Review: Asha Jaoar Majhe (aka Labour of Love)

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Never has a director made paint dry look so hypnotic. Well, you wouldn’t exactly find a sequence of paint dry in this film but there are few equivalents, like oil spreading across the surface of a boiling pan or water slowly dissipating from it. One is almost compelled to ask what the significance of these sequences is. Debutant director Aditya Vikram Sengupta’s Asha Jaoar Majhe (aka Labour of Love) reveals the beauty in the stillness of things, the loneliness of two quiet souls and the love that is concealed in the little things they do for each other.

These two characters have been forced to live a life of loners. They are actually a man (Ritwick Chakraborty) and wife (Basabdatta Chatterjee) – both nameless – whose monotonous lives are portrayed against the backdrop of the recession. She works during the day and he during the night. The only time they get to see each other is when his day ends and hers begins. This is the only time to get for romance. The focus of Sengupta’s film lies mostly on the mundane for the entire length of its 80-min runtime. It’s all about the details and the mise-en-scene. The camera draws your attention to certain images to give you a sense of the mood and atmosphere.

These two characters and the spaces they inhabit belong to a different, much older era. Both are dressed in traditional attire and resemble characters from an old Satyajit Ray film. There is not a single line uttered in the entire film except for the stuff you hear in the background. The rest are just ambient noises. Sengupta brings a certain grace and lyrical quality to each scene. Oh, and it has one of the greatest insert shots I’ve ever seen. This film brought to mind a Vietnamese film called The Scent of Green Papaya, which told its story through a similar approach. It would make a double feature, provided you have an unlimited patience.

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