The trailer of the Bangladeshi film “Bengali Beauty,” starring debutant Mumtaheena Toya, has been making its rounds on social media since August. The film is directed by Rahsan Noor, who also stars in the lead role opposite Toya in the film. It’s a love story set in the 70s, during a time of political turmoil. The film was released on February 16 overseas and is soon to announce release dates here in Bangladesh.
The film’s producer Rafee Tamjid and associate producer Iftekhar Ift recently sat down with Showtime’s Siam Raihan and talked about their film, the stories behind it and their plans ahead.
Getting into film
I grew up in Hawaii, USA and returned back to Bangladesh. Graduated high school from here. Started my undergrad in Environmental Science. After two years I realized that I am not liking this and needed a bit of soul searching to do. Then I decided to go back to the US. While I am on the plane I watched a movie. That movie motivated me so much and connected with me. It made me realize that this is what I want to do. I want to make films and that is the first inspiration that pulled me towards films.
My thing is that the two things I really liked since my childhood were films and also I liked to write a lot. As I was growing up and writing more I had this idea that why don’t I put my writings through the visual media and turn them into films. As years went by and I luckily met this guy Rafee Tamjid. Our plans matched a lot. We have been working together for more than five years now and here we are with our first feature film.
Roles as a producer
The common practice is that a producer finances a film which is not correct actually. As producers we worked on set every single day during production. We arrived on set every morning and worked and managed everything from top to bottom. When a gaffer or assistant director is facing a problem for example couldn’t move something a producer’s job is to get in there and help them and we did exactly that. And whenever the director is having any sort of issues on set we the producers stepped in there first and tried to resolve the problem.
Producers are basically the “all in alls” of a film project. It is not that they just finance the project and sign a bunch of papers and that’s it. Unlike the actors or any other crew who just has a certain role to play for the film, the producers have to work with the project all the way through from pre production phase to production, post production and distribution to marketing.
Issues that came across to produce and ensure the retro look of “Bengali Beauty”
Our director Rahsan Noor had a certain vision for this project as the story has a 70’s timeline of Dhaka. Rahsan was raised in the US so he is new here in Bangladesh and as a director he knows he wants a certain prop from the 70’s Dhaka but he doesn’t know where to get it here and that is where we, the producers, came in and tried our best to manage things. Definitely the research work before production and FDC crew and technicians helped us a lot. Whenever the director wanted something I don’t remember we ever said no. In a few cases we finally couldn’t manage what he asked for but we tried our level best in every stage to execute Rahsan’s vision. From props to location to makeup, everyone on our team- costume designers to makeup artists worked very hard to ensure the retro 70’s look of the film. Rahsan’s vision did play the major role here though.
Like we had to shoot in the Bangladesh Betar office for the radio station sequences and we shot it in the old Bangladesh Betar office in Shahbag which is currently being demolished. We had the ministry’s permission to shoot there and all the paperworks clear but it still was a huge hassle to shoot at an office and manage all the officials. But we did all that just to keep that timeline and 70’s look intact.
We also had shots at Madhur Canteen of DU, Notre Dame College and a lot of other locations and our crew and technicians from BFDC helped us a lot in many ways to manage many things and we are very thankful to them.
The film will be released in USA on February 16 and the Bangladesh release dates will be confirmed soon. We have confirmed 19 theatres all over USA and planning on more in different countries. In Bangladesh we are planning on releasing in Dhaka first, then expanding it from there. We are producing and distributing the film ourselves from Ethos Entertainment. The film is a US-Bangladesh co-production between Ethos Entertainment and Ziryab Films, which is run by Bangladeshi expatriates living in USA. Though it is a US-BD co-production but it is an all Bangladeshi film.
Bangladesh’s film market for young producers, its future and more…
Another problem with our industry in my opinion is that we don’t have enough producers who think of film as a business. If people can’t think of film as a business, they can’t put quality films in the theatres. Producers must have that outlook that they invested this much on a film and must gain this much by distributing that film. An industry can’t flourish with just a few commercially successful films every year. It is risky and producers must take that risk. Even if our film doesn’t work out we are in trouble and we might not be able to make another film ever again. So we need a lot of risk takers to come forward to change the whole scenario. If we look around us there is no source of entertainment here. No fields, no parks, no recreation centers. Film theatres will boom again like it was back in Dhallywood’s hay days if quality content is given to people. Entertainment has been globalied now in the digital era. People of every economic class owns a smart-phone now and sees global content at his/her fingertips. They won’t come to the theatres if international standard films are not presented there. People’s taste have changed the filmmakers and the whole film business here needs to change too. There are many talented filmmakers in Bangladesh right now and they are doing excellent work and if we all work hard, change is inevitable.
Working in this industry is filled with obstacles and there are not many good works out there too. For our project it was very hard to finally complete it as it was a 70’s timeline based story. We had to do our research right, plan out the whole thing, work day and night and make it possible. But I think if the young producers like ourselves want to make it work, they have to keep their perseverance, fight all the obstacles and believe in themselves that they can. The industry in Bangladesh won’t flourish unless we have more great producers.