Vol. 5 Num 738 Sun. June 25, 2006  
Star City

The dying film industry

Insufficient funds, outdated technology, pirated CDs, inadequate cinema halls, bad publicity and falling talent are responsible for the state of Bangladesh's deteriorating film industry.

"The equipment used here are those that have been rejected in film industries elsewhere," said Abu Sayeed Khan, an executive member of the Film Directors Association (FDA) and a member of the Bangladesh Film Producers and Distributors Association (BFPDA) who entered the industry in 1981 as a script writer and then turned actor, director and producer.

The digital equipment and colour labs used in film industries in other countries project clear pictures and soundtracks but the results of the equipment in the Bangladeshi film industry, purchased several years back are most unappealing to viewers, said Sayeed.

He also said that the equipment of Chinese and German origin have to be constantly repaired for reuse.

After completing the shooting of a film that takes at least 20-22 days, in two shifts, the exposed film is then taken to the colour labs for washing, followed by processing, dubbing and editing for distribution to cinema halls.

Though a cinema is supposed to be shown at cinema halls after release, pirated CDs takes precedence leaving few viewers at the halls and financial losses to film distributors.

"Piracy is a form of robbery," said FI Manik, a director of many hit films and executive member of the FDA who entered the film industry in 1974 as an assistant director. He alleged that an unscrupulous section of people in the cinema halls are responsible for the piracy.

He also said that many cinema halls in the country have been shut down and turned into shopping malls and apartments.

Although the film industry falls under the purview of the information ministry, government assistance is inadequate and no banks provide loans to produce films, and the ministry has no separate section to deal with film related issues.

"I spend around Tk 50 million on a single film but I can earn Tk 30 million only in case the film becomes a hit," said Ustad Jahangir Alam, acting president of BFPDA.

Although private corporations sponsor TV and stage dramas, no one is willing to sponsor a commercial film as they are more expensive and not so popular.

"We do not have the finance to modernise our equipment nor a film academy to train would-be actors for commercial films," said Md Hussain, senior vice-president of BFPDA.

"Talented directors, producers and actors of the past have either deceased or left the film industry," said Manik.

Many would-be talented actors are not willing to enter the film industry because of the bad reputation of the film industry, he added.

Responding to a question about transferring talented stage actors to the film industry, Mizu Ahmed, a former actor and currently the president of the Cine Artiste Association said there was a big difference between stage and film acting.

"Formal training for films is required and it includes consciousness of physical fitness, which is lacking in most Bangladeshi actors," he said.

Responding to allegations of vulgarity in Bangladeshi films, almost everyone in the industry focussed on cable TV, exaggerated cinema posters, bad publicity and a section of unscrupulous producers and so-called actors.

"A certain section of film directors do produce pornographic films but this is decreasing as penalties now exist for producing such films," said Manik. He could not specify the exact rate of penalty but added that the recently introduced censorship laws are to benefit the film industry.

"Many viewers enter the halls on seeing the vulgarity depicted on the cinema posters and ultimately end up vandalising the halls when they realise that such scenes do not actually exist in the films," said Ahmed.

He added that the present technology could expose a fully dressed woman and pornographic films made through mobile phones.

"Those who act in pornographic films are not genuine actors," he said.

He said that most people would not find it vulgar to see a scantily dressed slim figured foreign actor whereas they would find it vulgar to see an obese Bangladeshi actor dressed in the same way.

"No one is making any fuss about scantily dressed female football fans in the ongoing World Cup that are being published in the newspapers," he said.

When contacted, officials at the information ministry, declined to comment.

"Had there been adequate talent among the producers, directors and actors then perhaps good quality films would have been made regardless of limited finance and poor technology which could have drawn the attention of viewers and sponsors," said a disillusioned assistant director who joined the industry in the late 90s and is now contemplating leaving it.

Shooting of an action movie in progress at Bangladesh Film Development Corporation at Tejgaon. PHOTO: STAR