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Dhaka Tribune

Film Review: An incredible daughter's tale

The documentary starts with off with the narration of Sheikh Rehana, the only living sibling of Sheikh Hasina who survived the 1975 mass murder of the entire family with her

Update : 16 Nov 2018, 11:06 PM

A biography, a crime thriller, a historical or war documentary, a political docudrama? Or just an unimaginable true story of two sisters awaiting justice for 35 years for their parents and family who were brutally murdered in a military coup?

“Hasina: A Daughter’s Tale,” is a mixture of all these, the story of the incredible journey of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, told in a stunning presentation and intricate detail.

In what was an extraordinary debut for director Rezaur Rahman Khan Piplu, the docudrama premiered on Thursday at capital’s Star Cineplex. The film also hit select theatres across the country on Friday, followed by the special screening at Star Cineplex. Renowned media personalities, members of parliament and ministers attended both the film’s premiere show and special screening session.

As a film and political history enthusiast, I found the trailer release of this project very exciting  and could not wait for the film’s release. Raised in a family from Gopalganj whose members were actively involved in politics with the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman himself, I grew up hearing stories of this family that faced unbelievable hardships to form the nation we know as Bangladesh - thus my personal interest in the project. 

I went to the special screening on Friday morning and reached the theatre much ahead of time to see the place filled with an audience queued to buy tickets for shows to follow. A Star Cineplex official confirmed that most of the tickets for the day’s shows were sold out and that too, before the special screening session. Having passed through the security checks, I anxiously waited for the film to begin.

The documentary starts with off with the narration of Sheikh Rehana, the only living sibling of Sheikh Hasina who survived the 1975 mass murder of the entire family with her. The storyline of the film is non linear in historical chronology but very linear in terms of building up the relationship of the two sisters. 

The docudrama mostly shares very personal memories of Sheikh Hasina’s sister Sheikh Rehana narrated by herself. The prime minister herself appears in interspersed segments, often adding to or playfully countering her sister’s stories.

Rehana addresses the current prime minister “a bit lazy” as a child because she liked listening to music or reading books in her own room. Rehana says that they called Hasina’s room “Alshey Khana” (Room of Laziness). Hasina draws Rehana similarity with their mother Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib who always had a strict sense of discipline.

The documentary shares a very personal side of the current Awami League frontman and the ups and downs she had to face throughout her life to reach the position where she is right now.

First hand accounts from her simple rural life, back in Gopalganj’s Tungipara, to become a leading political activist, the difficulties she and her sister had to face when they were marooned in Europe during the aftermath of the assassination of her father and family were vital details of the beautifully crafted docudrama. 

The fact that she even had to change  their names (including her husband and sister) for the sake of security while they were living in exile in New Delhi under Sonia Gandhi’s protection ran shivers down my spine.   

An intimate detail of her return to Bangladesh in the 80s, her fight for democracy during Ershad’s presidency, her loss in the 1991 polls, constantly put under house arrest afterwards, her children sent away to boarding schools abroad for the sake of their education and security, the several assassination attempts on her life and more are very vivid in the film. Her incredible journey as a daughter, a mother, a grandmother and a national leader is everything and more than what a Hollywood action packed crime thriller can offer. 

The film is dedicated to Renu, the petname of Sheikh Hasina’s mother Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib, who is also an important character of the two sisters’ recollection in the film. 

Technically the whole documentary was very poetic and Shakespearean in its mood and tone.  The film was shot beautifully by the project’s cinematographer Sadik Ahmed paired with a well crafted non linear time line edited by the renowned film editor Navnita Sen. 

Debojyoti Mishra, an internationally acclaimed Indian music composer and film director did the music for the whole film and the use of the Shyama Sangeet, “Amar Shadh Na Mitilo,” a favourite track of Sheikh Mujib, was excellently used in major parts of the film.

The whole film was a five-year-long collaboration, between the Centre for Research and Information (CRI) and Applebox Films’ founder, and the film’s director, Rezaur Rahman Khan Piplu, who directed this feature length documentary. 

The five year worth of hard work reflects in every frame and every little detail of the film. From the collection of rare stock footages to on-location shots of different regions of the country and abroad to keep the tone and tempo of the film intact and can be easily compared to major Netflix productions.

Most of the feature length documentaries produced in Bangladesh do not get theatrical release. This magnum opus by Piplu did and is completely worth watching to better understand the current leader of Bangladesh and how she came to be.

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