Our celluloid charade
Towheed Feroze

What ails Dhaliwood?

  • Originality is one of the many things that the Bangladeshi film industry needs 
    Photo- BIGSTOCK

Filmdom in crisis, or “cholochitro shonkote,” is something which we have been hearing for quite some time and, on Saturday last, while lazily surfing through TV channels, came across a round table discussion where luminaries of the film world had gathered to discuss the current state of stagnation afflicting movies, leaving the cinema industry in a precarious position. 

In fact, one observation is that, nowadays, most new actresses seem to be determined to marry quickly and settle down with a comfortable (read: Secure) life. Marriage was certainly not an option for many professional actresses in the 70s and 80s until they reached an age when they could not delay it any longer.

The reason was simple: At that time, actresses had regular work, guarantee of income, and a secure livelihood from films. 

Today, female actors do not have that security. 

This is because the movie industry is a loss-making one. Being an avid movie-goer and watcher of both local and international films, I decided to pay attention to the talk show, where a lot of harsh truth was spoken with some utter nonsense thrown in, diluting the main concern in the end.

The truth is, the film world, which, honestly speaking, was never an arena of total honesty, has now waded into such low levels of unscrupulousness that it’s very hard to pinpoint one reason which can counter the rot

The most poignant observation was possibly made by Amjad Hossain, a veteran actor, plus movie producer and director, who underlined the problem of wanton copying from ludicrous Madrasi and Tamil films. 

“I see a hodge-podge of absurd culture in the copied productions which do not have the purely Bangladeshi touch,” he remarked. 

I agree. But it’s also wise to keep in mind that copying from others is not a new trend. Even in the 70s and 80s, many super-hit movies made here were based on some hit Bollywood formula of the time. The done-to-death templates of “two sons getting lost, one becoming a goon, the other a police officer and the happy family reunion in the end of separated siblings with their lost mother by incredible twists” is actually a Bollywood creation, followed assiduously with countless variations here in Bangladesh. 

Many movies like those based on Masud Rana, Sujon Shokhi, Naag Purnima, and Fakir Maznu Shah were not total copies but based on either indigenous rural plots or historical struggles. 

Today, not even one can claim to have an original plot. At the discussion, the recent blockbuster Aynabaji, made by an advert expert, was mentioned, but then, no one ever said at the roundtable that Aynabaji was not an original either. 

The film borrows the main plot from a Korean film, Tumbleweed. I saw Aynabaji and liked it despite the fact that it was not fully original, but just because the plot was perfectly crafted/recalibrated to fit into the middle-class socio-economic frame of Bangladesh.

Millions went and watched it; the advert guru Amitabh Reza, present at the discussion, should have mentioned that his inspiration was from the Korean film. 

Sorry, I refuse to accept that the similarities in the plot line of Aynabaji and the Korean film are merely coincidental. 

Yet, the film has set a milestone: I would give the credit to Partho, Chanchal, and the others for the fluid, non-contrived acting.

The plot may have been borrowed but the performances were not and that is where the success lay. 

Proving, once again that we have talent here.

What the advert man said about marketing made a lot of sense. Even before the film was released, hype was created which triggered a social media storm, leading to full cinema halls. 

The thing is, the main disease of Dhaliwood is that it is governed by the phantom of the Bollywood formula -- underground dons, dialogue filled with braggadocio, navel-exposing item numbers, and implausible plots. 

The name “Shakib Khan” came up with the mention of the movie Shikari. Reportedly, this was a successful film. A disjointed storyline, incredulous dialogue supported by cringe-worthy plot twists make this another celluloid absurdity. 

Trust me, I tried watching it.  

So what is the reason for the success of such a film? Well, I would call it luck, nothing else. 10 movies by one actor are released in a year -- one is bound to do better than others and if it’s released during Eid, chances of profit are doubled because people have plenty time to spare and often end up in the movies, not to watch a certain film but to pass some time enjoying camp entertainment.

Ludicrous stuff can be fun when one is part of a large group. 

Someone also said that the film industry is in a morass because productions are arbitrarily dictated by the producer, who often impose their own ideas on directors. This is true, but there is another shockingly murky dimension to this. 

People who have never produced movies suddenly show interest in making films, reportedly for two reasons: First, to avoid paying too much income tax by showing their involvement in movie-making or, in more civilised language, engagement in the promotion of the arts, and, secondly, just to become accessible to the countless number of young women who often enter the film world to become a star at any cost. 

Sorry to say this, a lot of established actors have very notorious backgrounds -- some hushed-up, others not so much, since their past escapades are often available in the international adult channels.

Whatever the case, let’s not go into the moral sphere here. Once someone has made a mark in filmdom, the dark past should be laid to rest.     

Incidentally, the loss-making film is actually advantageous because, by citing financial difficulty, other tax related facilities can be gained. 

What no one ever talks about is that shadowy world of filmdom where no-strings-attached physical favours overtake the actual movie-making, leaving cinema as just a facade with elaborate launching ceremonies carried out with the sole purpose of giving credence to a quick money-making, tax-dodging scams.  

In the last five years, countless movies were announced which never went into actual shooting. In these cases, either the faux launching was used to gain social leverage in some form or they were done simply as a cover for seamier operations.  

Just an idea: One can easily carry out a plethora of “other” activities when there is the banner of a movie/media production to work as a shield. 

Many directors and actors know of this but won’t talk about it. 

The truth is, the film world, which, honestly speaking, was never an arena of total honesty, has now waded into such low levels of unscrupulousness that it’s very hard to pinpoint one reason which has caused it to rot. 

But, for starters, the judicious path would be to stop copying brazenly to make movies based on local stories. 

Also, take lessons from Aynabaji -- innovative marketing can do wonders. So, cut out the flesh-exposing posters and gun-toting heroes with superhuman swaggers. 

Why not try to be down to earth and plausible?


Towheed Feroze is a journalist currently working in the development sector.

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