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


Nagpoornima
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 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_media). 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 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_2.0). 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 (www.technorati.com/blogging/state-of-blogosphere/). 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.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Telecommunication sector under threat

The latest news in the telecom sector is "International Terrestrial Cable (ITC) license holders will be allowed/issued International Internet Gateway (IIG) license by default." The ITC license holders have already had meetings with the Ministry of Post and Telecommunication (MoPT) and Bangladesh Telecommunication and Regulatory Commission (BTRC) on the matter.

The reason they have shown in issuance of IIG license in their favour is that, as Bangladesh Telecommunication Company Limited (BTCL) and Mango Teleservices Limited (Mango) are holding both IIG and ITC licenses, if they are not given IIG license then they don't have any valid business case with ITC license only. One may be surprised to know that MoPT and BTRC may be considering such a request.

Issuance of the IIG license to ITC license holders would clearly cause procedural and legal difficulties for which the government/BTRC could come under questioning. If ITC license holders are of the opinion that BTCL and Mango are a threat to their business and they don't have any valid business case with ITC license only, then we may conclude that these five ITC license holders have submitted incorrect/wrong business documents/

feasibility reports without assessing their business risk factors; or they don't have any clear idea regarding ITC business; or BTRC/MoPT have failed to assess bidders properly and awarded these license wrongly. Before bidding, these ITC license holders knew that BTCL as an incumbent would be allowed one ITC license by MoPT/BTRC and Mango, as a prospective bidder for ITC license and as per the ILTDS Policy-2010, would also be awarded ITC license.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Cinema as the Work of Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction

Benjamin, Aura and Digital Reproduction
In his ground breaking article entitled 'The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction' Walter Benjamin (Benjamin, 1936) depicted how mechanical reproduction has changed the nature of production and consumption of art work. The most important thing is that the work of art has lost its aura. Aura is indicative of art's traditional association with primitive, feudal, or bourgeois structures of power. For the case of painting, there is always an original one, hanging in a museum or in the house of an elite person. One's claim of seeing Monalisa is not complete until he or she goes to the Louvre and sees the original work of art. But in the case of press, photography or film, one cannot differentiate between the copied one and the master. In the age of reproduction, the work of art loses the aura of originality. Benjamin (Benjamin, 1936) says the technique of reproduction detaches the reproduced object from the domain of tradition. By making many reproductions it substitutes a plurality of copies for a unique existence. Even the printed copy of Monalisa can be found in front of the Louvre which contributes, to some extent, to the loss of aura. According to Robert Kolker (Kolker, 1999), Benjamin, unlike most of his Frankfurt School associates, did not look at this loss of aura with alarm. Rather, he thought about the growth of popular culture as something to be understood not as an oppressive reality, but as a potentially liberating one. The mechanical reproduction system could democratis e art. One who has a still camera can be a creator of a work of art.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

New book on Digital Cinema in Bangladesh


This book tried to investigate the potentials, trends and challenges of digital film in Bangladesh. The study has studied four digital films as cases to understand the digital film situation in Bangladesh. However, the theoretical notions by Walter Benjamin (1936) and Samira Makhmalbaf (2000) were instructive in guiding this study. According to their approach, new technological art medium always liberate and democratize art forms. Enthusiasts indicate that new filmmakers will embrace digital film as the preferred format and create a new cinema tradition in Bangladesh. Responding to that euphoria of technological liberty, this study has examined the potentials of digital cinema in Bangladesh, the trends of existing digital filmmaking practices and problems of digital cinema in Bangladesh. After in-depth analysis and discussion, this study suggests how to progress digital filmmaking practices in Bangladesh.

Lists of Content

Preface
1. Introduction
Film is Dead, Long Live Cinema
Analog versus Digital Technology
Defining Digital Cinema
Origin and Development of Digital Cinema
Digital Intermediate
Distribution and Exhibition
2. The Work of Art in the Age of
Digital Reproduction
Work of Art in the Digital Age

Friday, January 7, 2011

40 Years of Media Experiences in Bangladesh: A Critical Overview

As in other countries, journalism in Bangladesh, too, has experienced three phases. The first was initiated by the politicians, with the media being used as the voice of political parties or for serving political agendas though, for Bangladesh, it was serving the agendas of people also as the country was fighting for rights against West Pakistan central government in 1960s. With time, questions were raised against biased and political journalism and there was advocacy for objective and ethical journalism. Worldwide, behind the introduction of objective journalism, there was a contribution of journalism schools. Today is the age of corporate-owned journalism, a contemporary reality that is both global and local. There are differences in the objective and style of these three kinds of journalism.

Bangladesh as a nation turns 40 in 2011. In this article I will review the trends and developments of journalism in Bangladesh in the last four decades. I will also try to forecast here the trends of the news industry in the coming decade after which Bangladesh will be a 50-year-old nation.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Cinema(s) of Bengal(s)


Until 1956, Bengali cinema meant cinema made from Kolkata. It was a big industry within India since 1930s and Bengali Muslims from East Bengal were basically the consumers of the film. However, the international recognition of Satyajit Ray and artistic success of some other filmmakers like Ritwik Ghatak and Mrinal Sen from West Bengal, India had created a profound impact on the filmmakers of Bangladesh. The Dhaka-based first full length sound feature film Mukh O Mukhosh (The Face and the Mask) was made in 1956, just after the next year of the release of Pather Pachali by Satyajit Ray. The film industry of Bangladesh, Bangladesh Film Development Corporation (BFDC), was established in 1957. One of the earlier film Ashia (1960), produced from BFDC and directed by Fateh Lohani was highly influenced by Pather Pachali. After the independence, the first internationally recognized film from Bangladesh, Suryo Dighal Bari (The Ominous House, 1979) by Masihuddin Shaker and Sheikh Niamat Ali was also influenced by Satyajit Ray’s neo-realist filmmaking style. The first film Dhire Bahe Meghna (Quiet Flows the River Meghna, 1973) by Alamgir Kabir – one important auteur of post-independence Bangladesh – was a co-production with India. He had cast several actors from India in most of his films. The three great filmmakers of West Bengal – Ray, Ghatak and Sen – all of them either born in East Bengal and later migrated to India after the partition in 1947 or their ancestors were born in East Bengal.

So the plight of partition, or the reminiscence of their homeland were the subjects of some of films by Ray, Ghatak and Sen. Ritwik Ghatak is one of them who never accepted the artificially created partition of India as well as partition of Bengal and he had always talked about the cultural unison of two Bengals.