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Mohammad Hammad Ali

The month of March is here. Another Independence Day is at our doors, signifying yet another year passed away since that fateful night in 1971. Every year, this whole month is celebrated through seminars, speeches and TV programs. Newspapers bring out special editions. A very common topic of these speeches and articles happens to be just how far we have strayed from the dream our ancestors had when Bangladesh was formed.

Everyone tells us of how we have wronged them, how we have no future and are going nowhere. While a lot of these allegations are true, since when has brooding too much on the negative ever helped? So today, I would like to highlight a few, yes just a few things that I think we should be proud of as a nation.

Ever since our country first came into being, we have been sort of looked down upon. The honorable (?) Dr. Kissinger labeled us "a bottomless basket" when it comes to taking foreign aid. Our Muslim brothers from Pakistan considered us to be more "qafirs" than not. Even our good friend India has often not been very nice to us. Probably the best example of this prejudice is in the very way most Europeans pronounce the name of our country. They can pronounce all sorts of weird words, but they just cannot do any better than "Beng-laa-Desh".

Trust me; it has nothing to do with the accent. At least one French-educated, American Immigrant Professor I know could pronounce "Bangladesh" after asking me just once how it should be pronounced. Anyway, what I want to say is, they can pronounce it, and these days, they do. They can no longer pretend to have never even heard of us. Why? Because of our cricket team. Our team is touring the world, playing their heart out on the field and recently, winning. Now no one can ask, "Beng-laa-Desh? Isn't that a state of India?" Bravo to our cricket team for getting us this recognition!

When it comes to worldwide recognition, there is another achievement that we can be proud of. Our army is serving in several countries all over the world as part of the UN Peace Force. It is heart-warming to think that our army is performing the same duties in countries like East Timor that we once had to obtain from other countries. Everyone agrees on the skill and dedication of officers of the Bangladesh Army, and even when the worst happens, and our brave brothers are caught in harm's way, they are given a hero's funeral. We are proud of them, because they stood on guard for those too weak to guard themselves. After all, is that not one of the primary goals of any army?

Moving on to less serious matters, this last year we won the Emmy awards. When the name of "Amrao Pari" was first announced among the nominees, it seemed like enough. But one fine morning, when I woke up and heard that we had won the award, it felt so great. I have never been very interested about entertainment matters, but this was different. I did not know much about the documentary that won the award, or the people behind it. All I knew was this was another feather in our hat, reason enough to celebrate and pray for all those whose hard work resulted in the award-winning documentary.

Speaking of hard-working men, four years ago two renowned University Professors and an enthusiastic reporter started an effort to get more students interested in the "boring" subject of math. It was called "Neuron-ey Anuronon", a math puzzle column different from the more conventional ones. They never disclosed the answers, and all those who could solve a certain number of the problems were given certificates. Slowly, they began arranging real contests. In time, the two professors, Dr Kaykobad and Dr Zafar Iqbal, applied to the International Math Olympiad (IMO) for membership.

Initially, we were given a half-membership. We had inspectors from IMO come over to witness some of the contests that were held all over the country. Anywhere there was a school, a contest was held. Prothom Alo, Dutch Bangla Bank, and teachers of the country managed to find out hidden talents that would otherwise have never been found, and gave them a chance to compete with peers all over the country. IMO found this so very impressive that the very next year, we were given full membership.

In the next international contest, the red and green flag will fly high. Who knows, our math wizards might even perform some miracle. Here is to hoping that they make us even more proud and represent our glorious land with the best that they can.

These are some of the more important things that come to mind. However, this list is by no means exhaustive. For example, I have hardly had a chance to mention the slow but steady developments we have managed to maintain in the sector of female rights.

Environment has become a very big issue, urging a lot of people to go for CNG driven vehicles rather than petrol-driven ones. While the streets of Dhaka are still far from safe, at least the air seems a bit cleaner these days. All of these developments have only been possible because in all sectors, there have been some people who have held on to their dreams no matter what obstacles they had to face. What we have achieved has not been handed down to us by anyone. Someone, somewhere, has worked hard for it.

In every generation, there will always be people who will dream, and then make that dream come true. Here is hoping that such people are always around, and that we always have the heart to help them in any way that we can.
Photo: Star Archive


STAR CINEPLEX OF BROKEN DREAMS?

By Quazi Zulquarnain Islam

When the STAR CINEPLEX, at the Bashundhara City in Panthapath, finally opened its gates late last year, it heralded the beginning of a new era in Bangladeshi culture, as far as the youth were concerned.

The term 'going to the movies' had before that been alien to us entertainment starved Dhaka people. As far as the entrepreneurs of our country were concerned, 'entertainment' was solely concentrated in the food department. Fast food outlets mushroomed in every conceivable street corner and with that came the inevitable bulging stomachs and obesity.

The inauguration of the STAR CINEPLEX therefore came like a breath of fresh air. For once people could afford to dream. At least now, love-lorn couples would have a place to hang out in peace, families would have a place to visit at weekends and friends could just go somewhere chew popcorn and just 'chill out' as the saying goes. It was a time of fun, excitement and anticipation.

Theories were abound. Rumours spread like wildfire, one more atrocious than the other. Some spoke of multi-million dollar Fox and Warner Bros. Contracts. Others spoke of less but similarly unachievable goals. The public were eagerly awaiting the opening- at least that would put an end to the months of speculation and settle the rumours.

When STAR CINEPLEX finally did open its gates it was a grandiose affair. The theatres were first-rate and highly impressive, the seating inside the halls were excellent, the architecture as good as any in South East Asia. The people in STAR CINEPLEX opened with a bang showing at that time the recently released blockbuster summer flick "Spiderman 2."

Spiderman went down well with the crowd. The quality was excellent, the sound effects magnificent. At the Premiere show STAR CINEPLEX also arranged for its very own 'Spiderman' who came on stage before the show and showed us some acrobatic moves. The public went home wooed and expecting great things in the future. According to everyone, now there was only one direction for STAR CINEPLEX to move in, and that was up. Right? Wrong.

As so often happens in our country, impressive beginnings in no way guarantee future success. Most fail to realise that longevity through proper maintenance is the key and if, in order to do that we have to sacrifice flair, so be it.

After its lofty beginnings, the STAR CINEPLEX dropped into increasing mediocrity. The big budget latest Hollywood films that everyone was hoping for never materialised. 'Spiderman' gave way to older more established films. Amongst English films, Spiderman was replaced by the very mediocre Hollywood flick "Walking Tall." After that came the romantic comedy "50 First Dates" which in turn was followed by the Tom Cruise film "Collateral."

It was during that time that rumours of discontent first began to circulate. Most people were of the opinion that STAR CINEPLEX was more interested in earning their revenue using movies that already had an established fan base. As poor as "Walking Tall" was, the appearance of WWE superstar 'The Rock' doubtless guaranteed near full houses for a while. And as good as '50 First Dates' was, many felt that STAR was cashing in on the already solid reputation of the film and its stars Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore.

Looking at it from their perspective it could be called shrewd marketing strategy. But the promise of good new films still remained an unfulfilled dream. By the time '50 First Dates' hit the theatre most people already had readily available DVD copies of the film and were thus reluctant to go and watch it in theatres.

In their defence, STAR CINEPLEX has said that they feel only 'action' and 'family' movies can be showcased in our country. They complained of stringent regulations and tough censor board laws that need to be passed before they can achieve their goals of bringing in mainstream Hollywood blockbusters. Many the say, fail to make the grade.

At the moment STAR CINEPLEX is currently running its 'Action Special,' a fortnight where good action films of the past are to be shown. Choices for the public include "Braveheart', 'Charlies Angles', 'The Mask of Zorro' and 'Face/Off.' Also running side by side is the 'Shanti' and (still) "Collateral."

A fleeting glance at the choice of films is enough to prove my point. "Charlies Angles" is old. Braveheart, Zorro and Face Off are positively ancient. The simple question remains. Why would people pay so much to go and see films that they already have of DVD? Some of the films are so old, that even satellite TV channel Star Movies and HBO, are already airing them. The people at STAR CINEPLEX say that this is due to the fact that according to their market research they had found out that people were interested to come and watch films, which had exceptional sound quality be it old or new.

But if that argument holds true then are we to believe that there would be a low turnout for films like "Million Dollar Baby", "The Aviator", "Cellular" "National Treasure" or "Oceans Twelve"? I would think not and plus I do not think any of these movies would be inadmissible even in view of the quite ludicrous censor laws that we have.

It seems that the people at STAR CINEPLEX are almost afraid to gamble. They seem content to play the waiting game and see how specific movies capture the Bangladeshi market before launching it in theatres. But if this is really the case then most of us would do well to give up the dream of even experiencing latest movies at theatres- a thing that our counterparts in India and Thailand take almost for granted.

One commendable thing that the people of STAR CINEPLEX have done is to keep airing good Bangla movies. Starting with the ever popular "Bachelor' they have continued the trend and are very soon going to air the internationally renowned " Wrong Number." Also they have initiated a student discount project by which students of universities and colleges can earn discount on tickets of up to 30% if they have valid ID cards. Plaudits to them for that.

All in all though, the spotlight is firmly on STAR CINEPLEX and if they are to realise the early promise that they showed, than the first thing that needs to be done is to take a gamble on new Hollywood films. At least then, they will be able to say that they tried their level best. From my part and many others, I am sure that they are not going to be disappointed.

For those of you who are interested STAR CINEPLEX has recently launched their very own website www.cineplexbd.com


 
 

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