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.