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Honest review of No Dorai: Less surfing, more melodrama

  • Published at 09:49 pm November 29th, 2019
No Dorai
Official poster of No Dorai (Dare to Surf) | IMDb

The film does not live up to the hype

The movie buffs in Bangladesh have been eagerly waiting for the theatrical release of Bangladesh’s first surfing film No Dorai (Dare to Surf). The film made hit the local theatres on Friday, despite a few complaints and edits from the censor board. A special premiere for the press and media personalities was held on Thursday evening. We rushed to take a first peek into the much-hyped drama, but was sorely disappointed.


The premiere itself dazzled the guests. Celebrities, media personalities and government officials, not to mention the film’s cast and crew, filled up the premises of Star Cineplex at Bashundhara City shopping mall in Dhaka. 

The film screening was supposed to begin at 7pm, but at 7:45pm, the film’s producer and Star Cineplex Chairman Mahboob Rahman came on the stage and deeply apologized for the delay due to management issues. 

Speaking about the film, he said how months of hard work went into the making of No Dorai, how amazing a team was assembled by the film’s executive producer and popular Bangladeshi musician Xefer Rahman, and how incredible the audience’s response was. 

He said the film was inspired by the true story of a girl named Nasima, who overcame every barrier to fulfil her dreams to become a surfer in a religious conservative town like Cox’s Bazar. 

Mahboob said this film was a movement to further propel women empowerment and a new era in Bangladeshi film industry.

Beautiful visuals of Cox’s Bazar

As the film began, the audience was captivated by the stunning visuals of Cox’s Bazar. Taneem Rahman, the film’s director, and Sumon Sarker, the cinematographer, must be praised for capturing the beautiful visuals of the world’s longest beach as never seen before. No Dorai can boast about having the most spectacular visuals and colours in any Bangladeshi film in recent times. The director himself is one of the most talented editors and colourists in the country, and the film’s images reflect that.

Oddly enough, the huge stain of dust on the screen was an eyesore, ruining the beautiful introduction sequence of Cox’s Bazar beach and the roaring Bay of Bengal. Naturally, the audience complained. It was particularly baffling, seeing as Star Cineplex itself is the production company of the film, and one would expect them to take extra care while screening their debut production. 

Poor storytelling

Although incredibly impressive, the beautiful visuals could do little to make up for subpar storytelling.

The screenplay was co-written by Mahboob Rahman and renowned Indian screenwriter Shyamal Sengupta. All of the dialogues were in the local dialect of Chittagong, but no subtitles were provided. Many in the audience were confused, wondering about the subtitles as most of them could not understand a word of the dialogues. The film-makers should have taken this into consideration. 

The story revolves around Ayesha, played by newcomer Sunerah Binte Kamal, a teenager from Cox’s Bazar who grew up surfing with her trainer Amir, played by Sayeed Babu. The story depicts the horrors she has to face since childhood, both in the hands of her family and the society, for her love of surfing on the waves of the Bay.

The plot is unique and depicts one of the most crucial social issues of our country, which is repression of women and how the Bangladeshi society is built upon what women can and cannot do.

However, this is not the way to start a massive conversation on such a sensitive issue like women empowerment. The intention and effort was evident, but their execution was not done well.

Almost every dialogue sequence was laced with typical melodrama from the days of yore – the mould that recent movies have been trying to break. A lot of the sequences were redundant and could have been edited out. 

For example, in a scene, Ayesha’s brother is seen beating her with a stick for going to surf in the sea, because it is not acceptable. The scene goes on and on for what feels like ages. In reality, if a person was beaten for so long and so brutally, surely that person would need to be hospitalized. Yet, our Ayesha walks again after a few days of bed rest.

Actors shine

The acting was the only good thing about the film. The casting of local actors was great, and each actor played their part well. The performances of the lead actors, Sunerah who played Ayesha, and Sariful Razz who played Ayesha’s romantic interest Sohel, were particularly admirable. The writers gave Sohel a sidekick, who was clearly meant to provide comic relief. Sadly, that does more harm than good; that supporting role mumbles random unnecessary things to keep the audience engaged, but fails. 

Each of the cast members are fluent in the Chittagonian dialect. The producer previously told the press that the actors went through months of training to learn the dialect.

As far as acting is concerned, the same cannot be said for the foreign actors; they are stiff in their movement and robotic in delivering their dialogues. 

Bad sound-mixing

The sound of No Dorai, in short, is horrible. No live location sound was used in the movie. The dialogues were dubbed in post-production, and the lip syncs in the first few sequences are terrible.

What I don’t understand is how a production of this scale went with the ancient Automated Dialogue Replacement (ADR) process – and even that was done poorly. I would not call myself an expert in Chittagonian dialect, but even I could tell that the lip sync was completely off.

The sound design, done by Ripon Nath, and mixing are mediocre. Some scenes have unnecessary sound effects. The surround mix is so bad that in some instances, you have to cover your ears because of how loud the background score is.

The score could have been great if it wasn’t so monotonous. There are some scenes that are visually striking and would’ve been perfect with just the sound of the ocean, but are ruined with local flute tunes which are not only unnecessary, but also poorly mixed.

Where’s the surfing?

The biggest issue I have with this film is that, it is about local surfing culture, but there are barely any scenes of people surfing in the movie. The producer claims that Razz and Sunerah had three months of training to shoot the surfing scenes. We see Razz on a surfboard for a couple of seconds, but our protagonist, who fights for her right to be able to surf, is never seen on a surfboard in the film that is more than two and a half-hours-long. In one scene, Ayesha is seen jumping into the sea with her surfboard, but in the following shot, we see a match cut of someone else surfing with the board – wearing the same clothes. Some of the audience burst into laughter seeing this scene.

The verdict

With the glaring errors in the film, the question is: Was the hype justified? Certainly not. No Dorai could not achieve what it set out to do. The film was widely anticipated around the country, with its amazing soundtrack Jontrona by the talented young singer Mohon Sharif, brilliantly shot by the director. Another good part of this movie is the amazing depiction of Cox’s Bazar’s natural beauty as never seen before. The lead actors also deliver good performances. Unfortunately, the bads outweigh the goods. 

But the movie shows the personal progress of the director. No Dorai was Taneem Rahman’s third film – after Aadi and Shopner Ghor. Among them, Aadi never received a theatrical release. He is a promising film-maker who is getting better with each project and has a thirst for giving the audience something new. 

 


Siam Raihan is a film editor and a sub-editor at Dhaka Tribune’s Showtime Desk