“Monpura”, when it came out in 2009, became a revelation for the Bangladesh film industry. With the 'commercial film' scenario still quite marred with vulgarity and obscenity, it took everyone by surprise that a film entirely set against a rural backdrop could have so much popularity among film-goers.
Giasuddin Selim, however, was not a newcomer with a fluke; he has been making TV serials and single-episode plays for a while, and has made a reputation for himself. When Star Arts & Entertainment sat him down across the table from his fans on May 10 at the AS Mahmud Seminar Hall of The Daily Star Centre, some interesting pointers emerged.
The participants ranged from media and journalism studies from University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh and Brac University, students of Dhaka University's theatre and performance studies, freelance directors and photographers, and the questions ranged from various aspects of filmmaking to the current situation of the industry and more.
One of the first issues the filmmaker addressed was of the shortage of cinema halls with proper facilities. One of the reasons people of a certain social class don't go to watch movies is because there are no cinemas where they feel comfortable, he observed. He, however expressed hopes that with the growing number of multiplex cinemas and the government's initiative to have film screening auditoriums in every district, good films will reach more people.
“A film dies thrice, and is reborn four times,” Selim broke down the processes of how a film is made, in response to a question on what makes a good film. “First, the script is born. It's beautiful in its own way. But when the film is shot, the script itself has nothing left to give.
At that point, the footage is the life. When the footage is edited, then it takes on a new life, and the raw footage is dead. Finally, when it is put on cart, the music, dubbing and scores are put on it, that is the final form. All of these stages are important for a good film.” Speaking on the visual aesthetics of “Monpura”, Selim further said the cinematographer needs to understand and take the necessary shots. “Keep it short and simple,” Selim shared his mantra.
Teamwork is another important factor in making a film, he underlined. “You can be the best filmmaker of your time, but you can't make a film alone. There are a few important people: the art director, the cinematographer, music director, editor and costume designer -- these are vital people.”
The scenario of mainstream films and FDC (the Film Development Corporation) also came up. Selim shared the experience of having to face an interview to become a member of FDC, of how his friend had earlier got heckled and rejected, just because he dressed casually. “But when will FDC change? When will it become a clean, tasteful environment?” asked a participant, and Selim chuckled as he said “When the good filmmakers will stop making films for Cannes (film Festival) and start making films for the people!”
Giasuddin Selim also recently made a TV commercial by the Tourism Board as part of the Beautiful Bangladesh campaign, titled “Beautiful Bangladesh: Land of Rivers”. When a participant asked about his experience, the filmmaker not only shared the background research process and shooting experience (including working with foreign cast and challenges of shooting on rivers), but also pointed out he'd consciously avoided making TVCs because when one starts telling one-minute stories and gets huge sums of money, they can't go back to telling two-hour stories for similar amounts of money.
The seasoned director also gave helpful advice to upcoming directors. “You have to make shorter, smaller-budget films to prove that you can make films. No one will hand you a big budget on a silver platter. Think big, but start small. Prove that you can make films, and then go looking for financiers.”
“TV plays, film, theatre, or the TVC -- which one has had a bigger impact on you?” Selim was asked, to which he said “When I made TV plays, only the urban TV viewers knew me. But when I made the film, I was appreciated by people all over the country, so yes; film has had the bigger impact.”
Apart from the insights, advice and observations, one of the best news Selim left his fans at the programme was his upcoming film, which will get rolling later this year. He refused to disclose any details, but just the news of a Giasuddin Selim film coming up after six years is good enough news for the country's film industry.