Following the agreement of South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA), Bangladesh and India have been collaborating films for quite some time now. The agreement, which has been signed with a view “to create goodwill and better understanding among the people of both countries” through the exchange of art and culture between the parties, allows the commercial release of any Bangladeshi film in any SAFTA country. In exchange, Bangladesh can commercially release any film from that country.
However, a glimpse at the contemporary exchange scenario of films between the countries proves otherwise. Far from creating goodwill, the agreement is reportedly creating dispute with a visible disparity regarding its implementation.
Starting with the exchange of Chuye Dile Mon (Bangladesh) on February 26, a moderately successful romantic drama directed by Shihab Shaheen, featuring Arifin Shuvo and Zakia Bari Momo in lead roles with Nandita Roy and Shiboprosad Mukherjee’s critically acclaimed hit Belasheshe (India) - the exchange is seemingly being unequal by all standards.
Titas Kothachitro released Tollywood’s Tomake Chai in Bangladesh on March 17, while Badiul Alam Khokon’s Telegu film Dammu’s unofficial remake Rajababu, was released in India.
Furthermore, India’s Ankush Hazra-Nusrat Jahan starrer Haripada Bandwala was exchanged with Zayed Khan-Porimoni starrer Nagar Mastan, a film that was released in the local market two years ago and miserably failed to win the hearts of local audience.
It should be noted that Haripada Bandwala and Shakib Khan-Paoli Dam’s anticipated Satta were released on the same day in Bangladesh. Despite being a pre-released film, the Indian flick ended up on the screens of 79 theatres nationwide, while Satta managed a meagre 48 theatres.
This became a matter of dispute on various social media platforms. Many local film enthusiasts expressed their frustration on social media but their efforts seems to have gone in vain.
The news of Tollywood superstar Dev’s Eid special Chaamp’s expected release in Bangladesh in exchange of another year-old and failed Dhallywood venture Mastanai, featuring Kazi Maruf and Moushumi Hamid, has added fuel to the fire. It has been observed that with the Dhallywood films are being distributed to a minimum number of theatres in India while the Kolkata films are occupying the majority of Bangladeshi theatres when released.
Tollywood superstars like Jeet, Ankush, Om are being prioritised over the local “number one” Shakib Khan. This is evident from this Eid when Jeet’s infamous Boss 2 was able to occupy 112 theatres nationwide.
Apart from the fact that we have a smaller number in terms of theatres, Bangladeshi films are also barely being advertised in India, while local distributors like Jaaz Multimedia are able to create a buzz in the local market, for each of the Indian films. As a result, many have started to believe that the agreement only serves Indian interests, creating a viable market for Tollywood films in Bangladesh.
Many are questioning the information ministry’s role while allowing films that have failed to do business in the local market while there are both successful and critically acclaimed films including the likes of Aynabaji, Monpura, Guerilla, Zero Degree, Oggatonama, among others, that can be featured.