Abhishek K. Venkitaraman
One fine day, I happened to listen to a fine Bengali song “Preme pora baron”! Being a music lover, the song is still stuck in my heart and mind. One thing led to another, and I watched this beautiful tale of a girl called Tuku. I watched this movie without any expectations, but man, the movie truly exceeded my expectations. Bengal has always been a torchbearer when it comes to progressive and offbeat cinema and stories. Be it Rabindranath Tagore’s “Streer patra” or Rituparno Ghosh’s “Antarmahal”. Each story is unique in its own sense and Sweater is no different. Depending upon your perspective, you may find Sweater either regressive or extremely liberating or just a chapter from someone’s life. It could be your friend whom you have known since childhood or a stranger. Sweater is based on Wool Kaanta by Joeta Sengupta.
Story & screenplay
Tuku(Ishaa Saha) is a simple, timid girl whose parents are worried because she doesn’t have any ‘qualities’ and they are unable to find a proper match for her. Her rebellious sister Sree(Anuradha Mukherjee), on the other hand, is a total contrast to her. Tuku also has a dominating boyfriend Pablo(Saurav Das), who is a carefree guy wanting to just live a carefree life. Each time Tuku faces a rejection, she just loses more confidence. However, things are about to change. One day, a family comes to see Tuku and her would be mother-in-law places a condition that she has to be an expert in knitting and must knit a sweater identical to the one she gives Tuku, by the end of a month. Tuku is sent to her aunt’s house to learn this art. What happens next? Is Tuku able to learn this art or is it a failed pursuit? The story sounds sexist, and it is to some extent, but eventually its about a simple girl finding confidence to believe in herself. The movie has a runtime of just 118 minutes and for people who love “slice of life” cinema, it’s a treat.
Direction, Cinematography & Music
Shot in beautiful hill stations, the movie is a delight to the senses. The cinematographer has truly done a commendable job in capturing the local nuances of a family residing in hills. The camera focuses right where it’s needed at the right time. It seems like a deliberate decision to set this movie in a hill station since it adds a certain character to the story. It seems as if like Tuku’s life, there is no warmth in the hills as well. Director Shieladitya is a master of his craft, and it reflects in his movie. Director gives us a relatable protagonist. Tuku is you and me, who are unsure of their abilities and always need external validation. The movie manages to capture the pent-up emotions of daughters in a patriarchal family with ease.
Clearly, music is the best part of this movie. “Preme Pora Baron” has almost become a classic. Apart from that, “Era Sukher Lagi” has a happy ring to it. Sweater rides solely on emotions and the music is never a hindrance to the story.
Ishaa Saha is clearly the lifeline of this movie. Her earnest performance and her scenes are what saves this movie from faltering in places. The transition from a shy, timid girl to a girl who is not willing to listen to the world dictate her terms and conditions, is portrayed brilliantly. Although, it might seem hasty. The supporting cast of Anuradha Mukherjee as Tuku’s sister is honest. Kharaj Mukherjee (you might remember him from Kahaani) is every father ever in a middle-class family. The rest of the supporting cast does best with whatever scenes they are given.
Middle class parents worrying about a young daughter’s marriage is not a new trope in Indian cinema, yet this time, it’s a bit different. A talentless daughter being always compared to her more accomplished sister, an anxious mother who sometimes seems like she is worried for nothing, a father who is in a simple job, all these elements make up for a good story. As I said earlier, you can hard relate with Tuku. Tuku is you and me. Why do we need an external validation regardless of whether we possess any real talents? And why must we? Maybe we are conditioned to do so by societal norms. Unless someone else praises you for your achievements, you really don’t feel confident. Does this have an impact on your mental health and overall self-respect? Yes. Well, credit must be given where it is due. Despite some logical fallacies, the movie surprisingly worked for me. Sometimes, I did feel that the movie tries to capture way more characters than its running time permits. Its as if Tuku’s conflict is resolved too soon when the audiences are ready to invest themselves for another half an hour. Tuku can be seen as a strong social commentary on the Indian marriage system and how the “arranged marriage” setups can severely impact women. Women are just seen as “trophy wives” who must have all the possible talents and accomplishments, yet they must marry a man chosen by their parents. It can also be seen as a lesson to Indian parents on what not to do even if they are going for an arranged marriage. External validation shouldn’t dictate on the amount of confidence one has. Its 2022 and the sad thing is that we still need movies like Sweater to educate people, because clearly, these things are still happening, and the society hasn’t changed. It is the same old story in middle class households who raise a daughter hoping that one day, someone ‘suitable’ would take her away. ‘A Suitable Boy’. One wonders after watching this movie that why are we still okay with such a system?
It is Ishaa Saha who carries the weight of the movie on her shoulders, and you can easily fall in love with her character. She manages to draw a sense of empathy from the audience which is a rare feat to achieve.
You can watch Sweater on Hotstar. Do watch it, there is so much to love in this simple story of Tuku.
Disclaimer: The above review solely illustrates the views of the writer.