Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Cinefan diary: Dosar

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.


  1. The purists may say as much cholbe na cholbe na as they want, but even I feel one may safely compare Rituparno with Ray on several counts. Don't know if you've seen Shubho Muhurat, but I've seen few films that are as celeverly nuanced and detailed. Another point of similarity -- the leavening with humour.

    And you are hereby divested of your honour as honorary Bong because of that completely uncalled for dig at Bong sex lives. Hrrmph.

  2. My personal feeling is that Ghosh tries to furiously mimic Ray's style in many places but falls abjectly short of the master's touch.

    Mind you, I haven't seen Dosar or Shubho Mahurat, - my opinions are based on Dahan, Unishe April, RainCoat and couple of others. But apart from couple of documentaries, I have seen all of Ray's films (few of them many times over).

    Btw, from what I hear, Bengali cinema is getting bolder everyday. Sometime back I heard of a film Neel Nirjane which supposedly had lesbian overtones.

  3. Bong sex-life in movies, to cut a long story short, is pathetic. Rituparno, whose name my Kaku translates as Seasonally (Ritu) Obscene (Porno), uses swear words (Shubho Mohorot) and apparently unending cot-creaking (Ontormohol), but mostly as gimmicks. Or so it appears because of their absolute lack of raison d'etre in there. Ok, not an absolute lack of it. They are only marginally required.

    And the movie in question shows Arindam (?), the widower, working on a hooker, and the whole motion is so absurd that one of my friends conjectured that somebody outside the frame must have been pushing his bums to create such an improbable copulatory movement.

    Unnecessary sex, but what the heck...itz new! I am dying to see some artistically filmed sex sequence in any Bangla, or for that matter any Indian, movie. I loved Utsab as a kid though!

    And btw Jai, why is there so li'l sex in ur blog? Reads great, but kinda disembodied, and somewhat like the proverbial ghost in the machine. Add spice man!

  4. lol at the anon before !!

    about sex in this blog, jai has written about some homo-erotic subtext in dharam-veer, not very spicy though :))

    but yes I agree with you, this blog can do with more sex...

  5. This is the same anon as before...

    I had nuthing to do the whole day, not a very unusual story though, and ransacked the archives of Jai's blog for this not so spicy discussion of Dharam-Veer's homo-erotic sub-text. (What's Dharam-Veer btw, Dharmendra as Veeru?)Was keen on Jai's literary take on sex— gay, straight, whateva.

    And this is what I found instead. http://jaiarjun.blogspot.com/2005/03/what-no-baby.html

    Too bad Jai man...rather teleological. I understand that u wanted to mock it, but u never went beyond the statement. Why don't you review an Erica Jong classic? That way you can talk about sex and lit crit at the same time. :))

  6. julien: "this blog can do with more sex..."

    Can't we all? *Sigh*. Wait, did I say that out aloud?

  7. 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.

    Yeah right.

    Okay movie trivia. Which prominent blogger has a walk-on part in one of Rituporno's movies?

  8. Which prominent blogger has a walk-on part in one of Rituporno's movies?

    The GreatBong??!! Which film? WHich film?

  9. The Wock and the Bagchi both disappoint me. Seasonal Porn (thanks, Anon) and the Master? As they say in Bangla, the moon and a monkey's bum!

    The Season is pretentious. He tries to ape (word used advisedly) the Man. Except for Dahan and Shubho Muhurat, his films are poor. Some, like Oshukh and Ontormahal, are puke-worthy.

    Doshor could have been very good, indeed IS very good in parts. Jai, I feel Prosenjit put in a very good performance given his limitations. Konkona of course sets her own standards. The Porno draws out some good performances, but to what end? What was the point of that third thread, about the unconnected couple and their intu-pintu at Raichok every weekend? (I hope it was every weekend, I would hate to think ANYbody could stay at Raichok for six effing weeks!)

    And yes, the depiction of sex is bathetic. Also, notice how this guy ALWAYS has at least one scene in every film shot in a loo or showing some bodily emission? Kinky (read gross).

    GreatBong, was it you?


  10. JAP. you're a prude. Bring on Quigley, I'm sure he'll have more interesting things to say about the bodily emissions.

    And how dare you call GreatBong kinky!

  11. @JAP and Jaiarjun:

    No it was not me. You know very well JAP who it was.:-)

  12. I love being anon...

    but to answer JAP's query: the third couple showed the universatility of the theme of extra-marital affair, as in they pick up from where Prasen and the dead woman left. The same reason, and also to show a different perspective, is why the colleagues have sex...

    rather nuanced, but not a movie...fit for a tele-serial though!

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  15. to prove that bongs can indulge in self-deprecation:
    LMAO at dig on bong sex-lives or lack thereof.
    However, at the egregiously named person from Harry Potter books:
    periodporn and Ray?
    gag, choke, splutter.
    cholchhe na, cholbe naa.
    I call for a blockade of MM's block in the interestes of (bong) national security

  16. This seems like an extensively indianized version of the korean movie, April Snow. The principal idea is the cheating spouse in a car crash.

  17. "kaberi's husband and his mistress."


    what world do you live in?