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New film probes Indian-Japanese romance

A new Indian film about a long-distance romance between a teacher in the world’s largest tiger reserve and his lover in Japan will examine whether relationships can triumph over cultural and geographic barriers.

“The Japanese Wife”, being made by Aparna Sen, one of India’s top arthouse filmmakers, is the latest in a trend to showcase the lives and emotions of ordinary people in contrast to Bollywood’s traditional offerings of fluffy romances or violent dramas.

“‘The Japanese Wife’ tells what the human mind is capable of if two individuals are devoted to a relationship,” Sen, an actor-turned-director, told Reuters while shooting in the eastern city of Kolkata.

The film revolves around a school teacher in Sunderbans, the world’s largest tiger reserve located south of Kolkata, who has a Japanese pen pal who he falls in love with.

The Bengali-speaking teacher consults a dictionary to write letters to her in English and she looks up words in a Japanese-English dictionary to reply. The duo even exchange wedding vows and gifts but never meet for 15 years.

The film stars Bollywood actors Rahul Bose, Moushumi Chatterjee and Raima Sen and Japanese actress Chigusa Takaku.

“You keep hearing about a breakdown of moral values or domestic violence, but this film will be simple, funny and refreshing, where the two central characters remain committed to this unique relationship,” Sen said.

Sen, 61, started as a teenage actor and switched to film-making in 1981, beginning a new career as an award-winning director with “36 Chowringhee Lane”.

“The Japanese Wife” is based on author Kunal Basu’s unpublished story of the same name.

“I was discussing another script with Kunal when he casually told me the story of his book and I immediately fell in love with it,” Sen said.

Portions of the film have already been shot in the Japanese cities of Yokohoma and Tsusukuba and the rest is being shot in Sunderbans and Kolkata. Sen said she was hoping for a worldwide release by the end of this year.

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