Star Showbiz last week presented Agnee, and one of the many reasons it stood out was because of its story which was surrounding a female character. But, unfortunately, Agnee is a rare story by that respect. The stories in films and television projections of Bangladesh are resonant of how male dominated our society is. The lead characters are always male, and the female characters are always goody two-shoes who are 'pure' souls who give unconditionally or they are catty mothers, aunts and mothers in law who exist only to create unnecessary problems. The lack of alternative characters, especially the female ones, is even more striking today in the industry where quite a few talented female directors and filmmakers have made a name for themselves. So, this week, Star Showbiz set out to find out why, and shares the thoughts of Sara Zaker, Afsana Mimi, Amitabh Reza, Shahnewaz Kakoli, Nusrat Imrose Tisha and Mesbaur Rahman Sumon.
Films and television productions don't include a strong female character leading the production in Bangladesh. Why do you think that is?
Sara Zaker: The characters are represented from the male perspective and the lead characters are thought to be fair, young and pretty. Therefore, the female artists are not given the lead role in a production after a certain age. This has been a traditional approach of marginalizing the female character in our media.
Mimi: Media profession is very challenging and tough. Besides, we do not have regular office hours and need to work extra hours. Additionally, the lack of an institution regarding films and media studies can be equally responsible for this.
Amitabh: The insufficiency of a female leading character in media is everywhere a fact. This sector undertakes a lot of concern starting from the nature and location of work, maintenance of time, freedom and family.
Kakoli: Since we do not have any institution for film and media studies the presence of female is slow. Therefore, the female lead or leading character is not evident until now. If we had an institution, the female presence in the media could have been more accepted and credible in our society.
Tisha: This situation is evident everywhere. If we look at Hollywood or Bollywood, for example, we see a similar kind of scenario. A female artist has to manage family and children along with her role in media. Therefore, the gap with the media at a point is a key fact to them.
Sumon: The producers or scriptwriters of our country are male and depicts everything from their own perspective. Hence, it automatically happens that the female are not lead characters. Our social reality is also responsible for this where we look down upon women. This is because of our traditional approach of looking at them.
Even as supporting cast, female characters are either goody two-shoes who give unconditionally or they are catty mothers and mother-in-law who create unnecessary problems. Why do you think the female character in the media is so stereotypical?
Sara Zaker: It is because the director of producer wants the female character to be represented that way. In fact, it is what our society is. The female are given the traditional role of mother, mother-in-law or the supporting cast. If we can think different we can come up with new character.
Mimi: It is because the women in our media are used as the commercial products. Normally, we find three kinds of female characters in our media- sacrificing, heavy negative and glamorous. Female characters in our media are put aside for so long. We have to come out of the traditional outlook of looking at women.
Amitabh: A female character in bangla cinema is basically a packaged character and represented from the commercial view point. Since the story is a means of earning profit, the female characters highlight the social reality expressing their class conflict and struggle for rights in a consumer based society. The television productions, on the contrary, are less profit oriented and the female characters are treated in a more compassionate and creative pattern.
Kakoli: The female characters are depicted from totalitarian perspective of men. Besides, we have forgotten practicing literature as a nation which could help us see things through a clear lens. Consequently, the lack of proper attention to the condition of women has resulted in a vacuum of newer stories and scripts.
Tisha: The male and female both the characters can be interpreted stereotypical. In fact, it is showing both side of a coin, showing both positive and negative sides of a character. Whatever we do in media is basically a representation of our social reality.
Sumon: When a spectator goes to the theatre, he goes with a view of unfolding the mystery. Being failed to unfold the mystery, he claps his hand with joy or excitement. Here lies the success of a story or scripts of a movie. The fact with our movies is that we do not have that magic to attract the attention of a spectator. The director or script writer cannot provide a newer story telling technique. Consequently, our viewers are disheartened. Actually, we are still repeating the same technique of story- telling. Accordingly, we are failing to come up with new characters in media.
How different is the scenario in Bangladesh compared to other countries?
Sara Zaker: We are seeing more and more creative productions in recent days. In fact, we are lagging behind due to the lack of investment in this sector. Even if people invest, they think from the commercial purpose. But our market is decreasing gradually.
Mimi: In fact, our young talents are not given the exposure. Besides, the creativity and concept are not evaluated properly in our media. Again, we are compromising our quality of production with a view to economizing our production. We are lagging behind in technical aspect of a production due to the lack of an institution on media and film studies. Absence of an institution has slowed us down for at least two decades.
Amitabh: Film is a capitalist art and involves investment, profit and industrialization. The shutdown of our theatres and lack of investment in this industry is a matter of concern for us. Again, the consumer of cinema in Bangladesh is very restricted comparing to neighboring India. Recently, the possibility of flourishing our market is high.
Kakoli: Actually, we have limitations. We have lack of investment in this industry. Technological advancement or heavy industrialization could bring us something better. Yet, we are improving rapidly with our young artist, directors and producers.
Tisha: Previously, we could not compare our scenario with other countries due to our lack of technological advancement. Now, the technological advancement has led to competition with other countries. If we want to improve our condition, we have to upgrade our quality of production and sustain our own cultural identity.
Sumon: Every producer has his own philosophical ground. The other countries, Hollywood or Bollywood for example, works a lot on their stories and takes much time to make a production whereas we cannot work much on our productions. Our limitations are many. The technological issue is not very rich in our media.
Do you think female directors and filmmakers should explore lead female character? Why or why not?
Sara Zaker: I do not think that we lack strong female artist in our media. We can do much better with the existing female artist. What we need is new storyline, plot and system of narrating stories along with investment in our media.
Afsana Mimi: Actually, every characters represented in media are pre-existing or primitive found in the real world. Therefore, creating new characters is not possible altogether. A character should be represented with all its individual identity and spontaneity rather than solely supporting the central character.
Amitabh Reza: Actually they can try to explore and come up with newer stories and characters. I personally always welcome new characters.
Kakoli: A new character or artist can introduce newer perspective of looking at things. It can be a positive sign for us too.
Tisha: It is an important sign that the women are improving in media all over the world. I think, a family grooming, education and knowledge can bring a qualitative change in the society which will help females find their own way of expressing their character in media.
Sumon: Actually, the female directors or producer can look for newer story-line or plot that can help explore lead female characters. I think the situation is changing gradually and we find different kinds of female characters now-a-days.