After many hurdles, Shameem Akhtar's “Rina Brown” is almost ready for screening. The director's comeback, 13 years after her last film, has been a worthwhile wait as “Rina Brown” is much more than a fictional love story during wartime.
A period piece just like her other films, Shameem Akhtar explores new depths by departing from the patterns followed in her previous works. “I wanted to explore the human reaction towards circumstances, and how they are mobilized to fight and be willing to die for a common cause,” the director explained. Set against the backdrop of the Liberation War, the story centers on the romance between an Anglo-Christian young woman and a Bengali man, and their budding romance over conversations about Bengali literary works. The relationship is doomed as the war looms close and forces them to choose identity relations. “Raised in a different culture,” Shameen Akhtar explained, “Rina Brown is pervaded by a sense of rootlessness, and I wanted to explore her space within the new nation defined by a strong cultural identity.”
The director uses flashbacks to intertwine the past and present, by using a colour grading process where the differences in time periods are hardly discernable. Through this Shameem Akhtar hopes viewers, just like the characters on screen, rouse themselves to understand the relationship between our lives and the historical events that brought them about. “I wanted the realisation to be gradual,” she said, “much like our natural response to events around us. For that I wanted the past to look just as colourful as the present.”
Despite the obstacles faced during the making of the film, including not raising funds and being able to solely cast seasoned actors, Shameem Akhtar feels this has enriched the overall experience. Describing the newcomers in the film she said, “Some of these people have never been filmed before, and they have brought fresh perspectives to their characters.”
Shameem Akhtar rises to the challenge by seeking to change the cinematic culture of Bangladesh. So far in Bangladesh, films depicting rural settings have been more commercially viable. “Rina Brown” takes a hard turn by portraying ordinary, urbane lives which she hopes will cater to a different group of viewers. “Cinema used to be our only source of pleasure apart from books, and now we lack good films; films that have nice, crisp stories to tell and that is what I hoped to achieve,” said the filmmaker. She adds further that this is a film meant to be studied, as it is steeped in history. This leaves much to explore for the viewers, making this a film that will stay with us long after we will have watched it.