You are on page 1of 9

1

CHAPTER 2 COMPARITIVE STUDY

Kunal Basus short story The Japanese Wife and the movie based on it with the same name by Aparna Sen are indeed beautiful works each complementing the other. While the general plot, setting, characterization, and such other features are the same, both the movie and the short story offer some differences between each other. Although these differences might seem only very little, they can be used to understand the filmmakers independent attitude and creativity being reflected. A film can either be truly genuine about its presentation of a plot by being completely different from the influence which can be a novel, or a short story, as in this case. But there can be films which prove to be completely faithful to the source material. Aparna Sens work is nearly faithful to the short story by Kunal Basu, yet she flavors it with her beautiful Bengali touch. This is what is unique about the movie which is a masterpiece in itself. The movie stars Rahul Bose as the protagonist Snehamoy Chatterjee, Chigasu Takaku as Miyage, Raima Sen as Sandhya, Moushmi Chatterjee as Maashi, and Rudranil Ghosh as Fatik. There are several differences in the movie from the short story. In the short story by Kunal Basu, only Snehamoy and Miyage are given names, the other characters are just referred to as the Aunt, the Boy, and the Widow. But in the movie Aparna Sen

provides these characters also with an identity by giving them names. The doing so in the movie is very refreshing and it provides the audience with a chance to better understand all the other characters also. In the film these characters are given the names like Maashi for the Aunt, Sandhya for the widow and Poltu for the boy. This helps us to have an observation of the features of these characters also. While in the short story these characters are very important yet they are not given names. By giving names to these characters Aparna Sen is giving them more importance in the movie. In the short story by Basu the characters Miyage and Snehamoy never talk with each other than through letters which can never carry their voices to each other. In the movie they are seen talking to each other through the telephone. This is not always but only occasionally. Whenever Snehamoy gets enough money, or has saved enough money, he will call Miyage in Japan. This is not seen in the short story. In this case the short story method seems much more romantic as the two lovers are conversing only through letters. This increases the sense of yearning for each other and this also increases the suspense element. With the introducing of telephonic conversations Aparna Sen forsakes this device but helps the audience to better understand the depth of love between the characters in a short period of time in a telephone conversation. In the short story Snehamoy only has a portrait of Miyage made for him which on several occasions is seen made to hang on the wall by the Widow. This is resented by Snehamoy who believes that only the pictures of dead people are to hang on the walls. In the movie Miyage sends her photo to Snehamoy together with a Polaroid

camera, Snehamoy takes his picture and sends it to Miyage. They are seen with the pictures of the other lover throughout the movie on several occasions. This increases the romantic effect of the entire movie. But this also reduces the yearning for each other felt by the lovers which is to be seen in the short story. By seeing the photos they are able to at lest take some consolation for their state of separation, but in the short story the main characters are not even provided with this consolation even. But the effect is heightened and it can be experienced by the readers of the short story. The film uses a lot of flashbacks to narrate the story, but in the short story flashbacks are only a few. This also generates in the audience a sense of watching a movie. While it is easy to read a story which goes from beginning to end without any flashbacks, in a film we audience can always expect flashbacks. While in the movie Snehamoy is seen as a much older man than Miyage, in the short story the age difference is not hinted. This presentation is also a vital difference from the short story. These are only minor instances which might be missed while comparing the short story of Basu with the movie of Aparna Sen, yet these help to understand a filmmakers sensibility in making a movie with his/her own identity being reflected. Some other minor differences include the scenes where Snehamoy buys an exercise book. In the short story while going to the market he buys an exercise book for the boy. In the movie he buys a book for himself so that he can exercise and work out at home. What these subtle changes do is that they completely transform the work by

Aparna Sen into a work of art which is genuine and is not a blind adaptation of another work. The kite scene is important in both the movie and the short story. This important incident is narrated a bit differently by both Kunal Basu and Aparna Sen. In the short story the boy takes the kites, which have been sent to Snehamoy by Miyage from Japan as a gift, from the dark corner of Snehamoys room. He is not scolded by anyone, not even Snehamoy. But in the movie we see that when Poltu takes the kites from the room of Snehamoy his mother Sandhya becomes very upset. We are shown a scene where she severely beats the boy scolding him for such an act. She is stopped by Snehamoy who finds this unnecessary. The widow is seen upset because her son took the things from Snehamoy without permission. This scene and the story in the short story are very important even if they are shown differently. This incident marks the beginning of a strong relationship between the boy and Snehamoy. This incident is indeed vital because Snehamoy begins to notice the boy much more and starts to love him. The treatment of the incident is different by Kunal Basu and Aparna Sen but the message is very clear. In the short story we do not see Snehamoy talking in detail about the widow to Miyage, but in the movie we see him describing in detail to Miyage about the widow Sandhya. This also is a scene where we see him talk about the Indian widow in general. When he talks to Miyage about the widow Sandhya, he also talks about how an Indian widow dresses up and how she behaves to others. This will prove important as in the

ending scene we see a head shaven, white sari wearing Miyage coming to Snehamoys house in the right form of an Indian widow. But these things are not given much consideration in the short story. What the scenes do for the movie is that it helps Aparna Sen to spread a social message also on the topic of the Indian widow. Even after many years of independence Indian society has always been cruel towards the widows. In the short story Basu tells us how the widow had to suffer at the hands of her in laws. Aparna Sen moves further into the topic and tries to make us realize the real hardships of a widow in India. In the movie the character of the widow, Sandhya, is given more focus and attention. This might be because a movie can have much more freedom than a short story and it can focus on minor characters as well. The widow is seen with a small liking towards Snehamoy. This is not told in detail by Kunal Basu in the short story. Sandhya like Snehamoy but being an Indian widow she never shows it out to Snehamoy. In the kite flying scene we can see her look of admiration towards Snehamoy. In the short story also this is narrated but in less detail. The visuals of the movie give this passing reference by Basu a clearer picture. In the short story we can never understand if she loves him or not. Her helpless state is focused in the short story. In both the cases, she is a traditional Indian widow who keeps herself faithful to her dead husband. The helpless state of a widow who has to lead a lonely life throughout her life is expertly shown in both the short story and the movie, but the movie seems to be much more effective with its visuals.

In the short story the preparing of the thread for the kite flying is done by Snehamoys Aunt. This is done by powdering glass pieces and in the short story we are given the instance where she gets injured or cut while making it. The movie is different here and it is Sandhya who prepares the thread for the kites. She is the one who powders the glass pieces and she gets hurt during the process of preparing it. Aparna Sen focuses on the fact that the widow has now become an inseparable part of Snehamoys household and now she is more of a caretaker of the house. She is said to have taken over from Snehamoys Aunt and is now the caretaker of the house. The focus is shifted from Snehamoys Aunt to Sandhya by Aparna Sen. This is also a beautiful representation of a lonely woman who finds a place to stay and to be consoled, who on getting a bit of love and care and transforms into a new person. This is Aparna Sens attitude towards the Indian widow who can become transformed persons on getting love and care. In the movie there is a detailed presentation of the letter writing process between Snehamoy and Miyage. Their faces are focused and Miyage and Snehamoy are shown alternatively writing the letters. In the short story only few pages of the letter are shown to the readers and only passing reference is made on the process of writing letters. But the story is also beautiful in a way. The movie, with the showing of the changing expressions on the faces of the characters, makes it a much more interesting experience. In some of the more minor incidents also we can see the changes brought in by Aparna Sen from the short story by Basu. In one of the scenes in the market where

prostitutes try to tempt Snehamoy we can easily understand the difference between the short story and the movie. In the movie when these women surround Snehamoy at the market he does not take notice, he is seen as very faithful to Miyage and goes away without glancing. In the short story he is also surrounded by such women in the market but he suddenly hears Miyage giggle and he leaves the place. In both the cases the focus of attention is the faithful husband in Snehamoy, who is very loving and caring towards a wife whom he has never talked with personally. He is very faithful and loving to Miyage. This also points towards the Indian marital system which is based upon chastity of both the women and the men. We can also compare the faithfulness of Snehamoy to the faithful and chaste attitude of the widow Sandhya. In the movie we see Snehamoy in a younger age at college and he is seen writing a letter to his pen friend Miyage in Japan. This is also similar to the incident narrated in the short story by Basu, but there are some simple differences between them. In the short story one of his companions steals the letter from Snehamoy and reads it aloud to the other companions and the news of Snehamoy in love with a Japanese woman spreads all around. The companions are seen teasing Snehamoy on the topic of marriage by asking him whether he will marry a Japani or a girl whom his Aunt chooses. In the movie these incidents are not used. When his friends come into the room he stops writing the letter, hides it, lies down and pretends as if he is reading. In the movie we can clearly see that Snehamoy is very poor and Miyage is living a lonely life with her mother in their house in Japan. There are scenes where we can see

her living all alone in her house when her mother dies. Such incidents are not narrated in detail by Kunal Basu in the short story. In the movie when Miyage comes in the form of an Indian widow we see Sandhya directing her to Snehamoys room. In the short story this is not described, only the arrival of Miyage in the form of an Indian widow, head shaven, white sari wearing, is described by Basu. We are also not described if she visits Snehamoys home but we can read that she is on her journey to her husbands home. In the movie Snehamoy is said to have suffered from malaria multiple times but he dies of pneumonia. The getting of the disease, falling ill, and the death of Snehamoy are shown in detail in the movie. There are scenes of the flood and the rain where it is hard to find a doctor for treating him. It is due to this that Snehamoy dies after two days of waiting. In the short story Snehamoy is said to have died of malaria and not pneumonia. He is not described in detail to have caught the disease. In both the cases we see Snehamoy taking leave from the school where he teaches to find cause of Miyages illness. In the movie we are described that Miyage has cancer, but in the short story Kunal Basu only refers to the illness as very serious one. In the movie we can see that when Snehamoy hears about Miyages illness he talks to a Homoeopathy doctor first about her symptoms in detail. He gets to know about the various methods to treat such an illness and he tells these in detail to Miyage. Later when they understand that the illness is cancer, the doctor is seen advising him to go to the town where better treatment methods can be learned. It is while he tries to go to town that he is drenched by rain and catches pneumonia.

In the short story and the movie we are presented with the depth of love of both Snehamoy and Miyage. Snehamoy sacrifices his life itself for a wife whom he scarcely seen. Yet the deep bond of trust between them never changes in degree. This is Aparna Sens description of Indian marital system which, even though has many flaws is also a beautiful one where both the husband and wife remain faithful to one another unlike the European system where there are divorces on minor issues. These are the various differences between the movie and the short story. These differences are only minimal. The movie is a bit more elaborate because it can have more freedom than a short story. Aparna Sen is successful in presenting the short story by Kunal Basu without loosing any of its beauty. Her work is a wonderful one and does full justice to Kunal Basus wonderful short story.