Ever since his death, the Bangladeshi writer and filmmaker Humayun Ahmed has been revered, but in life he was much criticised because he divorced and married a young starlet…
INTERNATIONALLY-RENOWNED Bangladeshi film director Mostofa Sarwar Farooki openly admitted his ‘Doob: No bed of roses’, starring Irrfan Khan, is controversially based on the life of iconic Bangladeshi writer and filmmaker Humayun Ahmed (1948-2012).
There was huge furore last year in Bangladesh, when the film was completed and then faced hurdles in being screened there.
During his lifetime, Ahmed faced much criticism when he left his wife of nearly three decades for an actress who was a contemporary of his own daughter.
‘Doob’, while outwardly a work of fiction, charts the same emotional landscape of a venerated filmmaker/writer (Khan playing character ‘Javed Hasan’) leaving his wife and children of teenage years for an actress roundabout half his age.
In the film, Khan’s estranged daughter (following the traumatic break-up) is played by Nusrat Imroz Tisha, a popular Bangladeshi actress, who also happens to be Farooki’s wife and more commonly referred to as just Tisha.
‘Doob’ was initially banned in Bangladesh, but hit screens last year and to much critical acclaim, both at home and abroad. Being a co-India and Bangladesh production, Farooki explained, during the post screening Q&A, it had no problems once it was cleared in Bangladesh, it was free to be shown in India too.
On Sunday (June 24), it enjoyed its first UK screening to a packed theatre at the Genesis cinema in Mile End, in the heart of Bangla town in the capital, as part of the London Indian Film Festival (June 21-29).
The director told www.asianculturevulture.com: “After so much debate and speculation is it now clear to everyone that it has been inspired by one of our legendary writers – Humayun Ahmed, but it is not biopic, it does not follow an account of his life, it is a work of fiction.”
Farooki said his central (artistic) purpose was to re-examine the rehabilitation Ahmed has enjoyed since his death.
In the post-screening Q&A, Farooki said Ahmed’s death had conferred dignity and respect which he had lost much of in his life.
Farooki said Bangladeshis very much saw Ahmed as a ‘prophet’ type figure – and that idea had grown following his death.
Addressing the audience, Farooki said he wanted to reassess the life of such a personality – sympathetically, it should be said.
There are two very distinct parts of the film – the first deals with ‘the affair’ and the passing of ways between Khan’s character and his wife and children.
The latter and smaller segment of the film looks at what happens after Hasan’s demise.
For Farooki, the almost sudden and marked overnight reappraisal is what interested him as a filmmaker.
“It is about the idea of love, the loss of love, and how death can play a very instrumental role in getting back love which we have probably lost it in our lives.
“Death takes things away – but it is not always true, sometimes it gives back – what follows is love, honour and respect,” Farook told www.asianculturevulture.com.
He told the audience there was a lot of prejudice against the film – without people having seen it.
Some had claimed (quite spuriously) it was ‘blasphemous’ even – because in essence, it deals with an extra-marital affair, but in the film there is little more than hand-holding to represent the flight of emotions between Hasan and his new love.
When Farooki first wrote the film, he felt Khan would be perfect (for the role of Hasan), but did not know him or have any contact with the star, who is presently receiving medical treatment for a tumour in London. He is understood to be responding well to treatment.
Through a mutual Indian filmmaker friend, Farooki was able to make contact with the internationally in demand Khan.
“This character from the outside is very strong but from the inside, he is extremely vulnerable.
“So carrying these opposite emotions – strength and vulnerability is very difficult, you cannot actually act it, it has to be in your eyes, and when it comes to acting it has to be through the eyes without telling things, and Irrfan Khan is really good,” he told acv in a pre-screening interview on Sunday.
Khan, who has done both Bollywood and Hollywood films, has a co-producer credit on the film too. He learnt to speak his lines in Bengali for the film.
Farooki told acv that when he is inspired to make a film he feels like he is infected by a deadly virus and just wants to pass it onto someone else.
“By making a film, I transfer thee virus onto someone else (an audience) and then I move onto the next project,” he asserted.
He has already shot ‘Saturday Afternoon’. The film is based on the terrorist attack on Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka in July 2016, in which 20 hostages, mostly foreign nationals were brutally murdered. It will be Farooki’s seventh feature – ‘Doob’ opened the Shanghai Film Festival last year and it has been garlanded at many other festivals.
It also screened again at the Birmingham edition of the London Indian Film Festival on Monday evening (June 25).
SUBTLE, and gentle, Mostafa Sarwar Farooki’s ‘Doob – No bed of roses’ is quite tame by western standards (in examining an extra-marital affair).
Yet what might be more appropriate and measured for a general South Asian audience should not detract from the filmmaker’s skilful character depictions and the power with which he portrays the emotional damage inflicted on the children in some (perhaps all?) marital break-ups.
Farooki is also very good on fame and the price of fame – as everyone seems to know Mr Hasan and his wife’s private business.
One pivotal and wholly imaginary scene sees Javed Hasan (Irrfan Khan) and Nitu (Parno Mittra) subject themselves to a TV-phone in. One caller says he respects Javed as an artist, but that his new relationship is abominable and that he virtually embodies the devil – and can only be treated as such. Hasan counters and does not let the caller hold the moral high ground quite so easily, but you can see the hurt and turmoil of such judgements.
There is great poignancy in Khan’s relationship with his on-screen daughter Tisha (‘Saberi’) – and son Rahad Hossain (as ‘Ahir’) – as Hasan’s daughter sides wholly with her mother. Ahir is more diffident and still maintains a relationship of sorts with his father.
Rakeya Prachy (‘Maya’) is also good as the wronged wife and the resigned stoicism with which she accepts her fate is perhaps wholly in keeping with the mores of South Asian women negotiating the contours of patriarchy – which always lays the blame at women’s feet (especially as temptresses, and on the other side in such situations, as cold and waning in attractiveness and therefore guilty of letting a man and their marriage go astray).
Farooki’s sympathies are even-handed between Khan and Tisha and his innate sense of the emotional complexity of life and its challenges makes for an absorbing and acutely observed drama, which might be yet more impressive on a second viewing.
ACV rating: ***½ (out of five)
The London Indian Film Festival (LIFF) continues until June 29 in London, and extends in Birmingham and Manchester to Sunday, July 1. For both Birmingham and Manchester editions, navigate from the main home page listed below.