Quiet day at Cinefan, but I did see Rituparno Ghosh’s latest, Dosar, a very engrossing film about a young housewife Kaberi (played by Konkana Sen Sharma, who gets better with each performance) who simultaneously finds out that her husband has been in a near-fatal car accident and that he was having an affair with a married colleague. Her immediate reaction is that of extreme hurt disguised as vehemence, even callousness: she refuses to sign documents at the hospital, lashes out at her husband’s brother, makes sarcastic remarks at inappropriate moments, takes morbid pleasure in informing her injured husband that his ex-lover died in the crash.
But after the initial shock, as she tries to get down to the business of carrying on with her life, we see a more complex, human side to her. There’s also a subplot involving two of her friends who are in an extramarital affair of their own – their conversations about the conflict between love and security help illuminate the nature of the relationship between Kaberi’s husband and his mistress, but also serve as a contrast to it. And most telling are Kaberi’s interactions with the dead woman’s husband, who is initially quite callous himself (he coolly hands her a box of condoms that he found in his wife’s bag after the accident – “she won’t be needing them now, but your husband might”) but who later shows the frustrations of an utterly powerless man – unable even to confront his wife the way Kaberi can confront her husband.
This might seem like a facile comparison, especially to those who are more familiar with Bengali cinema than I am (what I’ve seen has mostly been limited to films by four or five of the best-known directors), but many elements in Rituparno’s films remind me of Satyajit Ray’s best qualities as a filmmaker: the embellishing of a straightforward narrative with basic moviemaking tools - a compelling script, excellent acting, tight editing - and most of all, the ability to empathise with the situations of many different characters. (Ray famously said once that villains didn’t interest him, and a lot of Dosar’s power comes from the recognition that the worst qualities on view here are basic human failings that any of us are vulnerable to.) Incidentally Dosar is shot in beautiful black and white, which may be another reason why it reminded me of Ray’s early work. (There was a touch of Charulata in the last scene, with its hint of acceptance and/or reconciliation.)
P.S. There’s more adult content here than any other Bengali film I’ve seen: all the talk of clandestine weekends in hotel rooms; a couple of love scenes (very artistically filmed of course, with much poetry in voiceover!); a prostitute joking about her client’s “energy”; the condom references. Speculated to a friend that the film might have been an endeavour to prove that Bongs can have exciting sex lives after all, including extramarital ones.