Arranged marriages are almost always compromised arrangements. They require tremendous compromises and determination on the part of the less disgruntled partner in a marriage. We saw two empathetic male spouses played by Ajay Devgn and Shahrukh Khan Khan in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, respectively.
In Brick Lane, Satish Kaushik portrays with bridled gusto an ungainly Bangladeshi in the crowded community-driven Asian side of London, trying to cope with a hostile country and work- place, and a long-standing largely-silent wife at home who does not quite hate her overweight unromantic husband.
She just lives in a realm of alternate reality where she thinks love romance and heightened passion are matters tucked away in an unattainable corner of her heart. The wife Nazneen's giddy-headed letters from her sister back home in Bangladesh don't help her much in preserving her bearings within her four walls in claustrophobic London where her two daughters are meant to define her existence.
Director Sarah Gavron is wonderfully apt in projecting bottled passion whose fumes and aroma are just waiting to escape into the wide open fields of a Bangladeshi village where Nazneen lost her childhood dreams.
The narrative is miraculously non-judgemental about Nazneen's arid but not wretched existence in London and her husband Chanu Ahmed's pathetic inept attempts to keep home heart wife and daughters joined at the hip.
Brick Lane makes deft use of closed spaces in Nazneen's home and heart as opposed to the wide open fields that she dreams about. The inevitable infidelity, when it happens, is neither shocking nor lurid, just lustful and tragic.
Nazneen's temptation is a young libidinous Muslim guy (played convincingly by British actor Christopher Simpson). She tucks into him with the gleeful gluttony of a child left alone at home with a box of chocolates. The unlikely pair gets seriously torrid in every conceivable corner of the narrative.
The cliches in the plot about a lonely female emigre and her boorish but kind husband are negotiated with much dignity and some grace. The virtues of Brick Lane reside in the film's understated charm. Gavron states with transparent directness simple home truths about Asian housewives who lock away their desires for the sake of a settled life in a staid marriage.
Satish Kaushik plays the cuckolded husband (not for the first time) with empathy warmth and compassion. As for Tannishtha Chatterjee she brings vital and tragic grandeur to her part of the dissatisfied wife. At times she exudes the earthy elegance of Smita Patil. The two performances and the director's proclivity to make the inherently banal incidents seem far more virginal than they actually are, make Brick Lane a film worth a look.