Sunday, July 23, 2017

Bangladeshi Films: Through the Lens of Professor Fahmidul Haq

[Raihana Sayeeda Kamal talks to Dr Fahmidul Haq to know the ins and outs of Bangladeshi films. Dr Fahmidul Haq is a professor of Mass Communication and Journalism department, University of Dhaka]

Transition of Bangladeshi film industry: Bangladeshi film industry evolved around late 1960 to 1970. Transitions took place from 1970 to early 2000. We assume that all 70s films were good but the reality is something different. During then, we didn't have VCR, and satellite connection. Our locals didn't have exposure to western movies. By the exposure to Bollywood and Hollywood movies through VCR and satellite connection, the film industry has faced a blow. Our audience shifted to their productions.

On golden age of films: There is a reason behind dubbing 70s as 'Golden age'. In the early 60s to 80s, most successful films belonged to historical genre or came from local Jatra -- Rupbaan, Sirajuddoula, Behula, Beder Meye Josna etc. People loved them because they had a comprehensive heroic and localised story line which are not being produced these days.  

Decline of golden age: The golden age started to decline in the late 80s or early 90s. During 80s, there was a technological shift and cultural shift. 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Ant Story: Modern Man’s Descent into Madness

Mostofa Sarwar Farooki’s The Ant Story explores the issue of contemporary Bangladeshi sexuality from a psychoanalytical perspective. Briefly the narrative is driven by the search to recover a sex tape made by an actress (a celebrity). The attempt to recover the tape allows Farooki to comment on other aspects of contemporary Dhaka City making the film a powerful critique of Bangladesh in the age of consumption

We look at this complex film through the lens of Gerard Genette (1980) and his concept of narrative discourse, emphasising three aspect of narrative, histoire (plot), recite (the voice) and narration (the techniques).

An intimate videotape featuring a film actress and her boyfriend in a compromising situation accidentally falls into the hands of an ordinary Bangladeshi youth, Mithu, who is struggling to come to terms with life in the big city. He has insufficient funds to meet his every day needs let alone his desires – for consumer goods that are representative of the move of Bangladesh into the global economy. Consequently Mithu sees possession of the tape in toe ways; as an opportunity to acquire things and as an investment that may bring power. The actress Rima contacted Mithu  to retrieve the sex tape but Mithu, realizing the commercial value of the tape in his possession, becomes a play master and he starts blackmailing Rima.

Under Construction: A Document of Time and Space Under Construction

Under Construction is a film about women made by women. It is also a critique of contemporary Bangladeshi society in two ways. First, the story skillfully weaves together an examination of gender relations in Bangladesh, which is followed with a powerful critique of the exploitation of labour and the underlying political structures governing it in the country. The trope linking these two disparate social phenomena is that of construction. The film looks at and deconstructs how gender is constructed in a conservative, patriarchal society against a backdrop of urban blight caused by the over-construction of dwellings in Dhaka. The latter is of particular importance as the construction industry and the multistory building it produces signify the deep and lasting changes modernity has on shaping contemporary Dhaka. The single storey bungalow is disappearing and the social life it supported is now a thing of history, especially in respect to the role of women. Thus Under Construction has enormous relevance for our understanding of the changing worldview consumer capitalism has brought to Bangladesh. This is made abundantly clear in the manner in which the film deconstructs a classical Bengali play, Tagore’s The Red Oleander.  Roya, the female protagonists seeks to ‘modernise’ the play, which antagonizes some of friends who revere Tagore while a visitor (someone without deep cultural roots in Bengali culture) is attracted to the idea. Thus Under Construction is a multi-layered production that is good to look at but biting in its criticism of contemporary affairs.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Policy Supports, Doesn't Control

THE government published a gazette recently on the National Broadcast Policy-2014 despite widespread criticism. The criticism started after the cabinet's approval of the Policy. And the response is not limited only to the stakeholders -- experts on talk shows and general public in the social media are talking about the repressive intentions hidden in the clauses of the policy. It has become a popular issue, and there has been severe criticism similar to the responses to Information and Communication Technology (Amendment) Act, 2013 and Online Media policy (Draft), 2012.  
Those policies and acts were initiated and formulated by the same government in its two consecutive regimes. In all cases, there are similarities in taking policy measures or enacting laws. The government shares the draft online and invites stakeholders and general public to add their views. The final outcome is considered to be repressive and against freedom of expression by the stakeholders and the public. There was only the opportunity for the public to see the draft but there was no mechanism to send feedback there.

Monday, May 12, 2014

First Comprehensive Book on Bangladesh's Media

Eds: Shoesmith  & Gelino

A new book on Bangladeshi media has been published recently. The book is first of its kind that is an anthology of contemporary media of Bangladesh written in English and published from an internationally reputed publishing house (Intellect Books,Bristol/Chicago). The title of the book is Bangladesh's Changing Mediascape edited by Brian Shoesmith and Jude Gelino. I have contributed two chapters in the anthology: 1. 'The Profile and Activity of Citizen Journalists: A Study on Bangla Blog Community' 2. 'Independent Cinema in Bangladesh: Its Roots, Growth, Challenges and Opportunities'. However, the book chapters show that the book tried to cover the diverse areas of changing mediascape of Bangladesh:

Chapter 1: Bangladesh;s Changing Mediascape: An Introduction 1
Brian Shoesmith and Jude William Genilo

Chapter 2: From few to many voices: An overview of Bangladesh's Media
Brian Shoesmith and Shameem Mahmud

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Common Gender: The First Queer Feature in Bangladesh

Making film on sexually marginalized people is almost a revolutionary attempt by a filmmaker in Bangladesh. Noman Robin’s debut feature Common Gender: The Film portrays the struggle and deprivation of Hijras, the transgender community in Bangladesh. It is a movie version of a television drama of the same title. Queer films are regularly produced in some other countries which depict the psycho-social struggle of homosexual, transgender or transvestites. Directors like Derek Jarman or Gregg Araki have addressed the queer issues in their films. Some of the films made by Pedro Almodovar, Rainer Warner Fassbinder, Chen Kaige, Ang Lee or Wong Kar-Wai also dealt with the issue. In Bangladesh, the study of identity politics focuses on the rights of women in a patriarchal society. But other sexual identities are generally ignored in the art forms. Common Gender is one if the first artistic expressions that deals with the issues of Hijras, a marginalized community with transgender sexual identity.

Though Hijras have several forms in sexual identities, in Common Gender, they are described as children born as males but as they grow up, internal hormonal change compels them to act like females; they wear female dresses, behave like women; at a stage, they are rejected by their family and the society they used to live in. After leaving the family, they are raised within a Hijra community, under the supervision of a Masi. In the new derived community their names are changed – Susmoy turns into Susmita or Babu into Bubli. These two are two prominent characters in the film Common Gender but they have some other friends named as Tuli, Shakiba, Shakira, Pori and Tushi. They have a common friend Tota Mia with regular male identity residing nearby their slum. In a wedding, a Hindu young man Sanjoy proposed Susmita to be his friend. Through mobile phone conversations they become intimate. Sanjoy often says if Susmita were a woman. Sanjoy’s expectation increases femininity within Susmita. She falls in love with Sanjoy. Sanjoy introduces Susmita with his parents but they scolded their son for having a Hijra friend. After being ill-treated by Sanjoy’s parents, Susmita committed suicide. The very day of Susmita’s death, her mother visited the slum. Bubli started missing her mother after seeing Susmita’s mother. She visited her home in the midnight. Her brother scolded and beat her for entering home. This incident also provoked Bubli to commit suicide. In the last imaginary scene of the film, Susmita and Bubli met in the heaven.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Nagpoornima: Just Another Snake Cinema

Bangladesh, 1983
Dir: Masud Parvez
Main Actors: Sohel Rana, Babita, Rozina, Adil.
Format: 35 mm
Duration: 135 mins
The Kalnagini (female black cobra) targeted a pet bird of a child for her dinner. The baby girl hits the snake with a stick for taking her bird. The Kalnagini bites the girl, the daughter of a snake-charmer, dies. The angry father plays the flute to find the Kalnagini and kills the son of the Kalnagini. Raged Kalnagini declares she will kill the son of the snake-charmer and thus will make him childless. The father rushes to Sadhu Baba, the saint. Sadhu Baba prescribes a difficult and complex way to save Mangol, the son. The snake-charmer has to feed the venom of black cobra everyday for 12 years. The boy was also given an armlet by the Sadhu Baba. The armlet must not be put off from Mangol’s body. If it is put off and one snake bites him meanwhile, from the next full moon, Mangol will be in trouble.
The snake-charmer follows the prescription. Mangol grows by drinking venom everyday. The young Mangol falls in love with Lachi, a beautiful neighbouring girl. The grandson of the head of the snake-charmers, Sheru also loves Lachi and wants to marry Lachi. He sends some thugs to kill Mangol. Mangol defeats them. But while fighting, his armlet was put off. And at that time the Kalnagini keeps her promise by biting Mangol.

Friday, September 21, 2012

‘I am assertively hearing footsteps of a change’

Fahmidul Haq, associate professor of mass communication and journalism at the University of Dhaka who has authored several books on the country's mainstream and digital cinema, is hopeful about positive changes to Bangladesh’s film industry. AKM Atikuzzaman writes

How do you relate the state of movie theatres with the sorry state of the country's cine culture?
Cinema halls are an integral part of cine culture so much so that without the former the latter will disappear. Watching in small screens or discussing movies might continue, yet diminished would be the cine culture in its proper sense. Absence of halls in a country would even bring its production of films to an end, although we might keep watching foreign movies in small screens.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Social Media: The Debate on Freedom and Responsibility

Defining social media Social media is a web-based platform where people share information, thoughts and activities. Social media has overtaken pornography as the number one activity on the web. According to Wikipedia, social media includes web-based and mobile technologies used to turn communication into interactive dialogue ( The term Web 2.0 is associated with web applications that facilitate participatory information sharing, interoperability, user-centred design, and collaboration on the World Wide Web ( Examples of Web 2.0 include social networking sites, blogs, wikis, video sharing sites, hosted services and web applications. The news site, Indymedia was formed after the anti-WTO movement started in Seattle in 1999. Later the news site opened 120 branch sites from Boston to Bombay (Beckerman, 2003). The reporter-activists of Indymedia do not believe in objectivity. They believe that no journalism is without bias and the mainstream claims neutrality to mask these biases. If the Seattle incident gave birth to Indymedia, 9/11 popularised the blog. The Iraq War increased the number of bloggers. This proves that bloggers want to express their opinions of major global incidents, and in many cases they provide instant information regarding the incidents. Thus, they play the role of citizen journalists and respond on behalf of humanity and to the greater causes of majority people. According to the blog search engine Technorati, there were 133 million blogs from 2002 to 2008. Every hour, 0.9 million blogs are posted in cyberspace ( Though not all, but a significant number of blogs are run by strong activists. Several bloggers around the globe have been arrested for writing against repressive governments. And recently, social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have been added in the row. Though these sites were introduced to offer casual friendship, they were used as key components in the contemporary Arab Spring. The social networking site, Facebook was introduced in 2004. Just six years after its inception, the number of Facebook users crossed 500 million (now 800 million). It has become the third biggest 'country' in the world (Fletcher, 2010).

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Role of Media in Creating Consumer Culture in Bangladesh

The neo-liberal and free market economic system and deregulated media situation have ensured introduction of numerous commercial media outlets in Bangladesh. These entire media world are dedicated to create and to enhance consumer culture in the country. They are engaged in selling audience to the advertisers. This article will critically analyse how the media sell the audience to the advertisers. The theoretical aspect the political economy of communication would be instructive here in the critical engagement and case studies would be the method to investigate the role of media in creating consumer culture in Bangladesh. The areas of investigation in the article would be some cases selected from the newspapers, private television channels and FM commercial radios.

Media Sells Audience
In course of time, the idea of audience had shifted from mass to market. As the media have become bigger business, the term ‘market’ has gained in currency (McQuail, 2005). Media usually sells the market or this set of consumers to the advertisers. Denis McQuail defined audience as an ‘aggregate of actual or potential consumers of media services and products, with a known social-economic profile’ (McQuail, 2005: 399). In recent times audience is treated by media not as a group of public, rather a set of consumers.