Tuesday afternoons are quite quiet at the Star Cineplex; being the middle of the week and with the shopping mall Bashundhara City on its weekly closure, it's the day that draws the smallest numbers to the country's premier multiplex and is my favourite day to visit the cinemas to avoid the crowds. This week, however, I had to stand in a rather long ticket queue there, something I had never seen happen on a Tuesday. People of all ages were there, and they were not looking to get tickets for the big Hollywood titles like “It” and “Blade Runner 2049”. It was all “Dhaka Attack”.
Dipankar Dipon's directorial debut, dubbed the country's first cop thriller, is shaping up to be a Box Office juggernaut with over seven crores in sales in its first weekend. Social media has been abuzz leading up to its October 6 release, and the hype train is only gathering momentum with houseful shows across the country. Dhallywood has not seen this big an audience except for Eid Festivals in years.
And it is all for a good reason. With a well-crafted story providing ample thrill, edge-of-the-seat action sequences, good music and formidable acting put together by an audacious director, “Dhaka Attack” delivers what Bangladesh's film audience have been craving for far too long: a full-blast action extravaganza to call our own. Dipon keeps the story up-tempo even for the lengthy, near-three-hour runtime, injects just the right amounts of emotional quotient and the quintessential 'commercial' film music that is a signature of films of the subcontinent, balances the thrill and procedural aspects of police investigation with great precision and makes the big reveal of an antagonist that leaves the audience awestruck.
In terms of acting, Arifin Shuvo shoulders his biggest film role to date with a lot of responsibility. AC Abid is the centerpiece of the film, and Shuvo's hard work and commitment to the role is commendable. ABM Sumon also handles his character's layers well – delivering equally well in the intensity of a SWAT officer and the sensitive personal side of a loving husband. Hasan Imam, Alamgir, Afzal Hossain and Nawshaba all stand their ground in their smaller roles, while Shatabdi Wadud shows why he is a trump card in any filmmaker's hand, producing one of the finest performances of the film. Mohammad Ali Haider, a powerhouse theatre actor, also deserves a mention - showing glimpses of his acting prowess in a small but crucial role. Mahiya Mahi is probably the Achilles Heel in the cast, but in her defense it was not the best-written character of the lot, and she was cast more as the token heroine and a star attraction.
But for many, the actor that steals the show is the virtually-unknown Taskeen Rahman, playing the diabolical, psychotic antagonist Jisan. He has an imposing presence in the film from its beginning despite being absent from the screen, and in a relatively brief screen-time following his late reveal, puts on a smashing performance. Big credit for it must go to Sunny Sanwar, the real-life police high-up who wrote the script, for coming up with such a sinister, maniacal and yet believable character. Jisan is not the garden variety Dhallywood villain; he is a classic antagonist with a strong back-story and Taskeen doesn't just act the role; he lives it.
Is the film a flawless cinematic masterpiece? Not by a long shot. Shuvo's hair keeps going back and forth from short to long throughout the film, Afzal Hossain's voice is dubbed by someone else, and a couple of CGI shots are less-than-perfect. But sometimes, especially in terms of films made for a large audience, it is much more about the entire impact the film makes than flaws to be nitpicked, and it is the case with the “Dhaka Attack”; the audience is so taken in by the film itself they don't care about the small stuff. Another reason the film establishes the audience's willing suspension of disbelief is its authenticity: it is written by a police official and directly backed by Dhaka Metropolitan Police, most of the SWAT and bomb-squad members are real-life professionals, and the director does not have to assume how the police would approach it – it's written down for him.
The cinematography is excellent, (I particularly loved the natural-light sequences shot in Banderban) and the sound design, background scores and the songs are all the right fit. Most importantly, the writer, director, producers knew what they wanted the film to be and they delivered it – a realistic action and thrill-fest, and they delivered a humdinger. The end of the film also quite openly promised a sequel, and fans already cannot wait.