“Under Construction” Review: Being a Real Woman in Dhaka City | Stripe

Under Construction is a movie that raises a flickering question: who is a woman? A woman is not an agent; her destiny is prefixed to play much-expected role. Her image has to be deconstructed to reconstruct it. This is a never-changing phenomenon. A woman’s image is highly contested, challenged, and incomplete. A woman could play many vibrant roles: mother, sister, daughter, and wife. However, any critical role is not for her. Her agency has always been denied. She cannot be a director, she cannot unwant a baby, and she cannot be someone who refuses to hold friend’s baby. Refusing to support an ailing mother for some important work is selfish on the part of any woman.

Let us turn the tables. Would you ever question a son who refused to do the same? Answer is simple and obvious:  the same question would  never be raised for a man. Surely, both women’s’ image and their work always end up below other priorities, often devalued.

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Roya, the principal character of the movie, questions women’s image, women’s work, and women’s agency. She faced an inner dilemma what is real, what is truth for a woman. Is Nandini of Red Oleander real or is Moyna (household maid, later turned garment worker) real? Unreal Nandini, Roya in this case, longs for her household maid. Same Roya let Moyna go when she found out that she is pregnant this is the real Nandini. She develops a friendship with Imtiaz to show her loneliness, which is very real for many women. Roya became unreal again when she helped pregnant Moyna wear the anklet. Roya divided herself into real and unreal Nandini to critically analyze the original concept of Red Oleander.

What is the catch of this movie? The director is female, who seemingly challenged an uncontested issue of deconstruction of women’s image through reconstruction. She segregated rightfully women’s freedom at the cost of motherhood, apparent disjuncture between husband and wife, and an estranged mother who often thought women playing role in theatre is nothing but a whore.

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Three female roles with three perspectives question society’s expectations from a woman. This inner contradiction of dealing with societal expectation is rather painful, often sad, and leading to depression those who fail to cope up with the system.

What is missing in the film? Roya was not bold enough to gallop traditional boundaries of household. However, Roya was not courageous enough to confront her mother who called her a trophy wife. This part of the movie reminds us that even a mother with very traditional attitude could challenge a freedom-seeking woman with much valor if she stays outside of the formal job market. Roya has no answer to her mother’s question.

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Where Roya is heading? No wonder Roya wants to break the image of unreal Nandini. Instead of making herself an unreal Nandini, Roya proudly presents garments workers in the forefront, indicating western civilization at least offer women’s freedom, which was not the case in Red Oleander where Nandini was a victim of western civilization.

However, Red Oleander’s Nandini is not dead in the society. They are the majority, longing for freedom to come. After all these, apart from a certain section of women, most women still struggle to find their way forward. When red and yellow Bougainvillea sings together, pale yellow Bougainvillea depicts women struggling with red, mighty Bougainvillea symbolizing men: the same old story.

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Dr. Mahmuda Khatun is a professor of the University of Dhaka Department of Sociology.
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