These images of a lost and carefree childhood in her native village in Bangladesh form a recurring theme which captures the homesickness of an exile which Nazreen feels she is in the film Brick Lane. It also symbolizes, along with the letters from her younger sister who has chosen her own life, her yearning for freedom from an imprisoned womanhood which has been conditioned to accept fate and endure.
The film, based on the novel by Monica Ali, tells the story of Nazreen, a girl from a village in Bangladesh who is married off at the age of seventeen to a much older man and goes off to live with him at Brick Lane in London. She is now a mother of two teenaged daughters, locked in a loveless marriage with a pompous man who takes his male superiority as well as his position as a husband and a father for granted and is totally insensitive to the feelings of either his wife or daughters. Nazreen lives the life of a housewife totally subservient to the needs and whims of her husband.
Into her life comes an opportunity. To earn on her own by sewing jeans, and also comes Karim, the young man who brought her work and then love. We notice her slow transformation into a new woman. The docile silent Nazreen, who never used to go out of her home except for shopping, gradually finds her feet, refuses Karim’s proposal of marriage and stands up to the old woman, the money lender, who was fleecing the family. And finally, she talks back to her husband of twenty years and refuses to go back to Bangladesh with him preferring to stay instead at Brick lane with her daughters.
She rediscovers herself and emerges from the shackles of the past.
The film’s movement is subtle and never forced. Never melodramatic. It uses narration at times to supplement the limited dialogue which accentuates Nazreen’s silence and the emptiness of her life. Tannistha Chatterjee’s portrayal of Nazreen is simply superb. She has acted through her very expressive eyes. One jarring note I feel is the character of Charu, which could have been less of a caricature though Satish Kaushik did his job well.
I liked the film, but I was wondering about the coincidence. A similar village or a village-like small town in Bangladesh (then East Bengal ) was in my mental landscape when I wrote the last post and this film came along.