Twenty-two-year-old Bengali-Italian man Phaim (Phaim Bhuiyan) lives a life according to boundaries. He doesn’t dare cross the hipsters that threaten to gentrify his neighbourhood, nor does he engage with the elderly folk that run amok. His inherent need to follow the road-less-travelled filters through to his job as a gallery steward; a role which requires him to tell folks to step back should they get too close.
But perhaps Phaim’s biggest hurdle comes in the form of his budding relationship with Asia (Carlotta Antonelli); an alluring, manic-pixie-dream Italian girl (blue hair and all) who despite their differing cultural identities manages to catch his romantic eye.
The embracing of their conflicting ways-of-life is delivered with a brusque sense of humour in the boundary-pushing 2019 comedy Bangla. A self-described ‘cappuccino’, a reference to both his Bengali and Italian background, Phaim’s wit is as gleefully self-deprecating as it is coarse. A trait that is more pronounced given Phaim’s conservative upbringing.
Phaim’s background as a Muslim not only prevents him from engaging in an intimate relationship with Asia but also acts as the source for most of his deadpan humour (a constant reference to Italy’s stance of polygamy being peppered throughout the film). The dark places where jokes venture does borderline on the offensive, with ongoing references to terrorism and slurs souring Phaim’s otherwise personable disposition.
Bhuiyan and Antonelli do convincing jobs as a pair of star-crossed lovers, longing for each other’s’ embrace despite centuries worth of tradition keeping them apart. Not without conflict – the hallmark of any solid rom-com – theirs is a love that captures the intoxicating grace of the warm Roman cityscape which they occupy.
Phaim’s bleak, realist sense-of-humour proves Sympatico with Asia’s individualist nature. Their differences prove to be their most charming trait. This is exemplified best by the conflicting ideologies that govern their home-life. Their differing upbringings which become further contrasted against the perceived progressiveness of European culture; a subtext which Bhuiyan fixates on with the same level of affection as Phaim would upon receiving a text from Asia.
Where Phaim’s family uphold age-old tradition, Asia’s come from a new school of thought that welcomes modern relationships. Despite their differences being the cause for complexity in their relationship, Bhuiyan refuses to portray the Muslim faith in any malicious manner. Instead, Bangla offers a refreshing take on love, culture and identity against an enchanting Italian backdrop.
Image: Bangla (film still)
Review: Hagan Osborne