London Indian Film Festival - Labour of Love (Asha Jaoar Majhe) Review
It is easy to get caught up in the day to day, going through habitual motions without noticing your surroundings. It is just as easy to take those surrounding you for granted.
With Labour of Love (Asha Jaoar Majhe), first-time director Aditya Vikram Sengupta explores these themes by painting an intimate portrait of a day in the life of a married couple in Calcutta. There is, however, a twist: the pair work in shifts, the wife (Basabdutta Chatterjee) during the day at an accessories manufacturer, and the husband (Ritwick Chakraborty) at night in a printing press. Each morning, the two only share a handful of minutes together, before one must leave for work.
The film endeavours to portray the love the couple have for each other through mute, mundane actions, such as getting the groceries at the market, doing the washing, cooking, and making a phone call. Outside of work, each lives through their loneliness while complementing the domestic routines of the other. Chakraborty and Chatterjee both give spectacular performances. In a feature nearly devoid of dialogue, their expressions are powerfully evocative, both effortlessly crafting wonderful moments of humour and picturing the profundity of their mutual affection. Chakraborty’s face radiates pure and genuine joy as he arrives home, while Chatterjee’s precise, elegant hand gestures bring her scenes to life.
The film’s photography and direction is brilliant. Sengupta finds beautiful angles in every instant of the every day. Cooking, cleaning, even walking down a staircase is all transformed into poetry. The sequence during which the wife puts away the groceries becomes one the most striking moments of the film. The soundtrack, a blend of street noise and music, sustain the presence of the city in an otherwise closed, personal environment. There is a backdrop of economic hardship, voiced by protesters, but these seem to have no impact on the subjects of the director’s study.
The woman bears the brunt of the household chores, however, and so while the premise of voiceless affection is interesting, its balance is too uneven to completely work. Sengupta also occasionally falters by lingering too long on uninteresting shots - he seems particularly fond of filming walls. At other rare times, he misses the mark and focuses on uninspiring details.
Labour of Love is a beautiful film, made on an extraordinarily tight budget of £20,000. It falls somewhere between a visual poem and an art installation. A homage to the quiet beauty of daily life and the unspoken, yet strong love of a young couple, it’s a raw, aesthetic watch.
Labour of Love won best Debut Director in the Venice Days in 2014 and received an Honourable Mention at the BFI London Film Festival.