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Review Bengali

Rehana Maryam Noor review: A well-spun tale of the female psyche and tribulations

Release Date: 06 Aug 2021

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Vidyasree Bindu

Abdullah Mohammad Saad’s Bengali-language feature foregrounds one woman’s fight against patriarchy.

Rehana Maryam Noor is the moving tale of a medical college teacher struggling with life. Directed by Abdullah Mohammad Saad, the film was Bangladesh's official entry to the 94th Academy Awards earlier this year and was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2021 Cannes Festival. It also bagged the Jury Grand Prize at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards.

The titular character’s challenges in life, both on the professional side and the personal front, are vividly portrayed in the film. The mother of a child in first grade and a widow, Dr Rehana Maryam Noor’s life is unravelled through the phone conversations she has, her interaction with her students, and the feminist ideals she sticks to — ideals not gained from textbooks but from the harsh realities of life.

The fierceness of Rehana makes her an unflinching fighter against the injustice around her. She courageously stands up for a female student when she is abused by a teacher of immense popularity. Even when the fight becomes tough and goes into a state where any ordinary person would have given up and opted for peace, Rehana becomes a feminist warrior fighting against patriarchy and hegemony.

The movie explores the psyche of Rehana, who becomes obsessed with and unbending about what she is up against. Her strong will to make her daughter ready for the unjust world evokes empathy. The cast, especially Azmeri Haque Badhon, who plays Rehana, deserves praise.

However, Rehana Maryam Noor does not possess the charm of a well-made movie. There is an inherent danger of a narrative lag which could have been significantly reduced with better editing. Shot mostly in the limited landscape of a medical college, the movie’s script is a strong one that propels the story smoothly. The question Rehana's brother asks, “Are you doing it for her [the daughter] or for yourself?”, seems to resonate throughout the movie.

Yet, if the script had been stronger, the experience would have been elevated. Now the female anxiety, repression and fear are caught but mildly in the dialogues. The colour palette of the movie, a bluish hue, captures the sentiment of the film successfully. The background score and the cinematography (which seems unstable) complement the narrative progression. In short, Rehana Maryam Noor might not vibe well with those who are insensitive to the tribulations of the female psyche. Those who can relate to the everyday wars a woman braces herself for will find it engaging and moving.

Rehana Maryam Noor was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2021 Cannes Festival. The drama won the Jury Grand Prize at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards. It was the opening film at the International Film Festival of Kerala 2022 and opened the new Spotlight on South Asia section at the 20th Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles.


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