35 mm of Revolution

He has lived through his country's political instability and now he is living through the indifference of his natives to art cinema.

Written by Shashi Priya | Published:February 22, 2009 1:40 am

The flag bearer of alternative cinema in Bangladesh,filmmaker Tanvir Mokammel gives a glimpse of the country’s world of cinema

He has lived through his country’s political instability and now he is living through the indifference of his natives to art cinema. But he remains hopeful. For Bangladeshi director Tanvir Mokammel taking his anti-fundamentalist and anti-establishment films to the middle class of a country,where democracy still is in a nascent state,had been a tough ride. And today when the talk shows on Bangladeshi television address issues that are taboos in the society,Mokammel,feels the art cinema will see the day of light in the country. Mokammel believes extremist movements that plague not only Muslim countries but the whole world have severe repercussions. “Fundamentalists are everywhere. If Bangladesh is a Muslim country it’s not necessary that fundamentalists form a major part of its population. The quintessence of our culture is humanity and through my films I portray that,” says Mokammel.

Mokammel,who took to filmmaking in late 1980s,touches issues such as the liberation war of Bangladesh and the values of secularism,anti-fundamentalism and independence promoted by the historic event. In the city to screen two of his films,Chitra Nadir Pare (Quiet Flows the River) and Swapna Bhoomi (The Promised Land) at Bangladeshi Film Festival,Mokammel talks about the film scene in Bangladesh.

Where Chitra Nadir Pare paints the plight of a lawyer torn between his love for his motherland and his safety concerns,Swapna Bhoomi portrays the problems of linguistic refugees in Bangladesh. “If you will see there are three kinds of refugees in our country – linguistic,ethnic and religious and since democracy still is in a nascent state in our country these minorities suffer the most,” says the director.

Surviving the absence of adequate funds and exhibition outlets,Mokammel’s films have made their way to international acclaim. Interestingly,one of his films that won national awards in various categories in Bangladesh was earlier denied of national grants due to the sensitive issue the film dealt with. “ I had to make a 16 mm film instead of a 35 mm one. I was not at all satisfied with lighting and the indoor sequences but the film surprisingly won national awards including best screenplay.

When asked about the commercial cinema in Bangladesh Mokammel quips,”In Bangladesh the commercial cinema is a poor man’s copy of Bollywood. We produce like 80 to 90 films per year when it comes to commercial cinema.”

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