Filmmaker revisits ghosts of Bangla war

It’s been 40 years and the scars are still visible. The ghosts of the 1971 Liberation War fought in the yesteryear East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) keep haunting the memories of those who survived its horrors at the frontline. Having felt the tremors of this massive disaster from close quarters where almost 30 lakh people got massacred, Bangladeshi filmmaker Morshedul Islam revisits the turbulent times in his latest film Amar Bondhu Rashed.
Last week, the movie was screened to a full house at the Metro Cinema hall of Kolkata as part of the just-concluded International Forum of New Cinema, organised by the oldest Indian film society Cine Central, Calcutta. A toast of the festival circuit, Amar Bondhu Rashed was earlier showcased at Japan’s Fukuoka filmfest as well as in Delhi and Agartala, where a movie carnival was hosted by the Bangladeshi embassy. Was this homage to the martyrs of Bangladesh’s freedom struggle long overdue? “No not really, because I’ve made at least four films on this troubled period till date,” divulged the director from the neighbouring nation at his film’s screening. The other ventures are namely, Agami, Suchana, Khelaghar and Sarat 71. No doubt, the subject is recurrent theme in his repertoire of 14 projects till date.
Admitting a clear reference to autobiographical elements in his movie, Islam recalled: “I was barely 13 then, studying in Class 8. And given that tender young age, it is but natural for an impressionable mind to get attracted towards such upheavals. Yet I did try and absorb the significance of the war rather than calling it an adventure, since my own elder brother was involved in the Muktijoddha bahini (Liberation Army) and chanted Jai Bangla slogans like other battling soldiers did.”
The filmmaker added: “Post his military training in the Dhaka city, he would bring in crates of arms and ammunitions to stock for different operations, later to be carried out in the capital. It was then up to me and my elder sister to stack the arms in a safe custody, hiding them inside dark, ditches covered with heaps of bricks.”
Narrating a hair-raising incident, he said: “One day, the Muktijoddha gang was conducting a meeting inside a cottage, which was gheraoed by a pack of Pakistani policemen, close on their heels, in white uniforms. Acting on a tip-off, the entire group then fled the place in haste, only to leave behind two boxes filled with grenades. Realising the mistake, the chief leader of that liberation crew asked me to sneak in and procure those boxes back from there. Fortunately, I not only followed the order but could also retrieve the chests, unscathed from that secret shed.”
Incidentally, Islam had made his directorial debut with a short film called Agami as a university student in 1984. “It was shown at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI), which used to be held in Delhi before. It did bag a Silver Peacock,” he proudly revealed adding that “it was still then so difficult to talk about and portray the liberation war on the political grounds.” “At present, the only cause of relief is that the war criminals who perpetrated a ruthless pogrom of innocent lives, not sparing even women and children in the dastardly act, are booked under laws and will soon be brought to justice, which is though delayed, but certainly not denied,” he remarked. To the uninitiated, history bears a mute witness to the committing of most heinous atrocities against women, torturing them and outraging their modesty and even slaying down little children at gunpoint. Agami focused on those anti-liberation groups which opposed and totally disregarded the freedom movement in Bangladesh in the early 1970s. It also showed how these subversive forces which tried to sabotage and jeopardise the base of the “muktijuddha” ideology came up in the society in due course of time.
Wielding the camera for three long decades, this famous director from Comilla district’s Brahmanbaria village in Opar Bangla prefers to keep a low-profile, despite being mobbed by a bevy of discerning film-buffs and critics, post screening of his film, which was reeled in 2011 over a span of nine months. The film did an average business back home, informed the helmer himself. While a coterie of critics appreciated his efforts to reel a simple, yet hard-hitting tale on the celluloid soon after its showcase, another section immediately pointed out a string of minor flaws. “Wish there were more prominent visual allusions to the late Banga Bandhu Mujibur Rahman in the film instead of keeping his name sporadically implied in the plot. Also the mention of India’s support and participation in the liberation movement would add to the film’s near-credence and justice to its subject,” they stated in chorus.
Veering the conversation to today’s youth, Islam maintained that the interest to know about the country’s past, especially the war of independence from Pakistan back in 1971 and the succeeding birth of Bangladesh, is increasingly growing among the GenY. “However, in the interim period, from the time our erstwhile national leader Sheikh Mujib got assassinated in 1975 till the year 1996, in which his party Awami League came to power to form the central government with his daughter Sheikh Hasina being elected as the Prime Minister, a complete generation was deprived of true history as facts were distorted; even the school textbooks were fed with wrong information about our Father of the Nation,” he said.
Probed if “international terrorism” in the subcontinent is a matter of grave concern and a threat to Bangladesh’s political scenario, he said: “Well, the issue of terrorism is to some extent put under a cap of control but you never know when and how these obnoxious terror-cells erupt open like germs to attack and multiply. For example, there are certain militant outfits, like the extremist Jamaat-e-Islami which was banned by the government by is yet again rearing its head.”

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