Directed by talented Bangladeshi filmmaker Mostofa Sarwar Farooki, Doob- No Bed of Roses, released in a whirlwind of controversy in 2017, a temporary ban in Bangladesh, and eventual critical and popular acclaim. It was said to be based on the life of the famous Bangladeshi novelist, filmmaker and playwright, Humayun Ahmed. But Mostofa has always claimed that it is a work of fiction. For Indian viewers, this little gem of a movie is not so much about the actual references, but a deep dive into the complexity of relationships. And the pleasure of seeing Irrfan in good shape in a film that deals with silences, distances, rigid, minimalist and bleached frames and messy loose ends. A cinematographic language with which the late actor delighted.
Javed Hasan, a star filmmaker from Dhaka, is going through a midlife crisis. Doting father of two, we meet him at a time when he is struggling to come to terms with the fact that the best days of his married life may be over. It is at this critical juncture that his alleged affair with his next film’s heroine, Nitu, his daughter’s classmate, leaks to the media.
The fragile relationship between Javed and Maya is fractured, as is his life as a father. The audience gets a side view of the most intimate moments of the anguished family, as the camera peers out from windows, behind curtains, balconies, and between the branches of rain trees. Sometimes we walk in right after a heated argument, or in the middle of a stormy walk. And we see the ripples of the extramarital affair turn into a tsunami that devastates Javed’s children, especially his teenage daughter, Saberi.
There is a lot of drama, but the director moves away from melodrama and conveys a lot through the body language of his actors, gestures and actions. Much is said when a father walks away from his family and his daughter runs after him, only to wait with outstretched arm, offering him the glass of water he had wanted. Or in the contours of a gift that is returned and put back in the trunk of the car, over and over again.
It is difficult to tell the story of an extramarital affair and a painful separation, not only between husband and wife, but also between father and children, without taking sides. But Mostofa tries to do that. The moment Javed leaves his family home, he enters an emotional no-man’s-land. And his decision to marry his young lover and have a child with her can be seen as his desperate attempt to fill the void left by his separated family. Or to experience the old thrill of a romantic adventure. Either way, we will never know if Javed will ever find happiness again.
You feel sorry for the daughter whose love for her father collides with her frustration with her mother who “has forgotten how to be in the driver’s seat.” Just as you feel for the father who longs for his children to address him as “slime.” Nobody wins in this tragic story. Not even the young second wife who reigns over her stylish new apartment but realizes that she may never have her husband’s heart.
Irrfan is in his element as Javed. This is a movie I had co-produced and it’s easy to see why. He is Irrfan in a familiar avatar, but with nuances that make it impossible to look away from him. He receives solid support from the rest of the cast, but it’s quite difficult to accept two extremely mature-looking women (Nusrat and Parno) as students at the school.
Doob it is a slow combustion. Once you get used to its smooth rhythm, it will grow on you. At the beginning of the film, Irrfan shares with his daughter what her father had once told her: “A man dies when he is no longer relevant to the people he cares about. Or people to him. “Words, meant to resonate with Irrfan fans who continue to relate to his stories in every movie.