Film Maker & Author


Apr 23rd

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Riders to the Sunderbans

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The Sister (Rabeya)

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The film is a deconstruction of Sophocles's play "Antigone" placed on the backdrop of the war between Bangladesh and Pakistan in 1971.

During Bangladesh's liberation war against Pakistan in 1971, in a remote village Rabeya and Rokeya, two orphan young sisters lived in the religiously conservative household of their uncle Emdad Kazi, a rich kulak and a local Muslim League leader. During the war, for his political ambition, Emdad Kazi collaborated with the marauding Pakistan army. Khaled, the only brother of the two sisters, joined the Bengalee resistance guerillas to fight against the Pakistan army. During a guerilla operation Khaled was killed in a skirmish. The Pakistani captain ordered that the dead body of this young guerilla should not be buried. It had to be kept on the embankment beside the river as a display to scare off the villagers so that nobody dared to oppose the army anymore. Nobody dared to bury Khaled's dead body. One night Rabeya, the sister, secretly proceeded to bury her brother. Rabeya was shot and killed. The villagers rose up. The Bengalee guerillas won the final battle and declared Rabeya as a martyr.


Bostrobalikara (Garment girls of Bangladesh)

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If you have jeans and t-shirts in your wardrobe, chances are some of them were made in Bangladesh. Indeed Bangladesh is now a major player in the global clothing trade. Starting from scratch in the early 70s it is now a multi-billion dollar business. It employs around 2 million people— 85 percent of whom are women. In total, up to ten million livelihoods depend on this industry.
This phenomenal rise came about because of the protection afforded by the Multi-Fibre Agreemnt of 1974. Basically that allowed new producing countries to come into the scene and excluded the "old" producing countries. In terms of hard currency, the industry is now Bangladesh's most important one bringing in around 76 percent of the country's total export earnings.
But the story is not all rosy. There have been about three thousand deaths in garment factories through fires and collapsed buildings. Wages are the lowest of any textile producing country, and workers have a long list of complaints besides wages, health and safety.
In May and June of 2006 worker frustration resulted in serious rioting and the destruction of property. Some people were killed. Bangladesh Rifles were deployed. It was a wake up call for this industry.
Consumers in the West are also waking up and consciousness around the issue of "sweatshops" is much greater. There is pressure on the retailers to engage in what is called "ethical trading"— a demand for buyers to ensure the factories they source from are compliant with the national and international labour codes.
Bengal once had a vibrant and renowned textile industry in the 17th and 18th centuries. Now that it has again risen, is it prepared to sustain itself in the future and to face the many challenges international trade poses?


Quite Flows the River Chitra (Chitra Nadir Pare)

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After the partition of India in 1947, Shashikanta's family, like millions of other Hindu families of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), faced the dilemma whether to migrate from the land in which they have been living for centuries. But Shashikanta Sengupta, an eccentric lawyer, stubborntly refuses to leave his motherland. Widower Shashikanta has two children, Minoti and Bidyut. Anuprava Devi is an affectionate old aunt who lives with the family. The family has a house in Narail, a small provincial town on the bank of the Chitra river. Some Muslim neighbours eye Shashaikanta's house. But the family refuse to migrate.
Shashikanta's children Minoti and Bidyut are friends with the neighbouring Muslim children— Badal, Salma and Nazma. Minoti and Badal become more than friends.
The children grow up. Badal goes to Dhaka University. Those were the days in 1960s when the atmosphere of the universities was charged with political radicalism. Badal got involved in anti-military student movement and while participating in a demonstration for democracy was killed by police firing.
Shashikanta's brother Nidhukanta is an idealist doctor who lives in their ancestral village on the other side of the Chitra River. During the 1964 riot between the Hindus and the Muslims, his daughter Basanti, a widow, is raped. Basanti commits suicide by drowning herself in the Chitra River. Nidhukanta's family migrate to India.
All these untoward incidents happening around affect Shashikanta's failing health. He suffers a heart stroke and passes away. Minoti and Anuprava finally leave for the border en route to Calcutta.
* The film received seven national awards including the best film and the best director of the year 1999. Other awards were best Story, best Script, best Art-Director, best Side Actress and best Make-up Man. Shown in London, Oslo, Fribourg (Switzerland), Singapore, Delhi, Calcutta and Trivandrum film festivals.

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