The second feature from director Abdullah Mohammad Saad became the first Bangladeshi film to play at the Cannes Film Festival in the Un Certain Regard section. An intense feminist operating theatre of righteous sexist resistance focuses on one woman’s determination to bring an abusive Doctor to justice.
The handheld shot picture focuses on the title character Rehana (Azmeri Haque Badhon), adorning a white headscarf, this widower and single mother spends long arduous hours working at a medical college at the detriment not only to her mental health but also to the neglect of her stubborn yet adorable daughter Emu (Afia Jahin Jaima). She not only has to support her Mother and retired Father but her loving yet unemployed brother too, adding even more stress to her unravelling mind.
As a teaching assistant, Rehana is a strict disciplinarian, during an exam she reprimands one student for writing notes on a ruler and subsequently expels her from the exam. Acting as the catalyst for the unfolding events, one student seeks out the help of Prof. Arefin (Kazi Sami Hassan). The Professor is more lenient with his students and doesn’t think twice about exchanging good grades for “favours”. Having witnessed the student leaving the Professor’s office in a highly agitated state, Rehana embroils herself deeply into outing the sexual predator.
For the most, Mohammad Saad leaves a lot of detail to the viewer’s imagination. There are no scenes of abuse but only the word of a girl who would rather just forget the whole episode. This alone injects a spark into Rehana to fight fire with fire, reporting the professor but changing the story slightly and claiming he abused her. It raises the question, for Rehana to get so inflamed and determined to fight this man, could this also have happened to her in the past? It’s a question that goes on to remain unanswered.
Despite the supporting characters, Mohammad Saad’s feature is brimming with an atmospheric hazy blue hue and a solitary focus as newcomer Badhon’s Rehana, in a mesmerizingly audacious performance, fights to be heard against a sexist institution that would rather support the male professor and ruin the life and career of his female accuser.
At times, the audience will question the motivation of the actions of the main character as her mind becomes unbalanced to the point of hospitalisation. This is a timely, outspoken entry that deserves to be heard, Saad draws out the drama to an uncertain strength that just keeps you guessing.