“Alpha” is a look into ourselves as a society through the eyes of this painter who asks us some serious questions that need answers, and presents critical cases that await justice
After “Ekattorer Jishu” and “Guerilla,” Bangladesh National Film Award winning director Nasiruddin Yousuff Bacchu’s third feature-length film, “Alpha,” opened in Bangladeshi theatres on April 26. I had the opportunity to attend the film's premiere at the Bangladesh Film Archive in the capital’s Agargaon on April 20. The film, produced by Impress Telefilm Limited, gives us a look into a poor and mentally-devastated painter’s mind who is sick of this country and all the wrongdoings that take place in it every day.
The film's story revolves around a poor rickshaw art painter named Alpha, played by Alamgir Kabir. He lives and paints in a shabby shack in the middle of a large lake in Dhaka. The people of the slum nearby address him as “artist” and respect his artwork and thirst for the craft. Yet, selling rickshaw paintings no-longer provides him a sufficient income.
In a surreal storytelling style, Nasiruddin Yousuff exposes all the atrocities being committed in today’s Bangladesh trough Alpha’s eyes. This includes: religious hatred and divisions among people, hatred and disgust towards the hijra (transgender) community, hatred toward illegitimate and orphan children growing up in the city, stigma around single parenthood and women in the workforce, the lack of a safe work environment in the readymade garments industry, the ever-growing rise in crime, rape, extrajudicial killings, and more.
Many people see these issues occurring around them every day, but seem unaffected by them. However, Alpha is in great despair over them and does not know how to address his inner crisis. He keeps painting, day and night, to keep himself busy from the nightmares that prevent him from sleeping.
Newcomers Alamgir Kabir and Doyel Mash, the lead characters of the film, acted flawlessly in their debut film.
Personally, I loved the character named Kali Ma, a hijra (transgender person), who raises six-to-eight illegitimate children—who were abandoned at the slum by their parents when they were infants— as her own. The overall performance of the character was beautiful and one of the strongest feminine characters I have seen in recent Bangladeshi films.
The cinematography and visuals of the film were enchanting paired with the poetic editing of Katherine Masud. The alluring black and white intro sequence of a Tajia rally during the holy Ashura grips you into the film right from the beginning.
The sound mixing of the film had some issues. Some background scores were well not mixed properly and were redundant in some sequences. The voiceover sync issues were visible in a lot of sequences and were uncomfortable for the audience.
The film is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea and it was not intended to be. The whole film is filled with surreal imageries and metaphors that speak about our chaotic society. Some topics in the screenplay were overwhelming as they focused on so many aspects of our nation rather than a few. Yet, I would personally like to recommend everyone go and watch “Alpha,” on the big screen, as such experiments on the socio-economic conditions of Bangladesh do not usually make their way to the theatres for numerous reasons.
“Alpha” is a look into ourselves as a society through the eyes of this painter who asks us some serious questions that need answers, and presents critical cases that await justice.
Siam Raihan is a film editor and a sub-editor at the Dhaka Tribune’s Showtime Desk