Questioning the Historical Pigeonhole:
Dissection of Noroshundor
Mohammad Mahfuzul Islam
NOROSHUNDOR (Barbershop) the brainchild of director duo Tareq and Catherine Masud, castigates stereotyped representation of a systematically muzzled community whose members are denied access to the vocal platform. Representation through sweeping and crude categorization grows from strength to strength drawing on a generalized affiliation of a community in question with a linear truth resulting in perpetually stigmatized tagging. Tanvir Mokammel first brought the miserable plight of the Urdu-speaking Biharis under the spotlight through his docu-film 'Promised land.' Although 'Barbershop' is a fictionalized attempt, the storyline was wonderfully woven with similar real-life events from our liberation war of '71. The stream of the story thus was realistic, embarking on a wholehearted endeavor to shatter the unitary and homogenous construction of the community in the cognitive as well as in the behavioral sphere of the Bangalees. With a ivid portrayal of the interaction and the interpersonal tension among the characters, the director duo was bent on instituting transcendental reality. In this film the threshold between reality and fiction dissolves leaving the remnant of the screen as the only vestige of separation. Needless to say, our liberation war was a vast chapter encompassing many interconnected and episodic snippets, which crystallizes from the representation of the (chosen) microscopic event in the film, where a Bihari saves the freedom fighter from the clutches of the Pakistani Army. This incident however small it may seem, provides the message that singular categorization conveys only partially dangerous image of any community's reality. In the post 9/11 world, the unitary representation of Muslims as terrorists is pivoted on similar artifice of inadequate argumentation.
Our life is the constellation of multiple possibilities. One such depiction is by Kieslowski in one of his films 'Blind Chance', where the director focuses on three possibilities of the course that a person's life can take. Likewise Barbershop is the projection of one possibility amidst numerous silent ones that could have been given definite shape by the director. The pariah status of the Biharis that stemmed from their generalized affiliation with the collaborators gets a formidable jerk in the film. The film comes before us as a big question mark that needs to be answered instead of given a cold shoulder. It gives us the message that unitary classification can be lethal for the proper understanding of the internal dynamics of any community. Rather than going for single strand of truth we must strive towards multifarious versions of reality. Perfunctory construction of identity through hard and fast rules is a dangerous practice that might lead to the annihilation of possible deliberation of different options.
As said earlier, Tarek and Catherine Masud zeroed in on a murky chapter of our historical tome i.e. the role of Biharis during the liberation war to press home the redefined truth that stigmatized affiliation cannot be taken for granted, rather should be given a second thought before any such arrangement is made possible. The film harbours an empathetic outlook towards the Bihari- one of the marginalized segments of our society- for they are the victims of one-eyed reasoning. The directors in their preoccupation with uneven surface of history, exhumed the skeleton of alternative truth, to help us demolish the edifice of exclusionary stratagem. Length of the film was a drawback as well as its strength, for it came up with a food for thought that instead of being conclusive was open to the frontiers of further deliberation making for the dialogical practice. The film came as a strong gale dismantling the ordered sequence of our thought and putting us in a positively precarious situation.
Noroshundor (Barbershop) was successful in igniting the deconstruction of protracted stereotype. The film having capitalized on Gillo Pontecorvo's 'dictatorship of truth', established pluralistic avenues of reaching the destination of constructed information. With such an alternative reference to the historical stock, the identity of the Bihari could be given improved meaning for their refurbished existence. The director duo commands accolade for using multidimensional language with great dexterity. Different dimensions are juxtaposed as well as pitted against one another to enrich the texture of interactive relationships of the hyper-real actors. The film was in effect, an eye-opener for groups who are on the sunny side to rethink the issue of identity politics.