Popular actor and film-maker Tauquir Ahmed has completed all work on his next directorial venture, 'Fagun Haway,' which will be released on the silver screen on Friday. The director and the stars of the film, Nusrat Imrose Tisha and Siam Ahmed, sat with Dhaka Tribune Showtime’s Sadia Khalid Reeti to share their experience of working on the project.
Tauquir, please tell us about the backdrop of the story of “Fagun Haway.”
Tauquir: The story is set in the backdrop of 1952. I wanted to tell the story simplistically. There is romance, laughter, tears, and protests. I am hopeful that the people who watch it will like the film.
Tisha, what character do you play in the film?
Tisha: The name of my character in “Fagun Haway” is Dipty. She is a very simple girl. She cries when she is sad, and laughs when she is happy. She protests, she respects her elders, she loves. She is a sweet girl.
Siam, tell us about the character you play.
Siam: Just like hers. He is somewhat sweet. His name is Nasir. He is a student of the History Department at Dhaka University. He has not been in Dhaka too long. His mother raised him. He says what is right. He knows how to protest. He loves his country, his language, and Dipty as well, I guess.
Tisha: You guess? (Laughs)
Tauquir, you have made a period piece before, “Joyjatra” in 2004. Do you gravitate towards stories of turbulent times in history?
Tauquir: I think the important moments in our history interest me. I think these works are very important, especially for the new generation. There have not been many films on the Language Movement. Every film has a period. It can be contemporary, past or future. For the sake of the story, it is important to recreate the time.
The film was based on a short story. How hard was it to develop it into a feature?
Tauquir: The story inspired me. But it was a two-page short story. I had to expand it a lot to turn it into a feature film. It would not have been easy if the story did not move me so much. There is a police camp, students, a store owner, a baul (folk singer), a mawlana _ a lot of characters came up in the process of adding to Hafizur Rahman Titu’s story. He writes as Titu Rahman now. It is really to his credit that it was not too hard to extend the story.
Was the process of researching the period time-consuming?
Tauquir: It was. Although my film is not a documentary or a narration of history, we tried to capture the spirit of the Language Movement symbolically. We were careful about historical accuracy. The timeline starts from December 1951. From the costumes and makeup to the sets and props, the art director did a great job, I believe.
In your historical fiction, how much is fact and how much is fiction?
Tauquir: There is a scope to add one’s imagination when there is an element of fiction. But if you want to retell accurate history, I think documentaries are the way to go. I wanted to make an entertaining film. We did not want to make the film too heavy. I believe the basic emotions of human beings stay the same throughout history. The human traits of happiness, sadness, envy, love_ we portrayed all naturalistically.
Tisha, you have been acting since your childhood. Have you done any work on the Language Movement before?
Tisha: This is my first time working in a period film on such a large canvas. I have worked in period pieces before, in dramas and short fictions.
Did you have to put in more effort to prepare for this role?
Tisha: Of course, we all had to put in extra effort. There are some basic differences in people of that time. From dialogue delivery to interactions with people around them, we had discussions and grooming to prepare for the characters. The director was very helpful. Preparing for a character depends on teamwork. The whole team helped us prepare.
What kind of grooming did you go through?
Siam: There were two major challenges to play the character of Nasir_one was to create a distinct look for him, and the other was to portray his values. When Tauquir bhai told me that I will act in his film, I was very excited. Since Tauquir bhai is such a brilliant actor, he helped out a lot during the preparation phase.
Tauquir: Though he was confused whether he would play the part...
Tisha: I was not confused.
Tauquir: You were, too.
Tisha: Tauquir bhai, you were also confused about whether to cast us or not...
Siam: It was a challenge to find the right look. I went to a salon, tried on a few looks and sent Tauquir bhai pictures.
Tauquir: He grew a moustache.
Siam: My father’s name is also Nasir. I found a picture of him when he was a student of Dhaka University. I got the same moustache from a salon and sent a picture to Tauquir bhai. I was determined to not leave the salon without getting approval from Tauquir bhai that it was the look we would use for Nasir. He was busy as usual and replied 40 minutes later. I waited in the salon the whole time.
How long did it take to complete the script?
Tauquir: It was an abnormally long time. I first read the story in 2004 and wrote a draft in 2008. But I could not find a producer and became frustrated. I submitted the film for government grant in 2015. But I did not receive the grant. Then I made “Oggatonama” and “Haldaa”. The films got some appreciation. Later, Faridur Reza Sagar offered to produce the film, which was brave of him, as it is an expensive venture. The cost was double the budget of “Haldaa”.
The car had to be an old model, the bike had to be Vespa, even an old radio set would cost around Tk25,000. A typewriter would cost Tk20,000.
During the long gap, I worked on the story on and off. After we found the producer, a number of changes were made again to the script to make it entertaining.
Our viewers are not the same as European viewers. We do not expect them to like abstract films. Communicating with the viewers is a top priority for me. Ozu or Kurosawa is more relatable than say Tarkovsky, Bela Tarr or Godard here. Simplicity is beauty_ that is the philosophy I believe in.
We see you between action and cut. Is there any interesting incident that happened between cut and action (when the camera is off) that you’d like to share with our readers?
Siam: Tauquir bhai has a thing about details. When he wants something specific, nothing else will do. For instance, we needed a Vox Wagen. The shooting was in Paikgachha and the owner probably didn’t want to take the trouble or charged too much. At one point Tauquir bhai ended up buying the car.
Tauquir: Let me clarify. I had a similar car, which I bought about six months before the shooting. But it had to be restored, repainted to fit the timeline. We brought the car to the shooting spot on a truck. But the problem was that the 1952 model would have a split window at the back. We corrected that in post-production through vfx.
Siam: That’s the level of authenticity we kept in this film.