By Rimli Bhattacharya
I laud Rituparno Ghosh’s storytelling of human relationships, marital infidelity, the diversified dainty human emotions and its aftermath in his black and white Bengali film, Dosar (The Companion), which was released in 2006. Produced by Arindam Chaudhuri and directed by stalwart Ghosh himself, this movie was a box office hit. The film also fetched Ghosh, Konkona Sen Sharma and Prosenjit Chatterjee the awards of best director, best actress and best actor respectively.
‘Dosar’ is a Bengali word which means an emotional companion or just a consort per se.
The film opens with a scene shot from a hotel balcony where Mita (played by Chandrayee Ghosh) hums a beautiful song. Koushik (played by Prosenjit Chatterjee) is shown settling the hotel dues. During the checkout he enquires about the extra charges in the bill, to which the accountant replies that it was for the orchids purchased by his wife Mita from the hotel florist. The body languages of the actors speak for themselves and we find Mita is actually Koushik’s beau (dosar). The reel rolls by and we see Mita hurting herself while placing the orchids in the car and Koushik nursing her. Mita subtly complains that Koushik doesn’t spend enough time with her. The talk concludes with Koushik chalking out plans for their next trip to Darjeeling where they can spend a much longer time as they have a coming extended weekend. Mita refutes Koushik’s choice of Darjeeling and longs for a faraway place where the cell phones would have no network coverage and Mita can get Koushik’s undivided attention.
In Dosar, Director Ghosh depicts extramarital affair where both Mita and at least Koushik are shown happily married to their respective spouses, even as Mita is a mother to a little boy Babua.
And then comes the twister – the couple Mita and Koushik meets with a grave accident leaving Koushik severely injured to be hospitalized and kept under care of his wife Kaberi (played by Konkona Sen Sharma). Mita dies on the spot. Mita’s role, though short, comes across as eloquent because of the powerful storytelling.
On getting a call from the cops, Kaberi rushes to the hospital only to find out the illegitimate relationship between her husband Koushik and his colleague Mita which leaves her crushed and shattered. Her immediate reaction is that of extreme hurt camouflaged as ardor, even obduracy where initially she refuses to sign the hospital documents, lashes out at her brother-in-law and speaks of hiring a lawyer and filing for a divorce.
Ghosh could have followed the clichéd 21st century feminism and we could have witnessed a stereotypical storytelling where the wife refuses to forgive the husband who breaks her trust and moves on alone in her life. No. It deals with real life crisis where things are easier said than done. Kaberi is torn between her role as a dutiful wife who loves her husband unconditionally and also that woman who has to tote the repercussions of her husband’s infidelity.
While watching the film one can sense the internal struggle a woman faces in letting her emotions overpower her anger in due course of time and at a subtle pace. But the transformation proves a challenge for Kaberi. Kaberi is seen incessantly battling against herself. She faces the dilemma between helping her wounded husband and also in venting out her frustrations against him. Her exasperations can be felt in the scenes that follow, where in spite of asking for a divorce from Koushik, she still cares for his well-being.
The small nuances like Kaberi breaking the news of Mita’s death without a wince to her husband is commendable. One can see the distressed wife in Kaberi taking an intrepid stance where she no longer feels anything to convey the news of someone’s death. On the contrary she suavely plays with the word BRAVE which her friends and relatives use to describe her and is seen lashing out at them in the later part of the film. This was Ghosh’s way of showcasing a betrayed woman’s vexation in a phenomenal situation. Here I identify myself with Kaberi as the society also considers me a very BRAVE woman who had the guts to divorce her high-profile husband and survive a major nervous breakdown. Ghosh could fathom the trauma a woman goes through when life delivers her the cruelest blows.
Though the film pirouettes around Kaberi, some crucial sexism are woven into it to reveal how much a man’s world it still is. Koushik still remains a favorite colleague whose gamboling is easily forgiven, while Mita’s character is brought under scrutiny by the society.
The concatenation of occurrences showcases irony at its best. There is another subplot in the movie where one more couple is involved in adultery. They are Bobby and Brinda (played by Parambrata Chatterjee and Pallavi Chatterjee). All this while Kaberi has been shown supporting her friends Bobby and Brinda’s extramarital liaison. The trio works together for a theatre group. And now when she finds herself in that position she questions their relationship. While Bobby is a bachelor, Brinda is much older to him and is unhappily married to a “Monster Husband”. Brinda is shown torn between a loveless marriage and a young lover.
Coming back to the original story, Kaberi forgives Koushik ultimately and the film leaves the audiences with the perception that women have in them the capacity to forgive but it also daintily raises these eternal questions: Had Kaberi been the infidel one, would Koushik have forgiven her and nursed her back to health? Also had Mita been alive after this incident how would the same have had affected Kaberi and Koushik’s relationship? What happens to the illicit relationship between Bobby and Brinda?
The movie weaves a bouquet of dainty emotions. Koushik’s journey in dealing with the loss of his loved one and winning back his wife’s trust has not been a smooth sailing. Not to forget the broken husband of Mita who has in him the impotent rage in his failure to confront his deceased, unfaithful wife. And to direct such a movie and bringing it to the audience in this manner is an arduous task which needs a lot of hard work and dedication. But Ghosh merits a standing ovation for accomplishing such a marvelous one. I remember I had mentioned at the beginning of the essay that the movie was made in black and white. I guess Ghosh did it on purpose to put across the various roles with truly grey shades.
Time you revisit the movie Dosar and discern the uniqueness of Ghosh’s candid portrayal of human relationships in the film.
I close this essay with this beautiful poem from the movie which is recited by Mita:
tomar thonth amar thonth chhulo
jodio ei prothombar noi
chumbon to ageo bohubar…
eibar thothe mileche ashroi
jemon shob bhoyer golpe
doitto danob rakkosh r kkhoy
tile tile shukhoi rajkumari
ontomile rajputrer joy
tobuo khub bhitore badhahin
lorai chole shumbo nishumbher
prothom bole, phool ti chire khabo
ditio bole, hath pate shekh
ashole tumi dirgho shalmoli
shobar matha chariye torubor
tomar thonth amar thonth chhulo
r je kichu okinchitkor.
Translation by Sugata Gangopadhyay:
Your lips touch mine,
not the first time, even!
Kisses have been there, always,
this time, it felt haven.
As in those fairy tales,
loom specter, demon and death,
the princess wanes bit by bit,
but the prince wins at last breath.
But somewhere, deep within,
a fierce duel unbridles,
one says, “Ravage the flower”!
“Entreat! “The other fiddles.
You are, in fact, the lofty Shalmoli,
That towers above us all.
Your lips do touch mine,
Insubstantial, the rest fall.
Rimli Bhattacharya completed Mechanical Engineering from National Institute of Technology. After obtaining an MBA, she worked in the corporate sector. Rimli is a trained Indian classical dancer, based out of Mumbai, India. She tweets at: @rimli76
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