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      Volume 10 |Issue 03 | January 21, 2011 |


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One Off

The Winter of My Discontent!

Aly Zaker

I am back again in my village this winter. I must say it is colder than I thought it would be. The northerly wind blowing in full flurry brings in its wake welcoming and soul lifting fragrance of coriander, linseed and mustard. This all-pervasive wind also brings with it such gratuitous objects as the lifeless leaves, rolling disposables as wasted pieces of paper, plastic and dust from the barren land. This is nature's contrast at its peak and I enjoy it in full measure whenever I am home in the winter. This is the season of contrasts. From our childhood we are used to seeing and, indeed, relishing these quirks of nature.

This time on it is a little different. I am exposed to something that has little to do with nature and was more close to changing human habits. I had, so long, had very little idea of this. I am appalled to learn how pervasive the VCD culture has become even in the remotest villages of our country. First, I see small tea-huts with people crowding within around TV sets. Initially I think that they are watching television. Pretty normal, that, I had thought. But I am told that they are actually watching movies on the VCD. On enquiry I discover that they are in fact watching Bollywood blockbusters. Well, this is not uncommon. All over Bangladesh today, especially amongst the common people, films from Mumbai are perhaps the single largest entertainment commodity. But I hardly had any idea about the extent of its penetration. Even in a remote hamlet like my village it has made a comfortable inroad. As if this was not enough, at home a cousin's wife who is taking care of her son's studies asks him to complete his homework sitting on one side of the bed. The other side is screened off. And she is merrily watching a Hindi movie from the VCR connected to the TV and placed in the corner of the room. I do not know how the boy's studies are progressing but he has definitely learnt some popular Hindi numbers of those films that he is able to sing, and dance with. I also learn that the tea-thatches almost in all villages have become virtual show houses. This is not only true of the area I come from; it is common all over the country wherever the villages have seen seepage of some affluence by virtue of money coming from the expatriate Bangladeshis. Cinema houses are closing down. The run of the mill filmmakers are not able to fork out and remake films a la Bollywood. CDs are smuggled in, copied and sold in hundreds of thousands. In the circumstances who will see inferior copies of inferior Bollywood films made by our homegrown inferior makers?

Rani Mukherjee and Shahrukh Khan performing at the Army Stadium in Dhaka. Photo: star file

Emerging decadence has taken over and we are culturally sinking in its quagmire. This has become the order of the day. There was a time when people from all classes and deportments used to go to the cinemas for entertainment. There used to be films that catered to all kinds of viewers. Today, the so-called film industry of Bangladesh has more or less been decimated. Remember the days of Sheet Bikel, Dharpat, Shurjosnan, Dur hai sukh ki gaon, Jiban theke neya or Sirajuddowla? I could name hundreds if not more. What has happened to those makers and their audiences? They must be there somewhere. The reality is that when art becomes a commodity is when artistic values start to crumble. Therefore, we see the emergence of such dreadful events that stalk in the name of culture. The latest case in point is the circus we saw in the name of 'The Shahrukh Khan Show' in our army stadium and telecast by one of the local channels. Poor Shahrukh Khan, an actor that I hold in very high esteem, what has he to do in order to earn a living? Just living? I can assure you that resources needed for just living can be had for much less frivolity. This was 'monkey business' at its best. And what a show the spectators put up! Particularly the audience in the front rows who had ostensibly bought their entries at prohibitive prices. The organisers knew the predictable outcome of the show from long before but were not bothered. Obviously they were in the business of making money by selling cultural commodities. There is no reason for us to believe that such shows are organised to benefit entertainment with brains. Indeed these are meant to numb our thoughts and reach out for triviality. It is about time that our cultural activists, the right thinking citizens and the people in authority should jointly organise a mass orientation or even a resistance against such transgression. Otherwise we will be reduced to a nation of such beings that Shakespeare described in his memorable play Richard III as,

“I, that am curtail'd of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deform'd, unfinish'd, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me, as I halt by them;”


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