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Aishwarya Rai and Ajay Devgan star in “Raincoat.”
Bollywood Watch
By Shephali J. Rele

Bollywood | Bollywood Preview

In case you missed it, worth a look: RAINCOAT

Just into the first 10 minutes of “Raincoat” by Rituparno Ghosh, I knew I would be watching an emotional, engaging story. If you are looking for a mind-numbing masala flick, this one’s not it. But nevertheless, this film is certainly worth a look.

“Raincoat” (2004): Directed by Rituparno Ghosh. Starring Ajay Devgan, Aishwarya Rai and Annu Kapoor.

The closing titles of “Raincoat” credit the gifted short story writer and master of surprise endings O. Henry. Director Ghosh creates movie magic with this seemingly simple story inspired by the genre of this renowned American writer.

The storyline revolves around an afternoon meeting between two childhood sweethearts who haven’t seen each other in years. Manoj (Ajay Devgan) is a young man out of a job and in dire need of money to start his business. He comes to Calcutta to gather funds from former college classmates and also find his now-married lost love Niru (Aishwarya Rai). Manoj stays with a former college roommate and his wife (Sameer Dharmadhikari and Mouli Ganguly – some of you may recognize Ganguly from recent Indian television serials). These supporting characters deftly set the stage as the story unfolds. Ganguly especially excels in her touching scenes with Manoj.

On a rainy afternoon, wearing a borrowed raincoat, Manoj finds Niru’s house. Neither are as they once were. After hearing about Niru’s affluent marital bliss, Manoj lies about his reason for being in Calcutta and describes a non-existent successful career. But circumstances are not as they appear. As the afternoon continues, the truth comes clear for Manoj after the landlord played by Annu Kapoor enters the scene. Without giving too much away, let me say the verbal interactions between Manoj and Niru are the heart of the drama and this film truly unfolds as a clever play.

Both lead actors are required to give layered performances, one for the camera and another for each other. Ajay Devgan doesn’t disappoint in this consummate portrayal of pain, frustration and love. Director Ghosh also succeeds in extracting a noteworthy performance from Aishwarya Rai. She plays her part of a bored housewife with perfect poise and her expressions are splendidly conveyed with conviction.

“Raincoat” gives the Hindi cinema audience a nowadays-rare opportunity to experience an original story supported by realistic performances and presented by a stylistic director who recognizes an intelligent audience. A final mention must be made on the musical score by Debojyoti Mishra. Be sure to check out the soundtrack to savor the vocals of Shubha Mudgal.

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