The Lovely Mrs. Mookherjee review: Swastika Mukherjee shines in Indranil Roychowdhury’s irreverent dramedy
Dimensions?854 x 480?
In 2014, noted Oscar winning American cinematographer Walter Pfister – who is best known for his collaborations with Christopher Nolan – made his directorial debut with a film titled Transcendence, in which, after the death of a famous scientist, his consciousness is preserved in the digital world with the help of artificial intelligence. Director Indranil Roychowdhury’s new film The Lovely Mrs. Mookherjee is an irreverent, funny and sarcastic extension of the same idea – with the additional benefit that Roychowdhury’s film is also an exceptionally scathing commentary on the very notions of patriarchy and male privilege.
The film opens with a young lady getting late for work. We learn that the lady is a professional make-up artist who is very good with her work. She is smart, intelligent, diligent and kind to people. Unfortunately though, she is being forced to marry a man who lives abroad. When the lady meets her prospective groom in a restaurant, the man can’t stop boasting about his salary, his need for a docile homemaker – the usual. Realising that the man is not the kind that she would want to spend the rest of her life with, the young lady makes up her mind to call off the wedding. But not before teaching the man a lesson – in the most innovative of ways. She tells the man a story about an ungracious author and his poor, neglected wife. It is this story that forms the crux of the film.
In the story-within-the-story, the author is much like the prospective groom – full of himself, neglectful towards his wife’s needs, and treating her more as an object than as a human being. He is so hungry for the Nobel prize for literature that he has begun writing his magnum opus – which he is confident will fetch him the coveted prize for sure. His wife does not even feature in his grand scheme of things, and is left nursing her wounds in the background, with such duties as cooking, cleaning and carrying around her husband’s shoes. Things take an unexpected twist though, and
What I really liked about the film is its spunk. It is almost as if the story is not even taking itself seriously, let alone the issue of female subjugation. Quentin Tarantino, in his 2013 film Django Unchained, had treated the important subject of racism with exactly the same irreverence. And the effects were both brilliant and funny, to say the least. Roychowdhury’s film does exactly that and I am happy to report that he pulls off the sarcasm with sheer brilliance. There are moments in the film when I couldn’t help but laugh out loud, even in – seemingly – the most serious situations. And much of this credit goes to the script and to the impeccable performances of the film’s lead pair – Swastika Mukherjee as the neglected housewife, and Bratya Basu as the author who treats his wife like dirt
The sarcasm in Mukherjee’s performance is something that we have seen before, in Anik Dutta’s 2012 film Bhooter Bhobishyot. Much like in that film, Mukherjee is at the top of her game here, slaying with gestures and silent expressions that are loaded with meaning. When her time comes, and she has an opportunity to take control of the situation, she does not let her performance stumble, and remains in character throughout – a transition that can be exceedingly difficult to make, given the change in the circumstances. Basu, on the other hand, is the standard variety Indian middle class male personified – complete with all his privileges and passions (or, shall we say, the lack of the latter?). He is exactly the kind of man that a modern, independent, intelligent woman would want to avoid under any circumstances, and he portrays his character with such amazing flair. But that’s not all, mind you. He does this, and still makes it look funny. Imagine doing that! That’s where his brilliance lies.