart. The two parted ways 15 years ago, trading in their idealistic love for practical ends – money, stature, and the like.

When the two finally meet one rainy afternoon, they find each-other mere shadows of their former selves. But in order to maintain appearances and protect their egos, they lie to one another repeatedly – Manoj about a successful career, Niru about marital bliss, and so on. How, as the afternoon continues, the truth finds its way to the forefront of the interactions between Manoj and Niru forms the crux of this delightful romantic drama.

A story so layered with subtleties and nuances could not be told without an uncompromising directorial voice, and Ghosh proves with this film that he has just that. The Bengali auteur does not succumb to a single commercial Hindi cliché; he keeps his film small, self-contained, and completely natural. The narrative structure is simple – a series of interactions in the present intercut with a number of flashbacks. Most of the film even takes place in a single room, but from within that room, we understand the protagonists’ entire world; their past, their present, and their inevitable future.

Credit for the realization of Ghosh’s vision must be shared with his fantastic crew. The production design (Indranil Ghosh), cinematography (Aveek Mukherjee), and score (Debojyoti Mishra) are absolutely outstanding – and all contribute to the effortlessness of the storytelling.

But the film would fall flat without articulate lead performances. Both lead roles call for the actors to give two performances; one as a down-and-out loser and the other as a fictional success. Fortunately, both Devgan and Rai rise to the occasion and give absolutely spellbinding performances, proving beyond the realm of speculation that they are actors first and stars second.

After a number of underwhelming performances, “Raincoat” marks a return to form for Ajay Devgan. In his brilliant and consummate performance, he conveys volumes of pain, frustration, and confusion with ease. An early scene in which Manoj breaks down crying in a bathroom is easily one of the most poignant scenes of the year, all thanks to Devgan’s inspired portrayal.

With her performance in “Raincoat,” Aishwarya Rai finally proves that she is incontrovertibly among the finest acting talents in India today. Rai’s career-best work here is a step above her terrific turns in “Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam,” “Devdas,” and Ghosh’s own “Chokher Bali.” It’s impossible to imagine, given the excellence of Rai’s captivating work in the film, any other actress attempting to inhabit Niru’s character. From a passionate young lover to an empty, depressed housewife, Rai conveys each expression in each of her scenes with the utmost conviction and finesse.

Rituparno Ghosh’s “Raincoat” is one of the finest cinematic meditations on the nature of love, pride, and selflessness ever committed to celluloid. With its extraordinarily original script, splendidly simple storytelling, and award-worthy performances, the film stands tall not only as one of the best films of the year, but as one of the greatest romantic films to have ever graced the Indian screen.

Smashits Review

He made his debut on celluloid at the age of 23. His love for films has been on the lines of dedication of Rabindra Nath Tagore for literature. He may not be as great as Tagore in writing but his viewpoint to look into the vulnerability of women in society is almost the same. He feels pain when his protagonist is devoid of happiness in relationship, his heart quenches for a drop of rain (monsoon) when his character feels thirsty for love. He seems to be restless when his creation is dejected and down. Meet Rituparno Ghosh the new entrant in Hindi cinema. Rituparno is a well-known name for connoisseurs of good cinema. His last film ‘Chokher Bali’ with Aishwarya Rai won him and his actress both loads of accolades.

He unites with diva damsel once again to bring for us another complex romance ‘Raincoat’, this time with Ajay Devgan as an added attraction. This is Ajay Devgan’s fourth film with Aishwarya Rai after ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’, ‘Hum Kisise Kum Nahin’ and ‘Khakee’. The pair seems to be gelling well together and the method actor in Ajay Devgan seems to getting mature day by day with every film he does with the film makers who understand his quality to emote brilliantly with his eyes and gestures. Watching ‘Raincoat’ is an experience to go back into your memories. Its like watching one’s past happening in front of your eyes. Those who have loved some one and then parted will feel the pain more and those who love to be loved will find the film a showcase of these relations.

The story of ‘Raincoat’ starts from where Kalidas left it in his epic ‘Meghdoot’. It takes a lot of inspiration from the depiction love by famous poet Jayadev in ‘Geet Govinda’. It also takes inspiration from those ragas of Indian music, which depict separation. When rain comes pouring down, every heart feels the romance and grief together. The theme of this kind of love is universal. But in the Indian context the pangs of the two hearts separated by destiny are felt the most. The two estranged lovers in ‘Raincoat’ are Manoj Tripathi (Ajay Devgan) from a small town and Neeru (Aishwarya Rai) married to a rich businessman in Kolkata. Manoj comes to Kolkata with a desire to see his lost love. He is passing through the bad phase of life and is in search of some monetary help for his ailing mother (Surekha Sikri) back at home. He finds shelter in his friend’s place and gets a caring host in the friend’s wife (Mauli Ganguly).

He sets about to meet with his lost love in a borrowed raincoat on a pouring afternoon. He has come to the big town with lots of hope. And, then he rings the bell of his ladylove for whom he had dreamt both in broad daylight and on his bed with eyes closed but no sign of sleep. Manoj meets Neeru in her dark drawing room. There is no light; the antique furniture is all around and then she opens all the chapters of her married life in front of a person who she loved most once. He tells her a story too that he is weaving right there with every line coming one after another as extempore but all false.

‘Raincoat’ is a film to be watched with relaxed mind. It is a film that may remind many of the pangs shown in the film. Though, it is true that not many films with a female protagonist have worked in the Hindi belt but Rituparno’s has a specialty. His films have always been women-centered maybe because he empathizes with the gender. Those who have seen his earlier films will vouch for the fact that Rituparno’s forte is his ability to read and portray the unwritten nuances of difficult relationships and highlight the unique combination of strength and vulnerability that women are.

‘Raincoat’ is a story layered with love and deceit at the same time. It is a story that rises above the boundaries of a narration of human bonding. He says much with expressions and pauses than with his dialogues. Having written the film himself Rituparno unfolds the film like a novel. In the start, one can feel uneasy with what’s going on on the screen but as the film progresses the viewer tends to get involved with it. ‘Raincoat’ is a film to see and experience for you

Rituparno Ghosh has lived up to the expectation that he has from his fans. He starts with a lingo that is more common with that of the common men of the cow belt. Then he sets his film in the bhadralok, and before any one could realize his narration grasp the audience takes over from him. Ajay Devgan as Manoj Tripathi has once again excelled in his performance. The nitty gritties that he brings in for his character make him look more comfortable on screen as a lost soul. He makes the happenings around him interesting with his body language. The time when he cries in the bathroom shows how capable he is in acting with his silence. And, Aish has come a long way after getting the right takeoff in ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’.

After doing Nandini, Paro, Manasi and Binodini, the character of Neeru is another feather in her cap. The poetry by Gulzar helps a lot in building up the background for her character. Its music by Debjyoti Misra with the help of vocals by Shubha Mudgal helps in getting the feel right for the movie. On the whole, ‘Raincoat’ is a movie for those who like classy and delicate films. The slow pace of the narration may not go well with the lovers of masala flicks but if you have an inclination for classic, go for it.

Rediff Review

It has been raining ceaselessly all day. The atmosphere wears a sultry, albeit worn, look, in hues of blue and grey. A roomful of antique furniture carelessly lying around, the shadowy aura hiding quite a few secrets. A single candle spreads its warmth around the two inhabitants of its room.

The crowded nature of their surroundings reflects the messy state of affairs. There is an occasional slip for wallowing in regret and ‘only ifs,’ but, for the most part of this meeting, the two players indulge in a game of ‘Everybody says I am fine.’

A resident of Bhagalpur, Manoj (Ajay Devgan) is out of work owing to a lock-out in the jute mill he worked for.

Low on luck and resources, he comes to Kolkata and embarrassedly approaches a few of his former college mates to lend him some money to start a business. Now that he is in the City of Joy, Manoj is keen on seeing his village sweetheart Neeru (Aishwarya Rai) as well. Their love story ended on an unrequited note, when Neeru agreed to bow down to social pressures and marry a wealthy bloke as opposed to the jobless Manoj.

Cut to present day rainy Kolkata. Wearing a borrowed raincoat, Manoj arrives to meet Neeru.

The carefree days of youth are long over. The harshness of day-to-day reality and responsibility have besieged into the duo’s disposition.

The once seductively playful Neeru has lost her will to charm. There is an obvious disinterest in the way she carries herself. She is least bothered about her awkwardly worn sari or her untidy mane. Her voice sounds weighed down for untold reasons. Even her unkempt appearance, however, makes for an enigmatic picture.

Uncomfortable, inquisitive, withdrawn and puzzled at different times of the conversation, Manoj drawls back and forth in his chair, restlessly smoking cigarettes, as if he is really making an effort to believe Neeru’s tall proclamations.

And then…the raincoat does its bit. The truth comes out. And so do their intense feelings for each other.

Told poetically and uncompromisingly by author and director Rituparno Ghosh, Raincoat is a simple tale of two beautiful gestures in one afternoon. Inspired from O Henry’s classic short story The Gift of Magi and Radha-Krishna’s unrequited romance, Raincoat relies heavily on the simmering chemistry of Manoj and Neeru and the spiritual compositions of Debojyoti Mishra that linger in the background. Indranil Ghosh’s cluttered art design and Aveek Mukherjee’s muted photography contribute to the essence of Raincoat’s narrative.

For someone heralded as the most beautiful woman in the world, Aishwarya Rai looks terrifyingly depressing in the film. Her Neeru looks cynical to the point of suicide. And that’s a compliment. Her body language is a strange mix of a passive housewife and a passionate girlfriend. Though the effort to sound rustic shows, the restraint in her dialogue delivery and performance is commendable.

Hesitation, desperation, humiliation — Ajay Devgan conveys them eloquently. His Manoj is no cool dude, but just another lower middle-class guy in misery, with whom none would like to switch place. He particularly stands out in the scenes where he cries in the bathroom, or begs Neeru not to marry someone else.

Some films attempt to showcase a series of wonderful moments and tend to go overboard. Raincoat captures just one poignant moment and tells it as simply it can, leaving you with a ‘wow!’

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