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Interview: 'Bangabandhu' will be a Bangladeshi film to the core

  • Published at 07:32 pm March 5th, 2020

I am not trying to release a Bollywood blockbuster in any way

The governments of Bangladesh and India are jointly producing a feature film based on the remarkable life of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Renowned Indian film-maker Shyam Benegal is to direct the project. 

In an intimate conversation with Bangla Tribune yesterday, Benegal said his long awaited project will be a Bangladeshi film to the core, shedding light on Bengali nationalism.

The Bangladesh Film Development Corporation (BFDC) published the official list of all cast members on their website on Tuesday.

Yes. They informed me before publishing the list for the press.

Why do you think no Indian actors were mentioned in the list?

Well, it is obvious, isn't it? Although India and Bangladesh are jointly producing the film, the story belongs to your country and your people. In other words, it is a story about Bengali nationalism. We kept that in mind before finalizing anything, to have an ensemble Bangladeshi cast. 

So, there will be no Indian actors?

I am sure there will be. Look, even though the film is based on the life of the iconic Bangladeshi leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, his story has great appeal to  international audiences to this day. So, yes, there will be subsequent casting of Indian actors, but I think, they won't be many in number.

What do you have to say about the rumors that superstars like Amitabh Bacchan are going to be cast in pivotal roles?

That's out of the question. I am not trying to release a Bollywood blockbuster in any way. My moral responsibility is to honour the sentiments and emotions of the Bangladeshi population who have pinned their hopes on this film, isn't it?

Many people regard Richard Attenborough's Gandhi as the ultimate exploration of Indian nationalism. Is your Bangabandhu going to be similar in its aspirations?

(laughs) Critics will make such comparisons. Why should I bother? If you remember, there was much controversy concerning the casting of Ben Kingsley in Gandhi's role. In fact, the criticisms were so harsh that the Indian government decided to make another Gandhi biopic and I was the one entrusted with the difficult job. Of course, I cast an Indian actor in the lead role!

You have also cast a Bangladeshi actor Arifin Shuvoo in Bangabandhu's role this time. 

Yes, many factors went into the decision. However, I must say that he came across as the most capable actor during the auditions.

Can you tell us more about the casting?

Although it certainly doesn't suit me, I will give you a hint. As I said before, it's a Bangla language film, hence there might be actors from West Bengal as well. 

Fourteen years ago, I made a film on the life of another legendary political leader of the sub-continent, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. A few cast members of that film might make appearances in the Bangabandhu biopic as well.

When will the shooting take place?

In ten to twelve days, I will be flying to Bangladesh with my entire production team. We want to start the shooting before the celebration of Mujib's birth centenary. The initial shooting will take place in Dhaka.

Thank you for talking to us.

Thank you.