<%-- Page Title--%> Impressions <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 133 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

December 12, 2003

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C o n t r a s t

Ashfaq Wares Khan

"We live in a country of contrast", a minister once stated on the subject of wealth disparity in the country. With his Sylheti-Bangali accented English complementing his adhoc ensemble of brightly coloured suit and tie, it seems, he's a man of contrast as well. A man, more importantly, who signifies the complex web of contrasting occurrences within Bangladesh. A man with what the middle-class traditionally considered a “khat” regional accent, can climb to the top of the town, breaking down old orders ironically juxtaposed with the polished academia that is imbued with a supposed higher culture.

A high culture, which is slowly being turned on its head: contrasted, with the violation of its sanctimonious Rabindra Sangeet's "immortal" way of performance, hijacked, polluted, contaminated with the supposed vile impurities of "western technology". NO! They cry, it is cultural imperialism, we cannot let them penetrate our "culture", they say!

A sight of contrast indeed, considering Rabindranath himself composed most of his music on a family piano - a Western instrument --and just to think that his philosophy would be geared to experiment and embrace the global nouvelle, the profane, the downright madness that is the progress of music and its ever expanding reach into the darkest crevices of one's soul. These young urban ruffians!

Contrasted, yes, for they are the young ruffians who continue to swear in Hindi and smoke, inject and drink their way to a tranquil solitude. While they work in an ethically disengaged world of technical education of business, engineering and technology. Inculcated with the manic logic of "material security": “Let your emotions go” they say, so that nothing hinders your path to "security: marriage, money and MORTALITY."

Contrast, yes, yes indeed it is. Where a country full of junkies are junkies because of no employment. Yet, they mug the vulnerable little lady on the rickshaw to earn the cash to pay for a rue-filled injection in order to console for the very fact that they cannot earn; what is the missing link...lost in an unfathomable sharp contrast I say - the twilight zone.

A twilight zone - haze between the opposing and contrasting colours of life: first, the twilight zone of the Bangali male peasant. The rural dweller, with no dwelling to dwell, he goes to view his favourite Dhaliwood movie: gyrations infinitum, breasts, thighs, close-ups of the crotch, rapes, seduction, love, merriment, JOY, pleasure hedonist's gratification.

An ingenious scheme: to provide an all-in-one "paisa ushul"; the perfect solution for the millions of monetarily challenged. Contrast: THE film-maker considers it cheap tripe. But sir, cheap is what makes it ingenious! It is a genre in itself, like Humayun Ahmed's brilliance in consoling the secured middle and lower classes, providing a solace in their dull, but not so dull life with an anomaly in their midst: Misir Ali or even a Himu.

Himu, however, doesn't go home and marry -- he sleeps with older women, talks to chics with cigs, hangs 'round old spiritual “dudes”; he himself is spiritual. Is Himu the postmodern temple of urban ghettoed spirituality? Contrast: the village twilight peasant also holds the aforementioned traits as Himu. However, he is taken as "inferior" because of a supposed “high” and the upper-middle class voluntary excursion by Himu into those spaces, rather than being a “victim” of the peasant's reality of lower class “conditions” -- the sharp contrast of Bengali stratification.

Meanwhile, we also locate the peasant participating in an all out thrashing of a pre-marital pregnant female--a pregnancy caused by the rape of the village mattobor. Why is she being beaten one asks; a chorus replies: because she should've stopped her own rape?! Contrast of the colours black and red, with a shade of blue to hue her soul. The same mattobor, who devours the sight of the Dhakaite seductress on screen, comes home, “forcibly sleeps” with his wife then bars her from venturing outdoors. He is leading others into a thrashing of the woman based on the assumption that the woman provoked the rape - contrast of a sharp nature.

Ah! Coming back to the seductress of the screen, she appears on two levels for our contrast seekers: firstly, she appears in the titillating ensemble of spandex wearing-gyrating hip, suggesting plenty more that provides the ammunition for the constructors of socio-sexual taboos the orthodox anti-Himu - with that very thing!

But they--the peasant, Himu, and the Anti-Himus -- crave for it, just like the women do, they need sexual expression, damnit! The contrast: these actors of society in dark, damp, danky cinema with its dark and danky ways, contrasted against their functions during sunlight as the upholders of socially virtuous norms and, of course, FAITH!!

The sedActress disappears into a twilight zone: the ATN Bangla incidental music hits a crescendo and shifts to the monkey man with a hat and a beard reciting the virtues of the seventh heaven where pure men get obedient girls -- he himself, nevertheless, has amassed 47 highly obedient "girls". Our actress re-appears in another four hours in a TV interview, spreading her gospel of the pious practices of a hip-gyrating-pornstar that as she has reached her obligations of full womanhood for a Muslim female, she must marry and retreat to her homely duties!

Contrast, maybe, who knows! But our minister shaheb is a man on his toes, he'll bring it down on da housh! His lingo, his contrasts are the pliars to tear the place apart like Mujib's rural colloqial bantering. Displacing the priest of high culture with that of the mass, and that of superiority with the respectful different! On that note, Humayun Ahmed for what he is, the god of the urban middle-class - he too, wears brightly contrasting shirts!



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