Story: A family scandal shakes up Bangladesh when acclaimed filmmaker Javed Hasan marries his daughter’s friend. He divorces his first wife, and along with her, the children, the life they built together, the memories. Is letting go so easy?
Review: When does a man die? When he stops communicating with his loved ones…
As Javed Hasan peeks through the window of what seems like a houseboat resting on a tranquil lake and gazes at the setting sun casting its orange glow over the still waters, he reflects on these lines. From the bright glare that it was, his life has mellowed like the evening he spends with wife Maya, daughter Saberi and son Ahir amidst the verdant greens on a weekend getaway. There’s a lot to talk about — eloping with Maya, the wedding night, the trials and tribulations and the life they charted out together — but Javed broods over his past, so much so that his wife wonders, ‘Don’t we have any present?’
Faraway in Dhaka, a storm brings with it an ominous forecast as Neetu, the heroine of his abandoned film and friend of Saberi, owns up to the media about the friendship she has ‘developed’ with Javed. As the media blizzard grows into a catastrophic hurricane, the family is ripped from the foundation of togetherness. What follows is a long, pensive inward journey for the characters — the pangs of separation and the hungry longing for each other that drowns them. No wonder, the title of the film is ‘Doob’, which stands for ‘drowning’ in Bengali. So, Javed, who gets married to Neetu, defends her newly-wed — hailed as a national villain — during a live show on TV, but secretly nurses the wound of being separated from his first family.
Irrfan as Javed turns in a sublime performance as a man who is hopelessly in love with his past, but is also accepting of his present. Bangladeshi director Mostafa Sarwar Farooki, who adopts and adapts a scandal that once shook the conservative Bangladeshi society, walks a tightrope and sometimes gets caught in the safe zone he creates. Though the film is a linear journey, there are deliberate time lapses that help avoid the melodrama alright, but the abrupt truncations and uneven editing leave many things to the imagination. It’s not clear if it’s the Bangladesh Censor Board that held back the no-objection certificate, the concerns raised by a section of people there or Farooki’s own inability to take a stance that Javed’s relationship with Neetu is relegated to the sidelines of what becomes a father-daughter story.
Nusrat Imrose Tisha as Saberi is superlative, while Rokeya Prachy pours her soul into the melancholic Maya, who fights hard to move on in life. Bengal’s homegrown talent Parno Mittra has little to do as Neetu, but is in character as the possessive younger wife. The highlight of the film is a scene where she comes face to face with Tisha aka Saberi at their school reunion, their eyes telling the story of a friendship gone wrong. In flashback, a little Neetu is seen asking Saberi why her father always took her in his films, to which she says, ‘I will ask him to take you in his next’.
Through a background score that evokes pain and the soul-stirring number, Ahare jibon, Pavel Areen and Chirkutt harp on the philosophy that relationships don’t die, men do. The wake-up-call-for-the-soul kind of a film is captured beautifully through the camera of Sheikh Rajibul Islam, who zooms in on the feet of Hasan when the family cat clutches on to it, in a desperate bid to hold the master back or a brother gauging her sister’s reactions through the reflection in the mirror.
Through riveting long shots and lingering close-ups, he complements Farooki’s requiem-like treatment of the film. Doob tells us about the conflict of the mind and the body, love and longing, life and death, delving somewhere in between paradise lost and regained — it’s the same world, as many would know, that was created out of an author-director’s Fountain Pen.