Monday, October 22

Film: Brick Lane Click for more info

It goes without saying that if I hadn't been invited to this sneak preview by a friend I probably wouldn't have seen Brick Lane at all, ever. And I know how hypocritical I am being in this case by judging a book I've not yet read by its cover, but then we all have hunches for a reason. I feel giving the film adaptation a chance is a good enough compromise though.

And my hunch about Brick Lane did hold in part. Terribly cliched and telling a story that's been done to death for the last ten years or so, we are told the story about yet another deceptively weak Asian woman, married to her repressive husband at a young age, finally breaking free by having an affair and tasting real love and then realising what is actually important in life. Blah blah blah. There are no surprises in this film, but hey, at least her lover isn't a white guy this time.

So no, no points for an original plot then, but then there's more to a film than just its story. Tannishtha Chatterjee does a brilliant job as our protagonist, Nazneen, with the remaining casting and production values as a whole pretty top notch; the makers of the film generally do a good job in condensing a 500-page novel to just one and a half hours. There are also rare moments of pure genius and joy, each touching and engaging in their own right - especially when I found myself reflecting on them while walking up the actual real life Brick Lane thirty minutes after the film ended. Unfortunately there just isn't enough of these moments to carry the film through as a whole.

So it's not a flick I can unconditionally recommend unless you already know you want to see it - Brick Lane does exactly what it says on the tin. But I don't regret going to watch it, if only to see what the media fuss was all about. And with respect to that, I'd say that the criticism has been largely unjustified and so perhaps the only really interesting aspect of this film at all.


  1. hmm, i wasnt bowled over by her book, not in the least. but i do intend on seeing this one just to see how it plays out on reel.

  2. Made a long comment yday but it never posted!!

    Here I go again...

    I thought Chanu was the more interesting character in the book and would have been one on screen too? How was he played? Also how was the sister's relationship portrayed? Was it done through voice overs and letters only or do we get to see her in a Bangaldeshi setting?

    The problem with the book is it needn't be called Brick Lane because it bears little resemblance to the poeple who live there - each person has a different story to tell and they all differ quite considerably. What Ali does is makes this the front line study of the immigrants who live in Brick Lane. And it is a book obviously used as a marketing strategy because nothing sounds as 'ethnic' as Brick Lane.

    But anyhoo, will I get a reply to my Qs?

  3. Saw this last night at a screening at the ICA which was preceeded by a Q&A session with Hanif Kureishi (hilarious) and Monica Ali (dull).

    I have to say I had SUCH problems with the book (mainly with the 'broken' english letters from Bangladesh) that I couldn't finish it.

    I always found the affair between Nazneen and Karim hard to believe, and still do. And that's even more the case in the movie. And having the "beautiful" Nazneen (see for the use of the word "beautiful, and yes Tannistha Chattarjee is very attractive, even more so in real life I thought - she was at the screening yesterday) married to the overweight, bufoonish, poorly-dressed Channu is just a bit too easy. Made all the worse by having Karim played by a hot young thing.

    And yet, and yet and yet...

    First thing, no 'broken' English with regards to the letters from Bangladesh. Praise the Lord!!!

    And then there's Channu. Comedy character they might have tried to make him, yet although this was the story of Nazneen, Channu's was the character with the most depth. And it was Satish Kaushik rather than Tannistha Chatterjee who was, in my opinion, the star of the movie. Micro-acting (not sure what to call it, but it's when it's the barest outward changes portraying more on the inside) is difficult, bloody difficult. The late Paul Eddington was a master at it, Chatterjee on the other hand isn't. Nazneen came off to me as just being dull. Channu on the the other hand was fantastic. No ogre he, but a dreamer, an idealist, and a man unequipped to deal with the harshness of the modern world, and a man constrained (as most of us, and I don't mean just Asians) by his culture, yet a man who, in his own way, loves both his wife and his daughters, and who has suffered to provide for them. Or rather attempt to provide for them!

    Ultimately a movie about love. The love between two sisters and the lies one tells the other as she is either not willing or able to tell the truth about her life. Passionate, intoxicating love between a man and a woman that burns brightly and then dies. (Although the end of the relationship between Nazneen and Karim wasn't dealt with at all convincingly.) And a slower, more subtle love, but perhaps a more important love, between Nazneed and Channu.

    There were of course, minor things that bugged me quite a bit -- for example the indecision as to whether to use Sylheti or Shodha Bangla when reading out the letters (before the English kicks in) and Chris Simpson's awful accent!

    But in the final reckoning, I'm actually going to recommend this to others.