The film premiered at the Locarno International Film Festival, Switzerland among other prominent film festivals. It ran for 3 minutes longer than its runtime of 120 minutes at Locarno while the last minutes were the round of applauses. The director used a musical piece at the end part of the movie which was a unique experience for the audience. The film 'Mr and Mrs Iyer' was critically acclaimed worldwide and also won several national and international awards.
Synopsis of 'Mr. and Mrs. Iyer'
The film 'Mr. and Mrs. Iyer' begins with an audio-visual collage of news reports of wars in the contemporary world. News from all major incidents related to violence and murder flashes across the screen.
The Iyer parents get ready to drop Meenakshi S. Iyer played by Konkona Sen Sharma at the bus station. She is a conservative, Tamilian Brahmin who has a sweet little son. Meenakshi and Raja Chowdhury played by Rahul Bose get introduced to each other through a common friend. It happened just they were about to start their journey. Raja, a Muslim wildlife photographer, is requested by Meenakshi's parents to look after their daughter and grandson named Santhanam.
In the opening scenes the viewer is introduced to the occupants of the bus. The varied passengers include highly enthusiastic teenagers who were singing all through the way, an elderly Muslim couple, a couple of Sikh gentlemen, a grouchy woman, a retarded boy and his mother, some card-playing drunkards, and a young couple high on romance. The bus suggests a mini India. While the bus negotiates the hilly terrain, Meenakshi is forced to interact with Raja in order to pacify the baby. The other passengers assume that they are a happy couple. The bus faces a roadblock and the bus driver attempts another route by a river. When they are stopped by a queue of paused vehicles, rumors of some accident ahead spread among the passengers. When the rumors stop, it becomes evident that Hindu mobs are rampaging against Muslims after a Hindu village was burnt down.
As a matter of fact a Muslim has been murdered by a Hindu because of old debts that have yet to be settled. This incident triggers large-scale communal violence and this riot eventually trickles down to the bus.
The situation goes even worst when police arrive and announce to all those stranded that curfew has been imposed and all of them are ordered back to their vehicles. Here is where Raja reveals his Muslim identity to Meenakshi. Meenakshi was coming from a conservative Brahman family and so she was very shocked about the fact. After the police exit to scout other areas, one such Hindu mob arrives and enters the bus. They begins interrogating passengers about their identities and when in doubt of a passenger's religious identity, they even check for his circumcision. In self-protection, a Jew played by Anjan Dutta points at the old Muslim couple to deviate the mob's attention from him. The leader drags the old man and his wife out of the bus. When one teenager resists this, she is thrashed by the leader. Raja attempts to rise in revolt, but Meenakshi soon plants Santhanam on his lap ordering him to hold Santhanam with an intent to shield Raja's Muslim identity. When asked about their identities, she tells the leader that Raja and she are Mr. and Mrs. Iyer. Despite her initial misgivings about the 'Muslim', Meenakshi passes him off as her husband, Mr. Iyer, and essentially saves him from death. At this point, she does this with a view to her own safety. Raja has been very helpful all along helping Meenakshi with her baby and looking out for her needs.
After this encounter, the passengers spend the night in the bus. In the morning, all the passengers trek to the nearby village to seek for a place to stay. When Mr. and Mrs. Iyer fail to get any shelter for them, a police officer played by Bharat Kaul bails them out by providing shelter at an abandoned forest bungalow. At the time staying at this bungalow, they discover each other's beliefs and understanding of religion. For the next hour the film shows some strange bonding between the two and it also captures some good moments with the baby. Raja starts growing attraction towards the family.
Though young and well-educated, they differ in their opinions. While Meenakshi curses herself for coming along with a stranger, Raja allows her the comfort of the only bedroom and prefers to sleep outside. The next morning when Meenakshi does not find Raja, she gets worried and angry as to why he left them in such a place. She feels highly relieved when she finds him sleeping outside. While they head to a restaurant in the village, they meet the police officer who volunteers to help them transport them to the city the next morning. That night when they both see a horrific murder by one of the mobs, a shocked Meenakshi is comforted by Raja. Once in the city, they board the train to their destination. An unspoken love and a strong attraction are evident between them keeping behind all their differences. After reaching their destination and the real Mr. Iyer is introduced, Meenakshi comes to reality and feels the pain of getting apart from raja. She feels an extra-ordinary attraction for Raja and her expressive eyes transfers this to the concerned person as well. Raja and Meenakshi greeted an emotional farewell to each other.
Cast and Crew of 'Mr. and Mrs. Iyer'
Music is given by Indian Tabla player Zakir Hussain The star cast of the Indian film 'Mr. And Mrs. Iyer' includes Konkona Sen Sharma, Rahul Bose, Bhisham Sahni, Surekha Sikri, Sunil Mukherjee, Anjan Dutta, Esha Chauhan, Vijaya Subramanium, A. V. Iyengar, and Niharika Seth in its important roles. The film is directed by Aparna Sen while it is produced by Aparna Sen and Dulal Dey. Music is given by Indian Tabla player Zakir Hussain while the prominent Bengali film director Gautam Ghosh did the cinematography in the film.
Awards for 'Mr. and Mrs. Iyer'
The Indian film 'Mr. And Mrs. Iyer' was chosen as India's official entry at the Locarno International Film Festival. The film won the Netpac Jury Prize along with two other films. The film won the most-prized Golden Maile award at the 22nd Hawaii International Film Festival and the Audience Award for the Best Feature Film at the Philadelphia Film Festival. 'Mr. And Mrs. Iyer' also won the best screenplay award at the 2003 Cinemanila International Film Festival.
In 2003, the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles chose to open its fest with Mr. and Mrs. Iyer, while New Zealand's first Asian film festival in 2004 chose to close its 10-day fest with the same film. The India International Women's Film Festival had a special retrospective to director Aparna Sen for Mr. and Mrs. Iyer. At the International Film Festival of Las Palmas, it won the Gold prize for being the Best Film. Rahul Bose told that the film, which was showcased at the Geneva festival, was liked by Kofi Annan, a former United Nations Secretary-General.Back home in India, it won the Golden Lotus Award for best direction, Silver Lotus Awards for best actress and best screenplay and the best feature film on national integration at the 2003 National Film Awards ceremony.