The drug cartel plot is undoubtedly a very intriguing yet brave choice to work on, but unfortunately the execution of it did not go so well
Golam Sohrab Dodul’s debut feature film Shap Ludu was one of the most highly anticipated local films of this year. The star studded action-thriller made a three-week-long successful run across theatres nationwide. The film also had special screenings in seven countries: Australia, Italy, US, England, Malaysia, Singapore, and the UAE . The film was very well received by the audience, and it mostly received positive response.
I went to capital’s Star Cineplex in Bashundhara City Shopping Mall on Friday to see the film for myself. Even in its fourth consecutive week the theatre was housefull during the 8:40pm show. I was pleased to hear a lot of people around me came here to see the film for the second time.
Shap Ludu is based on the drug trafficking cartel in Bangladesh’s southernmost coastal district, Teknaf. The entire film revolves on how the politics of the region is shaped by the smugglers, and how they spread rumours to cause communal violence against minorities in that region. The plot is undoubtedly a very intriguing yet brave choice to work on, but unfortunately the execution of it did not go so well.
The storyline was promising. A Bangladeshi expatriate, played by Intekhab Dinar, who is an internationally renowned journalist gets kidnapped by the drug smugglers in a small village in the coastal area. Local politicians of the region gets heat from both local, and international media on the kidnapping. Around the same time a small village of an indigenous community was attacked, and burned down by masked miscreants. The whole situation gets more and more intense as the film moves forward. A Bangladeshi intelligence officer, played by Salauddin Lavlu, starts investigating the case, and finds more loose ends.
On the surface everything of this film sounds great for a commercial Bangladeshi film, and more films should be focused on real world issues that actually happens in this country. Even the lead roles, played by popular film stars Bidya Sinha Saha Mim and Arifin Shuvoo, have no romantic development, and only help the storyline to move along.
Also the central characters played by Zahid Hasan, Shatabdi Wadud, Tariq Anam Khan, Intekhab Dinar, Salauddin Lavlu, Marjuk Russel were not redundant at all.
The film was decently shot, and had mediocre editing. What struck me most was the terrible dialogue writing, which made me lose interest. Hence, a film which had an excellent, and real life issue as its plot, fell apart for its weak dialogues.
Dodul is a very popular television fiction director, and created many popular TV dramas. But his debut film lacked the proper story development. In my opinion it was because of the redundant, and over the top dialogues.
A film which has a plot as real as the country’s drug trafficking problem, it should have avoided the over dramatic Dhallywood style dialogues. Film-makers need to understand that normal people, politicians, and even drug smugglers do not talk like this. Also the songs used in the film are a lot better than what we are used to seeing in Dhallywood films, yet it felt redundant.
No drug cartel film needs a misleading, and misrepresenting dance number with indigenous community members of our hill tracts dancing with a character of the film.
Another major issue was like every other Bangladeshi film was the sound mixing. It was poorly mixed for the Dolby 5:1 sound space, and hurt the audience’s hearing during loud action or song sequences.
Filmmakers and sound designers of the country needs to understand that Bangladesh as yet does not have any proper theatrical surround sound mixing studios to cater to the Dolby theatres.
As such, my recommendation would be for sticking to a proper stereo mix, and test it out in an actual theatre before rendering the final mix. These small issues affect the overall movie experience of an ordinary audience.
Though having a very interesting storyline to work with, Dodul could not execute his best in this film. He took on a lot of social issues in a single feature film, and kind of tangled it up.
But this is definitely a shift towards the better for our commercial film industry, where the filmmakers are finally working on interesting real world stories rather than “the poor boy falls in love with the rich girl” scripts. Shap Ludu also proved that our senior television actors have much wider audience appeal, and acting finesse than our regular Dhallywood superstars.
In that comparison Dodul’s debut film is a success story, in that even a film with a political plot like this can be entertaining for the general audience. That they could come to rewatch the film with their friends and family on its third successful week is indeed encouraging. We definitely need more films like this for the betterment our long lost love for cinema culture.
Siam Raihan is a film editor and a sub-editor at the Dhaka Tribune’s Showtime Desk