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Leila , a random pick in the video store turned out to be a gem. Directed by Dariush Mehruji , the story revolves around Leila, living in modern day Tehran, with her husband Reza. Newlywed and very happy till the couple discover that Leila is infertile at which point her mother-in-law starts pressuring Leila to let her husband Reza, take a second wife. Reza is opposed to the idea, and tries to convinve Leila that he is in love with her and can do with without a child. But Leila, under the constant pressure of her mother-in-law and gives in to the idea of her husband meeting poential brides. Given that they are partners in everything, Leila accompanies Reza on his trips to meet these potential second wives. There are some comic moments, when on the way back from the meetings Leila and Reza rip these women apart. But finally, one one of those trips, Reza confesses that the woman was pretty, nice and hard to make fun. It is at this point that Leila’s world starts coming apart. SHe discovers she cannot handle sharing Reza after all…
Leila is portrayed with a dignity and beauty which was very touching. Her quiet acceptance of what is coming, and her efforts to convice herself that she could actually stand sharing her husband reminded me of the quiet desperation that I have sometimes seen in Indian women. Dfferent situations, but the same underlying story. Faced with a Leila in real life, I would have been frustrated, depressed and angry. Why not protest, why accept this? You are educated, you know your rights, I would have argued. Watching it unfold on celluloid was moving. And I found myself strangely empathetic, and understanding of why she went along.
I am going to try to watch other movies by Dariush Mehrjui. ANother director on my horizon is Rakhshan Bani-Etemad . Here is a description of her three most well-known movies from a website on Iranian Media.
… In NARGESS, she pushes censorship codes to the limits, questioning the mores of society.. It is a film about two women from different backgrounds and ages, involved with the same man, a film about man/ woman and woman/ woman relationship in modern, yet traditional islamic society. THE BLUE VEILED, is about the forbidden love between an elderly man of means and a strong-headed young working class woman, who refuses to know “her place”. THE MAY LADY is about the tribulations of a 42 year old film director and divorce