'No Bed of Roses' ('Doob'): Film Review | Shanghai 2017
Irrfan Khan brings the story of a family break-up to life in director Mostofa Sarwar Farooki's Indian-Bangladeshi coproduction.
It takes an actor of Irrfan Khan's stature and magnetism to turn an intimate separation drama into something special, and a writer-director like Bangladesh's happy maverick Mostofa Sarwar Farooki to layer on subtleties and shades of meaning with realistic detachment that never slips into melodrama.
In the freewheeling scenes from a marriage, No Bed of Roses (Doob), a celebrity filmmaker leaves his dignified wife of many years and teenage kids to marry a classmate of his daughter's. There's no elaborate murder mystery here, just a tale of human vanity and egotism that turns the life of a middle-class family in Dhaka upside down and fills every member with pain and regret.
A break from the sly social comedies Television and Ant Story that made Farooki's name on the festival circuit, this modern-looking Bengali-language drama may be a more familiar tale, but has its own pleasures. Its visual style and pacing make as much of an impression as the head-shaking story. It’s the kind of indie destined to turn up at fests for the rest of the year after its Shanghai bow in competition, and could swing some commercial playdates thanks to Khan's worldwide following.
The star, who has moved gracefully between modern Indian classics like Lunchbox and Hollywood roles in Life of Pi, Jurassic World and Inferno, should assure good business in India, where Indian giant Eskay Movies coproduced with Bangladesh's Jaaz Multimedia. But in Bangladesh the film is still awaiting censorship approval after an incident in February in which it was briefly banned as an unauthorized biopic. That accusation seems to have been dropped, but the topic of a man's divorce and remarriage to a much younger woman is apparently still taboo with government authorities. It's particularly perplexing because there is nothing lascivious or outré on screen, just a quality film.
Bouncy, outgoing, complicated Javed Hasan (Khan) has a secret agenda as the story opens. Though the gossip is out that he's dating his new lead actress, he doesn't have the courage to 'fess up to Maya (Rokeya Prachy), his schoolteacher wife. He takes her on a country drive to broach the subject in a roundabout way. "By going far away, we become closer to ourselves." She just looks at him like he's a lunatic. Their marriage has become drab, he claims. The past was different — those were the days, etc. She is stunned into hurt silence. When his kids find out, they stop speaking to him. This is bad.
He moves into living quarters at the film studio, telling himself he needs time to think and to shut the pretty, pouty Nitu (Indian actress Parno Mittra in a tough role that generates no sympathy) out of his life. The daughter of a film producer, she was in the same high school class as his own daughter Saberi (Nusrat Imroz Tisha) and the two girls competed against each other for various prizes. Here it looks like Nitu has won. One suspects some Oedipal business is going on in Jared's brain, but Farooki's screenplay doesn't take that road. The fact the two girls knew each other is just one more outrageous source of pain. The intimately fluid camera movements skip the sex scenes to hit the emotional highlights with a wry wink.
Nitu quits the film (her first), raising further scandal. Then she stops by one night and seduces Javed, which isn't hard to do. What's hard is for his family, portrayed with maximum empathy, to accept the situation and make the adjustment to not having him around — because Khan's Javed is a wonderful father and a man who is fully alive. His penetrating, sometimes bloodshot eyes are wide open on the world around him, and one can believe he's a sensitive artist. It's just that he's simultaneously a self-indulgent cad who, when faced with the choice of his family or a young girl, treats himself to ample self-justification.
The other vivid character is the daughter Saberi, played by Tisha with strong but realistic emotions. At first angry, ashamed and vengeful, she closes her heart to the father she loves while blaming her innocent mother. Prachy's abandoned wife takes it on the chin with superhuman dignity. In the film's final scenes, mother and daughter heal wounds in a low-key phone call that takes place in a field of tall grass. In a moving epilogue, Saberi confronts her tangled feelings for her father
Pavel Arin's score, a mix of contemporary and classical sounds, almost always adds its own unexpected interpretation to scenes.
Production companies: Jaaz Multimedia, Eskay Movies, in association with IK Company
Cast: Irrfan Khan, Nusrat Imrose Tisha, Parno Mittra, Rokeya Prachy, Rahad Hossain
Director-screenwriter: Mostafa Sarwar Farooki
Producers: Abdul Aziz, Ashok Dhanuka, Himanshu Dhanuka
Director of photography: Sheikh Rajibul Islam
Production designer: Masood Parvez
Music: Pavel Arin
Editor: Moman Biswas
Venue: Shanghai Film Festival (competition)