The affair of The Affair

Joshua Jackson, Maura Tierney, Dominic West and Ruth Wilson in The Affair (2014)

(Saturdays 10-11 pm, FX HD)   Tata Sky

*ing: Ruth Wilson (Alison Lockhart); Dominic West (Noah Solloway; Maura Tierney (Helen Solloway); Joshua Jackson (Cole Lockhart)


So I began The Affair a couple of months back, just by chance. It wasn’t as if someone had told me about it, or that it had been highly recommended. I think it was the name (got to give it the credit due) and the music, the song sung by Fiona Apple,that held me captive within a beat of it. The incredible thrust of her voice just rips through the screen- the pulsating vibes accompanied by the visuals- the sand that’s just beyond your grasp, the small, delicate feet and the waters above all. I was taken. Then began my relationship with the actors, or those chosen to play their parts; striking faces that emote effortlessly, is this a reality show? Are these people actually ‘playing’ their parts? They are living them, highest accolade for actors per se-yet having an affair, and getting paid for it, shouldn’t be a difficult task. But for me this show became so real in its first episode that I started living it. I was Noah, and then I was Alison, then I was Noah, then I was Alison- episode after episode. We are talking Season 1.

The Affair is very subtle, and then very in your face, bam! You are asking yourself all sorts of contradictory questions as you watch. It’s got it all- the rich inlaws, the frustration of a writer who is also a professor- but his writing’s not quite matching the money-making skills of his father-in-law’s; a wife who loves him and has borne him not one, not two but four kids; the errant teenage daughter, the young son who hates his dad for the affair; the angry husband, a small town on the outskirts of New York called Montauk, the big, bad city New York and you have a winner, albeit a slow winner, and is one only if you’re willing to wait, watch and take your time.

Some thoughts that came at me :

  1. How selfish can a man with four children be- how could he allow himself to be pulled into this ‘thing’ he has for this rather young woman? It’s just lust. Why would he put his age-old marriage into jeopardy! It’ll be over before you know it Noah- how utterly self-absorbed! Why now?
  1. Do these things happen in real life- a waitress, who barely reads anything, and a writer, good-looking, rich by wife and four kids!!!? Come on, you’re having me on.
  1. Not believable – the husband, Alison’s Cole, is barely there in her picture after they lose Gabriel, their child, although they share a life of sorts. But when Alison leaves him for Noah, he’s devastated. What is it they had anyway for him to be so shocked and dismayed! Just that he would have never ever thought Alison was capable of it, given her dark binges and her need to be alone in her gloom.
  1. Yes, it can happen- you can get disillusioned after 18 years of marriage, you can fall in love just like that. People draw you. People can draw you out. Yes, Noah and Alison’s affair can happen, it is happening.
  1. How do you survive a child dying- secondary drowning because you didn’t think it could happen and take him home to bed. The guilt Alison lives with is real. Her mother-in-law blaming her, in a moment of complete meanness is also real. It stays with you too, like with Alison, it never lets up.
  1. Will Alison move in with Noah knowing what’s at stake? Do you want her to?

What really, really works for this series of The Affair are the following features, imperative yet imperceptible :

  • The affair itself of course!
  • the actors chosen to play the chief characters of Noah, Alison, Cole and Helen.
  • the very fact that all of us have hidden darkness’ inside of us, and it takes others’ darkness to tap it and harness it and transform it, while succumbing to theirs.
  • the locales tie in beautifully with the music
  • the music moves with the locales and haunts you
  • the closeups for sure; every rut, every crevice, every pinch, every moment is held up close to your heart- and you breathe it.
  • the writing- the screenplay. The dialogues are sharp when required and mellow, when required. The screen lights up at twilight, or is somber in the daytime.
  • One feels one’s mood altered after an episode and you carry the play with you, be it anxiety, hope, fear or simply Noah and Alison, and their love affair.
  • Above all, the different perspectives of each actor (season 2 takes on Cole’s and Helen’s as well) is a brilliant tool to get us hooked. As a viewer it’s the thing that resonated with me instantly and got me hooked.

An hour long episode is pretty much enough fodder for one’s soul and for the week. By the time the following episode is aired, you are just about ready to take it on, and make your place in the sofa, or bed, to ensure undisturbed viewing.

Danger you face, none dare enter the space that is created like a cocoon- casting a spell upon you and the maddeningly brilliant cast.

Watch it!


Bhabhiji Me

In a new Avatar i suddenly find myself being addressed as ‘Bhabhi ji’ (sis in law), her role notwithstanding, and a moniker i’ve yearned for, the gleam of it, not wasted on me for sure. I have a spouse with no sis, no bro, and to top it he’s a Madrasi (you know Tam Brahm and all that), so i was and am always ‘manni’ to his cousins. I don’t mind, i’ve never really minded being called anything, but having heard and seen Bhabhi ji in movies, and having been fed on a worthy diet of Hindi movies, i wanted also to be seen and heard wearing this name tag. Essentially living in the northern regions of India, it’s a term that’s easier to relate to. It is one shrouded in mysterious affection- one that spelt – Man, she’s so lovely and so affectionate, all for family ties, she’s the one who ties it all together seamlessly; she oozes goodwill, she tolerates nonsense and yet never ever stoops to the level of the motherinlaw; one can count on her to sing at festivals, to dance flawlessly on any given occasion, if required, and her cooking abilities, o boy, none better and there’s no cuisine she can’t undertake, if new, she masters it with practiced ease. So Bhabhi ji was one character i so totally wanted to play, or perhaps even be. I am now.

Every family member turns to Bhabhiji for advice- when in trouble, any trouble; during exam time, Bhabhi ji’s the expert academician so younger members look up at her for math, geography, history, you name it; perturbations in the area of the heart (a burgeoning affair, a heart-break, a light infatuation), Bhabhiji, with her wide array of experiences, both pre and post-marriage, to the rescue; if ever there’s a need for monthlies to be paid, Bhabhi ji rushes to the cupboard and returns armed with green-bucks (rupees) for – the Iron man (Dhobi), the vegetable vendor, the milkman, the newspaper delivery boy, anyone at the door for longer than a minute or two. Bhabhi ji is the mother not just to her children, as well as to all nieces and nephews, because, believe it or not, she’s an amazing storyteller too. If other Bhabhis are professionals, there is no ‘ji’ added to their Bhabhis- it is only the one who manages every aspect of the home that is a Bhabhi ji. While Bhabhis go out and work, Bhabhi ji rears everyone’s offspring. Mind-boggling eh! Why would i not want to take on the responsibility of this amazing persona! See, the thing is, it’s a lot of fluff…someone with the gift of the gab and a reasonable exposure to our Bollywood fare can do the job, and walk away with the laurels every time- the Oscar of the Family it is! No mean title this.

My inner aspirations have suddenly found a voice : our new cook inadvertently fulfilled this almost-last desire of my heart, he addressed me – “Bhabiji where will i find a paraat?” This ‘paraat’ is a wide metal dish which one uses to knead the dough for chapatis (flatbread). He not only endeared himself to me instantly, he drove me completely out of the kitchen, taking over expertly, and who was i to stand in the way of culinary awesomeness, i scuttled out of my domain chuckling merrily to myself. I am certain now that this was ordained. To be called Bhabiji so late in life (after 23 years of marriage, takes some doing, bank balance of good actions have finally tilted in my favour it appears).

So everyday i will get to be called Bhabhi ji henceforth. i am She. Oh! the wonder of it- a perfect specimen of womanhood in any country, since Indians abound so do sisters-in-law i believe. So Bhabhi ji it is! God Bless north Indian cooks, and may many more Bhabhijis be born everywhere, everyday. Life is good.