As opposed to what some of the seniors in the field would say, this year, both the Eid seasons actually brought about telefilms and stories, even though few in number, reflecting positive changes where storytelling and acting were concerned. The Eid-ul-Azha season ended a few weeks ago, however, some of the fictions and telefilms that raised eyebrows are still being talked about by many a story lover and maker.
For the regular TV audience, the world of Bangladeshi fictions is majorly divided into two categories—stories of the ultra-urban youth, where the characters speak in the current Dhaka lingo, most of their conversations taking place over mobile phone, and the rural Bangla, where ek paech sharee clad women are seen living lives we practically grew up watching on BTV, taking care of their in-laws, husbands and children. To be fair, one does come across lovely romance stories where “trendy” looking youngsters and elegant corporates hang out and have meals at some of the posh eateries in the capital.
However, occasionally, there do come stories that go beyond the regular flow of “meet cute-song-fight-making up-climax” formula that we usually find, in different forms of course. In the last few years, a handful of storytellers have been coming up with unique stories, spinning tales from age-old literature, current social norms and even the alleyway down the corner. Even though few in number, these stories manage to touch the hearts, mainly because the audience is able to relate to the themes and at the same time be marvelled by the ability to portray the characters so well by the actors.
One such story that touched the soul is “Kingkortobbyobimur”, a story about a magician and his magnificent ability to make hens, pigeons and eggs appear out of thin air in front of the audience. Set in current times, in the older part of the capital, Tipu, the magician, played by Chanchal Chowdhury, and his wife Rani, played by Tisha, live with Rani’s maternal uncle and aunty in an old worn-down structure. Every night, Tipu would return home after showcasing his magic tricks, while Rani would wait earnestly to gush all over her famous husband and talk about the magic tricks that always had her in awe of him. Everything shatters one day when suddenly, Tipu and his assistant brings out of thin air a little girl in their magic box. Stunned at this, Tipu could not figure out how he could make a human child appear when all he wanted to do was magically bring apples for all his audience members to eat.
Written and directed by Iftekhar Ahmed Fahmi, the 40-minute fiction is humorous and witty, but makes one wonder about the whole concept of being honest, as one is taught to be, versus the need to lie in order to make a living in society. What brings the story more to life are the subtle elements of city life in the older part of town—the narrow lanes, brick walls and simple people being in awe of glitter, glamour and magic tricks.
Being part of the privileged lot in the country, passing judgements come easily to many of us—be it about a debate we are watching on TV, a criminal activity we read about online or about people who are different from us in ways innumerable; a quick judgement is what we seek. However, we conveniently choose to ignore the many lives connected to these quick judgements that we take for other people or refuse to listen to their stories—stories that are different from us, and hence, maybe, difficult for many of us to comprehend.
“Ey Shohore” is a story that revolves around a young married couple who commit petty crimes to survive. Set in urban Dhaka, Hasina or Hashu played by Mehazabein Chowdhury is an aaya at a local hospital where she takes care of newborn babies and helps new mothers heal after birth. Selim, her husband, played by Afran Nisho, is a mechanic who works in a nearby workshop. While Hashu steals newborn babies from the hospital, Selim strikes deals with a person, referred to as the “head sir”, to deliver the babies to families without children, who would pay a fortune in return. The “head sir” played by Amanul Hoque Helal is a teacher who works at a coaching centre, and hence the name. Life went on for the young couple, until a newborn baby stolen from the hospital was rejected by the “head sir” at the very last minute. According to him, the family who wanted to buy the baby in the first place backed off. Selim and Hashu could do nothing but take care of the baby until further arrangements could be made.
“Ey Shohore” brings about the elements of the superficial lives that many of us live in this city. It talks about issues like how the Middle East, to date, purchases children from Bangladesh and other parts of South Asia, as young as a few months old to eventually use them as jockeys to race camels in the desert. The telefilm also sheds light on how a human being going missing, be it a newborn child or a grown-up official, is just another daily headline that we read and forget the very next day. And finally, through this telefilm, the director and writer Ashfaque Nipun showcased the horrors of mob lynching. The concluding scene of the film is exceptionally touching as Selim directly looks at the camera and seems to taunt the onlookers and spectators about how they look on, refusing to speak.
Yet another telefilm “Amader Shomaj Biggyan”, written and directed by Shafayet Mansoor Rana, is about a young man, played by Yash Rohan, who is absolutely frustrated thanks to the meaningless societal pressures that he has to endure. A fresh graduate, hunting for jobs, he finally gets one at a start-up firm. With the measly amount that he receives as a monthly salary from the company, life turns out to be all the more difficult. Starting from news stories, corruption and the inability to live up to the expectations of his family members and his friends, who were all settling down in various parts of the world, one day he decides to kill himself.
And there are many more. All we have to do is make an effort to look for the few meaningful stories that are usually overshadowed by the numerous inane and empty commentaries sprinkled with weak storylines.
Elita Karim is Editor, Arts and Entertainment and Star Youth. Her Twitter handle is: @elitakarim.