Wednesday, 23 November 2022

Lal Darja (The Red Door) [1997]

 Reality, dreams, memories, and fantasy coalesced quite freely in Lal Darja, with its mystifying title referring to the potential path to freedom, escape and happiness, as well as – ironically – something that's destined to remain hopelessly unattainable. However, despite what its intriguing premise might suggest, it was also a film seeped in bleak realism, existential crisis, and despair. In this seeming dissonance – between its subtly grand formal crux and downbeat lyricism – and the heavy use of allegories, lay its strength as well as relative blemish, especially the weightiness and tonal unevenness in this otherwise wry, understated and melancholic work. The movie’s protagonist is Nabin Dutta (Subhendu Chatterjee), a dreary and increasingly withdrawn middle-aged dentist who’s in a clear state of quandary – the relationship with his wife has collapsed irrevocably, his teenage son refuses to speak to him, and he’s even started making some rather silly errors at work. His gloom and acute loneliness are manifested by an inexplicable disease that’s causing impotency and plaguing his emotional stability – and for which he visits a gaggling doctor (Haradhan Bandopadhyay) who possibly doesn’t exist –; sardonically juxtaposed by the sense of perplexity he continually experiences on account of his  easy-going chauffeur who’s happily married to two women, including the coquettish and alluring Maloti (Indrani Haldar) – something that could just be a figment of his imagination as well, even if that isn’t explicitly established –; and alleviated to some extent by his regular falling back to his memories of growing up in the tranquil environs of Cherrapunji when he believed that he had the power to open the eponymous red door, on the other side of which lay the answers to all his wishes.

Director: Buddhadeb Dasgupta

Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama

Language: Bengali

Country: India

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