Puducherry

Prataya Saha's 'The Good Wife': The long and short of patriarchy

'The Good Wife', a multiple award winning short film was screened recently at Auroville's Cinema Paradiso.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

A woman covering her face with a saree pallu (loose end of the saree) scurries through narrow bylanes of Kolkata, defying a riot-induced curfew, in search of fish to cook her husband’s favourite meal, for it is their wedding anniversary — this is the opening shot of the short film, The Good Wife, by independent film-maker Prataya Saha.

The film, set in 1992 Kolkata, was screened last week at Auroville’s Cinema Paradiso.

The first few scenes quickly establish the protagonist’s character as a stereotypical wife of the 1990s — eager to please the husband, leads a life of sacrifice and subjugation under an abusive, alcoholic husband.

Through a series of quick cuts and carefully crafted sound design — music on the radio, the ticking of a pendulum clock and the scraping of utensils — the film takes viewers on a journey into a day in the life of ‘the good wife’.

For the most part, the film delves on the woman’s uncomplaining acceptance of her life, shown through fleeting thoughts of emptiness that cross her mind. After devoting herself to serving her husband, cooking his favourite meals, eating from leftovers, she wonders why he doesn’t so much as glance at her with an iota of love.

“Whose fragrance do you carry”, she helplessly asks while washing his shirt one day, to a whiff of unfamiliar perfume.

The film ends in a decisive act of rebellion by the protagonist against her husband, portrayed more as an embodiment of patriarchy than a mere character.

The 17-minute film, from the stable of Bengaluru-based Red Polka Productions founded by Anshulika Kapoor who also plays the lead character, has been on an awards-winning spree.

It has so far won 12 awards globally and has been selected for over 20 international film festivals. The film has also been exclusively curated by various platforms, most notably by SRFTI, Kolkata.

The short has won best film awards in Chicago and Toronto, a slew of awards at the Vipra International Film Festival in Kochi, and the best actress award at Continental Film Festival, Toronto. More recently, it won the jury award for best film at Chennai International Short Film Festival.

“That the film still speaks to audiences across geographies is an eye-opener really and attests to the fact that the plight of women trapped in abusive marriages is universally relatable,” said Mr. Saha.

Prataya Saha, director of the film ‘A Good Wife’.

Prataya Saha, director of the film ‘A Good Wife’.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

“In the contemporary world perhaps, a woman might have alternative choices to get out of an abusive relationship. But, in those times (the 1990s), women suffered silently for the sake of family honour, lacked confidantes and were socially conditioned to remain in abusive relationships,” said the film-maker, who derived inspiration for the movie from a traumatic marital relationship of an aunt.

This is as much a story of a woman’s realisation that her love for her husband is the outcome of years of social conditioning, as a tribute to her immense inner power. “Maybe not the power or strength with chest thumping, typical of toxic masculinity, but a more subtler, inner feminine strength”.

“We not only transport the audience visually to an era from 25 years ago, but also retrospectively throw light on how little (or how much) has changed over the last two-and-a-half decades in the lives of these seemingly ‘good wives’,” he said.

The short film’s sound design/music is by Sandeep Sugunan and editing by Raihan Siddique.

Prataya Saha has several short films and a play — Chitraa, a Rabindranath Tagore adaptation — to his credit. He said the The Good Wife is the breakthrough in his career. In the vein of exploring socio-political issues, he is now working on a film that deals with water scarcity crisis “as seen through the eyes of a child” and another film, titled Newly Weds, which tackles the fading out of interpersonal communication in the new age.

“This is a great time for independent cinema. There is a proliferation of video-delivery platforms and digital devices creating new commercial value for content. And, the shorter the better, given how much attention spans have shrunk”, he said.


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Printable version | Jan 26, 2022 1:16:36 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/the-good-wife-addresses-the-long-and-short-of-patriarchy/article31076414.ece

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