Feeling old and helpless, Nabin starts noticing the marked contrast between his own joyless life and carefree, disreputable behavior of his longtime driver Dinu (Raisul Islam) — a man who siphons off his boss’s gas to sell on the black market and who manages to keep wives in two towns happy (not counting the pretty Bangladesh refugee he runs into later in the story). The dentist has always looked down on Dinu’s lower-caste ways; now Nabin is beginning to wonder if he’s missing something, and if there’s any way to get it.
At the same time, he’s plagued by dreams of his youth in a mountainous countryside — images of himself as a soulful, well-loved boy, dressed in crimson and combing the hills for beautiful red beetles, over which he would chant a nursery rhyme to magically open the gates to his family home. (“Red Doors” is a more direct translation of the title.)
Veteran scripter-helmer Buddhadeb Dasgupta also is a poet and a former economist, and he brings rigorous thought to every level of the action and words. There are plenty of intriguing side characters, such as Nabin’s Zen-like doctor, who laughingly asks questions such as, “Most people are well — why aren’t you?” Tech credits generally are excellent, except for a few melodramatic zooms and typically over-recorded post-synch dialogue.
Despite these glitches, pic plays more like high-level fiction than domestic soap, with events impossible to predict even when they appear blatantly obvious. (Pedigree is reinforced by the presence of several Ray alumni.) Best of all, this Bengali “Box of Moonlight” contains an interesting paradox, in that the increasingly homogenized and unfeeling society it depicts is also one in which a middle-age, middle-class Indian man learns to confront psychological issues that were literally unthinkable for his own father and grandfather. This is a tough, deeply thought-provoking effort that is probably too smart for its own commercial good.