Star Showbiz team visited eight cinema halls during and after Eid. On Eid day, I was lucky enough to visit three cinemas halls in one day. I managed to visit Holy, Asha and Torongo cinema halls in Shyamganj in Netrokona to have first-hand experience watching movies with the real cinema audience of Bangladesh. My intension was to watch all three Eid releases in one day. Unfortunately, it was not to be – the environment didn't let me. I could only talk to the audience, staff and owners. After Eid, I watched all three Eid releases in Dhaka. It was an exciting affair. I went to Asia and Chondo while Sadia Khalid tagged along with me at Purobi and Anondo. The movies we were after were: My Name is Khan, Nishshwartha Bhalobasha and Bhalobasha Ajkal.
Sweat on wobbling floor
I bet, not many of our readers can remember the last time they went watching a movie at a cinema hall (other than Star Cineplex). I, on the other hand, admire Quentin Tarantino for his appreciation of the raw entertainment. It includes: watching movies on large screens, fighting for tickets and of course the cheaply made movies with death defying stunts. His admiration can be watched in 'True Romance', when Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette met in a shanty cinema hall watching cheap Kung Fu movies. 'Planet Terror' and 'Grindhouse' are his tribute to the old-style of watching cinema.
I wasn't expecting to find any 'Patricia' when I went to Netrokona with the sole purpose to watch Eid movies with the locals. Although, I must admit, I expected a few female viewers. There are three cinema halls Shayamganj, Netokona: Holy, Torongo and Asha. Only one of them was screening 'My Names is Khan', one of the Eid releases. It was disappointing that I will only be able to watch one Eid movie at Holy Cinema Hall.
Asha Cinema hall owner, Bahar Uddin Dudu Mia showed me with enthusiasm his new digital setup. It was just a small projector hooked to a cheap sound mixer. Dudu Mia couldn't get hold of 'My Name is Khan', so he decided to run 'Nishpap Munna'. “Yes, I am running digital movie for the first time and it is cheaper”, he said. He got the movie for Tk. 1 lakh, and by mid-day, he had already picked up Tk. 26K. To my disappointment, he said that women don't turn up at cinema halls on Eid days.
I moved to Torongo, where 'Dehorokhkhi' was on screen. Proving Dudu Mia wrong, I had the first glimpse of a female viewer. Before I could talk to her, a bunch of young boys surrounded me throwing their complaints about the cinema halls. “We rather have one good cinema hall than three” they said. I had to agree – I could literally see cement falling off the building.
It was time to meet 'Khan'. Outside, was full of eager viewers fighting to get hold of a ticket. I managed get inside the hall to watch 'My Name is Khan' with the eccentric audience. Stepping inside, felt the stench of weed and the lack of oxygen. I thought I could handle environment like that. I have watched many football matches at Dhaka Stadium during 'Abahani-Mohammedan' heydays. But, all my excitement swooshed when I looked at the screen. The smokes made the flimsy projector throw only white lights and there were several bamboo pillars in the middle of the view holding the celling. So, I went inside the projection room. A red-eyed operator (he probably was high on weed) was there controlling the setup. He showed me his projector stacked on film canisters. He confirmed me that he cannot give me a copy of the film in my flash drive. Now, I have a sneaky feeling that I should've offered him to buy a 'joint'.
Tarantino experience in Dhaka
According to Tarantino's suggestions, I avoided Star Cineplex to get the real old-style cinema experience. Cinema Halls in Dhaka were of that sort but without a full-house. Probably because Eid had passed, but halls were half empty. I watched 'Bhalobasha Ajkal' at Asia (some call it Ashia), 'My Name is Khan' at Anondo and 'Nishwartha Bhalobasha' at Purobi. I also went to Anondo's neighbor Chondo and Sadia went to Shaheen.
It is not fair to judge the movies according to what we learn from film books. Bangladeshi mainstream movies have their own style. Comparing the three, I felt, 'Bhalobasha Ajkal' was the better of the three. 'My Name is Khan' holds second position in my book. 'Nishwartha Bhalobasa' was as usual Ananta Borsha film.
The first thirty minutes of the film doesn't introduce the main characters. Rather, it deals with supporting roles with comedic scenes. After we get introduced to the main characters the story roles into a predictable pace. Yet, I must admit that I couldn't guess who the real antagonist was.
It was film of love, comedy, action… You know the usual masala mix. But the emphasis was more on romance than any other aspect, which I felt made it a better movie than the others. Although overacting was there but the comedy scenes were funny. I never understood the physics defying action scenes – maybe, they were not meant to be understood. The Shakib Khan and Mahiya Mahi duo was adorable. The songs were not shot in expensive locations. Scenic Bandarban was meshed well into many scenes. Leaving film-theory books aside, I give it 3 stars.
My Name is Khan
The movie is about Khan. He is a poor but honest man who helps the helpless. Jhinuk, played by Apu Biswas is an ultra-rich girl falls in love with Khan. Jhinuk finds various comedic methods to make Khan fall in love with her. Shakib Khan likes to introduce himself to his adversaries and admirers as the strong hero saying, “God give me power, I am only, my name Khan”. The movie drags into the usual path of “rich girl, poor boy” story with a villains come in their way. Both leading characters were likeable. Notun, the leading antagonist, played her role well. The characters were plain black & white. Some songs were shot in Thailand and India often got cheers from the audience. Sudden appearance of new characters and thier death took the movie off-rail. Dumping all my film-theory books in the dustbin, I give it 2 stars.
It is a hard movie to digest. Ananta Jalil's character is honest at its best. His honesty and knack of fighting makes him look like a demigod. On the other hand, Meghla, played by Borsha is so ambitious that she keeps betraying him. Yet, Ananta's honestly needs no bounds and keeps loving Meghla no matter what. Although there were the usual suspects there as villains, but it seemed Meghla was the real villain in the movie. As promised, Ananta delivered “world class” visual effects with guitar in one hand and stopping a car-carrier with the other. Ananta even grabbed his heart out showing its condition to Meghla (that is seconds after being stabbed at the back by a forklift). The questions remains, did I feel for the characters? Ananta, the character, loses sympathy being over-the-top honest man, and most of all, being a narcissist. It feels like Ananta is honest to others only because it makes him feel better. Meghla's character had some darkness but is overshadowed by Ananta. Abe would've said “It is movie of Ananta, by the Ananta, for Ananta”. Burning down all my film-theory books along with my science books, I barely give it a star.