During a sudden visit to BFDC after more than two decades, I saw a massive difference. Unlike the then BFDC, it is a cool and silent place now-a-days. The campus is serene and lifeless inside with the rare movements of artists and filmmakers. The movie industry is literally as lifeless as BFDC is. The industry is a sinking ship crying with SOS, I felt.
This was not the case decades back. Mr. Rafiq, who has been working as a production manager for nearly half a century said, “There was a time when BFDC was crowded with ten to fifteen units shooting in different locations inside. At present, it is like a stranded place with no or very few shooting. We, the film industry workers, could not switch our professions due to our love for it. Our income came down to an alarmingly low level though.”
“Few artists come here, have tea, spend time in idle talk and leave at day’s end. There is a little film production now-a-days, subjected to no jobs for the producers, directors, artists and others relevant, which is intensely frustrating,” said filmmaker Shah Alam Kiron.
In answer to the question why this situation is prevailing, Mr. Kiron said, “Lack of required quantity of quality films that can attract people to halls has caused the shutdown of cinema halls countrywide. Also we do not have the required number of star artists in the industry today.”
Mia Alauddin a former secretary of the Hall Owners’ Association said, “Huge numbers of new halls were built thanks to the release of ‘Beder Meye Josna’ that became a super hit in 1989. It gave a boost to the industry, raising the number of halls to fourteen hundred. In recent years, shopping complexes replaced the cinema halls, lowering the number of halls to hardly 300.”
When it comes to expected quality of picture and sound, our movies are lagging far behind than expected. Deprived of the taste of modern technology, viewers are keeping away from Bangla cinema.
“Now we have up-to-date digital technology in BFDC, but it is lacking in people behind the machines. We need trained people to run the machines to ensure expected output,” mentioned Shah Alam Kiron.
“Most of our halls are running on old technologies. Some producers are supplying digital projectors to halls in their own interest, though insufficient in number. Government should extend a helping hand in this regard,” said Alauddin.
There was an allegation of adding vulgar cut pieces by distributors destroying hall-going culture.
“Cut pieces have marred the movie environment at halls much earlier, which is why the old tradition of watching movies with family members is absent now and we failed to restore that,” Alauddin added.
Improvement of movie screening setup is crucial. Multi-screen approach has started attracting viewers to halls again in recent times, which indicates that building multiplexes countrywide can boost the movie-going culture.
Film director Giasuddin Selim said, “We should have multiplexes at district headquarters even to show foreign movies if we do not have sufficient local movies to show in those multiplexes right at this moment”.
Selim also observed an absence of producers in the industry in its true sense.
“There are clear differences between an investor and a producer. We do not have producers, although investors are there,” Selim added.
As per film director Shilpi Chakraborty, compromising quality and making movies hurriedly is a reason for the failure of Bangla cinema.
“To ensure quality, we need more appealing stories with variations,” she said. “To ensure quality of the movies, we have to conduct intensive research on stories and plots with expert involvement before shooting and after editing. For the sake of quality, we might be required to take corrective measures before releases.”
Cable TV culture is injurious to our movie industry, as per many of the people concerned.
“Many film industry workers consider it next to impossible to attract people towards cinema halls due to cable TV invasion,” said Shah Alam Kiron.
“Movies of neighboring countries are being allowed on TV here, whereas our movies are not allowed in those countries. This is clearly discrimination, which is one of the reasons for our losses,” said Chakraborty.
Filmmakers feel BFDC has to play a more meaningful role toward the survival of the film industry.
‘‘BFDC authority is not serious enough to provide facilities to movie makers at the expected level. It is frustrating when BFDC fails to offer us anything better than what the private sector provides us at the same cost,” Chakraborty added.
Stories and songs that sound like our own are absent in today’s movies, which fails to attract viewers.
“Our long-cherished culture should be reflected in movies and only then they can win people’s hearts,” said Gazi Mazharul Anwar, the prominent lyricist and filmmaker.
Losses resulting from inexperienced moviemaking are discouraging the producers to make the next movie.
“There is a trend of wasting money due to lack of experience,” said Anwar.
“Young people having education in filmmaking are very dynamic with good potential. However, they need some practical knowledge that can be attained by working as a trainee or intern under experienced directors first,” said Shah Alam Kiron
We had success stories too. However, an “Ainabaji” or a “Dhaka Attack” in a year is not sufficient for the survival and flourishing of cinema halls. Not only do we need a bigger number of hit movies yearly to feed the halls, we also deserve stories that can attract viewers on their own merit. An overall improvement in the quality of moviemaking is the final answer.
Rokon Shahriar is a contributor for Dhaka Tribune