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Celebrating 100 years of Indian cinema

B'deshi film industry at its lowest ebb: Tanvir Mokammel


C S BHATTACHARJEE | Kolkata, June 25, 2012 17:59
Tags : tanvir mokammel | bangladeshi film industry | 100 years of indian cinema |

Tanvir Mokammel is a Bangladeshi film director. In an interview with The Sunday Indian, Mokammel discusses the origin and development of Bangladeshi cinema and the contemporary scenario about film-making in the country.

Q: How did the Partition of Bengal impact Bangladeshi cinema in the long run?
Before the Partition in 1947, no film industry existed in East Bengal. After Pakistan was created, all the budget of the state exchequer for cinema would go for the development of the studios in Lahore and Karachi. The excuse given for not allotting any money to East Pakistan was that the region was too wet and humid. So the weather here was not suitable for celluloid! An utter nonsense of course, as Kolkata, being in the same latitude, and being no less wet and humid than Dhaka, had busy film studios and a throbbing film-industry.

Then in 1954, when a coalition government, mostly of the Bengali politicians, was formed, it led to some positive development. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, then a young energetic Minister for Industries, ever eager to do something positive for East Bengal, took the initiative to establish a Film Development Corporation (FDC) in Dhaka, and the first film in East Pakistan "Mukh O Mukhosh" (1956) directed by Abdul Jabbar Khan was made. Since then there was no looking back, and the film industry in Dhaka began to bloom. In those days Indian films were shown in the cine-halls. Uttam-Suchitra duo was still the heartthrob, until the 1965 war between India and Pakistan broke out. After that Indian cinema was banned in Pakistan.

Q: What are your five all-time favourite Bangladeshi films?
It's difficult to answer. More difficult as one or two of my films may creep in the list. May be, “Surjo Dighal Bari" by Sheikh Niamat Ali and Moshiuddin Shaker, “Dhire Bohe Meghna” by Alamgir Kabir, “Chaka" by Morshedul Islam, “Matir Moina” by Tareque Masud and “Chitra Nadir Pare” of mine.

Q: In what respect is cinema in Bangladesh different from the cinema in India (especially West Bengal)?
Bangladeshi cinema is lagging quite a few years back from the Indian cinema. So far technology, budget and professionalism are concerned; Indian cinema is technically much more advanced. Then Indian films, even West Bengal films these days, are made with a much higher budget than Bangladeshi films. Lots of film institute graduates work behind the camera in Indian cinema which gives these films a professional look.

Q: Do you watch Bengali films made in Kolkata? What are your impressions about these films?
Indian films are not shown in Bangladesh cine-halls but people watch these films in DVD format or in the television channels. I try to watch new films from Kolkata. The new generation of film-makers of Kolkata seems to be venturing with new and unconventional subjects which are very good as they broaden the horizon of cinema. Technically also, these films are quite impressive.

Q: Are you happy with the way Bangladeshi film industry is functioning today?
Not at all. The commercial film industry in Bangladesh is at its lowest ebb now. They seem to have totally run out of ideas and the industry is simply dying. Hundreds of cine-halls have recently closed down and more are in the offing. Bangladesh film industry is at its nadir now. The only genre where some quality films are being made is in the alternative film arena, where some worthy films are being made which even have received international accolades.

Q: Do you think it would be better for both the countries if more co-productions are attempted?
Sure. It will widen the market and will create more possibilities in business. But I am not sure that it guarantees quality films. Creativity is a different ball game altogether, and to make a film worthy to be an art work, is never an easy thing.

Q: On which film are you working at the moment?
Right now I am preparing for my next feature film titled "Jibon Dhuli" (The Drummer). I have written the script. The story is on the backdrop of the 1971 war.

Q: Do you think 1947 has a great impact on both parts of Bengal and this sub-continent? Can you refer a film on this theme which portrayed the issue?
The impact was traumatic. Life and destiny of millions of families were totally devastated by the Partition in 1947. The tragedy had its share of impact on cinema as well; Ritwik Ghatak's films are a case in point. I myself have a film on the backdrop of Partition of 1947 titled “Chitra Nadir Pare”. The film on partition theme which immensely impressed me was S.M. Sathyu's “Garam Hawa”, a gem of a film, excelling both in the theme as well cinematic expression.

Q: Several of your films bear names of rivers like Chitra, Karnaphuli, Madhumoti, Jamuna. However, except Jamuna, others do not go into critical future of the rivers, particularly in today's situation. Do you think it is necessary?
It is true that only “The Tale of the Jamuna River” dealt directly with the destiny of the Jamuna. For other names of the rivers in my films, well, they actually came more as a pointer to a locality, as the river Chitra indicates that the film was set in Narail region, or Karnaphuli suggested that the events of the film happened in the Chittagong Hill tracts. These names of the rivers have to be looked at symbolically, as the very name of a particular river evokes images of a particular region, its flora and fauna, and most importantly, its people - who live on the banks of these rivers.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017