Under Construction is an upcoming film by Rubaiyat Hossain, to be released on January 22, 2016. It received positive acclaim at numerous international film festivals and has finally arrived on Bangladeshi soil. The film is a grand portrayal of the metropolis Dhaka, thus aptly titled “under construction.”
The storyline is not only a reflection of the city, but also tells the story of city dwellers and how their life too, is “under construction.” Viewers will surely be introduced to so many different aspects and issues in the movie, they will be compelled to wonder if there really is any other aspect this film could have been addressed.
The film’s storyline employs dramatic foils of the protagonist Roya (Shahana Goswami) in two layers - first, through Moyna (Rikita Shimu) and second through her mother (Mita Chowdhury). Roya, is an ambitious theatre actor passionate about her ventures on one end, while on the other end, she is a woman who cannot make time for social ties as she tries to find a “room” for herself. Her way of life is frequently questioned by her conservative mother who awaits a husband long lost to another woman, who aspires for a common, lower-class life in a Dhaka slum. Unlike Roya, they both earn their own bread but do not seek freedom the way Roya does. They think women should submit to male-dominating society willfully, consider wife-beating semi-inevitable and believe in motherhood/”wifery.” With a backdrop of Rabindranath Tagore’s classic, Rakta-Karabi, Hossain explores random play-within-play shots to come up with a solid statement - the moment our women stop being self-less, they become selfish!
Hossain’s work seems largely influenced by Rituporno Ghosh’s Tagore adaptations which tended to deconstruct classics to tell present stories. The film’s music was by Arnab alongside Shahana Bajpaie whose voice was very refreshing. Hossain’s use of dream sequences seems tributary and therefore looked slightly imposed at times. In some shots, she seemed to give in to stereotypes and a Sean Nixonian “male gaze.” But, then again, Hossain did a Herculean job for sure. She had too much on her plate this time. For example, the treatment of Rakta-Karabi while drawing comparisons to RMG’s industrial sector to its “jakhshapuri” with art-”conservatives” fighting over the classic’s new reading. Also, the “grouping,” the red-eyed pseudo-radical group leader and the frights of “aging” among female art-practitioners were not easy scenes to portray. Keeping the Dhaka spirit alive throughout the film by using news bites, sound inserts and cityscapes is another tough thing to handle. Besides paying heed to the frequent garment industry tragedies (like the Rana Plaza tragedy), she even gave floor to the recent rise of fundamentalism and extremism as well as raging debates on women’s “rooms,” common men’s perception about art-practitioners, mechanisation creating calculative corporate men without compassion and motherhood versus career, among others. In a nutshell, the movie is about perks of a beautiful but aging woman trying to construct herself in our metropolis, one that is, without a doubt, “under construction.”
It is a film for the women, by a woman who wants to make gender-sensitive films.