Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Brick Lane BENGALI

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Arranged Marriage at Center of Cross-Cultural Drama Set in London

Homely Nazneen (Tannishtha Chatterjee) grew up in Bangladesh experiencing nothing but contentment in her village until the day her parents arranged for her to marry Chanu Ahmed (Satish Kaushik), a man older enough to be her father. But worse than their age difference was the fact that her Bengali hubby-to-be lived in London, and planned to force his young bride to move there and to adapt to a culture with which she was totally unfamiliar.
Even though she’d miss her family, especially her sister and confidante, Hasina (Zafreen), Nazneen complies out of a sense of religious duty. Afterall, she was raised in a strict Muslim environment where women were taught not to question. But despite having the best of intentions to adapt to England and her domineering husband, after wasting 16 years in a loveless marriage she finally gets fed up with being trapped in an East End flat with an insufferable fatso.
By then, she has a couple of equally-discontented daughters (Naeema Begum and Lana Rahman) who infuriate their dad by adopting Western ways like surfing the internet. Their complaints (“I didn’t ask to be born here!”) fall on his deaf ears, and don’t prevent their sexually-frustrated mom from entertaining the overtures of Karim (Christopher Simpson), a strapping, young hunk who happens to be a religious fanatic with an urgent political agenda.
So unfolds Brick Lane, a cross-cultural cautionary tale, set in the Eighties, which warns of the pitfalls of settling for a soul-strangling relationship. Based on the Monica Ali best seller of the same name, the movie is likely to resonate best with closet feminists inclined to question the constraints of orthodox Islam.
A fascinating character study offering insight into a pressing issue, but unfortunately also the sort of empowerment flick that could get a fatwa issued against Sarah Gavron, the intrepid director daring enough to make the picture.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for profanity and sexuality.
Running time: 101 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures Classics

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