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Reviving Bangladeshi Cinema

nijugrapher-iffi_2016-day_8-1-dsc_3297By Kinjal Sethia

“The film is based on quasi-reality,” says Amitabh Reza Chowdhury, director ‘Aynabaji’ (2016) from Bangladesh. The film depicts a teacher who replaces prisoners during their jail term, but then gets caught up in a horrific situation just as he decides to give up this perilous lifestyle. “I was inspired by a news story two years ago, and then I did meet a person who replaced politicians when they were sentenced to prison. I also wanted to tell the story of Dhaka as a mother to its denizens. It speaks of the poverty in such a place that compels people to take up such dangerous opportunities.”

Aynabaji’ is also meant revive the culture of filmmaking in Bangladesh. Chowdhury says, “From 700 cinema theatres earlier, Bangladesh now has only 100 that screen films regularly. Filmmaking was on the demise. Even this film was screened only in 10 theatres, but now there are theatres that run only ‘Aynabaji’ for the whole day. More than 18 million people in Bangladesh have seen the film. So there is hope for Bangladeshi filmmaking.”

On the difficulties of making the film in Bangladesh, Chowdhury says, “We made the film in the old city area of Dhaka, so it was technically difficult. But the cultural sphere is supportive. Although fundamentalist, the government is a democracy. The political stability allow for creative freedom now.”

On the current situation in back home, Chowdhury says, “Although some bloggers have been attacked, generally the space allows for freedom for expression. The government cannot be attacked directly, but there is space for comment and criticism. Apart from a few pockets, Bangladesh allows liberal thought. After 1971, other arts, like cinema, had the chance to grow. Womens issues exist, but things are improving. 52 per cent of the workforce in agriculture is made up by women.”