'I do not want to comment about it right at this moment'
A recent cellphone company's advertisement—directed by popular filmmaker Nuhash Humayun—has caused massive backlash among the netizens of Bangladesh. Tecno Mobile, a Chinese mobile phone manufacturer based in Hong Kong, made the commercial to target their Bangladeshi market. The social media response was divided into two, right after the commercial was released on Facebook on Sunday; one group is praising the message behind it while the other is complaining about the complete lack of sensitivity toward the subject-matter.
The advertisement, titled “Running Rafee,” claims to be inspired by a true story. It features a young Bandarban local called Rafee who runs door-to-door between the houses of every Muslim family living in Bandarban, during the month of Ramadan. He runs to every Muslim person's home during the time of Sehri at dawn, and Iftar at dusk, to announce the time for fasting. This is because the Chittagong Hill Tracts only has a few mosques, and the Muslim locals cannot hear the sound of the "Azaan" (call to prayer) to break or start their fasting on time.
Netizens of the country instantly started sharing feedback on the marketing campaign and the inconsistencies in its plotline. People started asking questions like: “Why is this young man’s name ‘Rafee’ when he visibly comes from an ethnic minority community?,” and: “Why are Bangali Muslim locals of Bandarban living in Bamboo-framed homes like those of the ethnic communities of the region?”
Shibu Kumer Shill, vocalist of the popular Bangladeshi band Meghdol, took to Facebook and wrote: “This act of Nuhash Humayun is not just a sporadic incident. It is another representation of the continuous aggression in the hill tracts region; an unpleasant rash-like reminder of those who want to continue this aggression with their creativity. It is almost a vow to those who want to establish this aggression in a tolerant and humane way.”
National Film Award-winning cinematographer Rashed Zaman wrote on his Facebook page on Monday: “We are regularly distorting the language, culture, and religious sentiment of Old Dhaka, different districts of Bangladesh, and, more commonly, the hill tract areas. We are able to do all this without restriction because we are holding the cameras in our hands. But cameras are now in the pockets of the people of: Old Dhaka, Mymensingh, Barisal, and even Bandarban. Why don't they use them to tell their stories? Why don't they point out the real language and culture of their regions with their cameras and point out all the disrespect and misconceptions we are making? If we try to sing someone else’s song without the proper R&D [research and development] and practice then we will likely fail at it unless someone steps up and corrects us."
The Dhaka Tribune’s Showtime called Nuhash Humayun for comment on the recent debate. Nuhash said: “I do not want to comment about it right at this moment. I will release my official statement on my Facebook page soon.”