Mostofa Sarwar Farooqui at the session.
The Idiot Box
Sumaiya Ahsan Bushra
Photos: Kazi Tahsin Agaz Apurbo
On February 3, 2013, I walked into my office after a short respite and was asked to attend a session with one of the most interesting filmmakers the nation has seen. With each passing step, my anticipation grew and the climax was built as I met eye to eye with the man, who always seems to be the butt-of-a-debate amongst many. Lowering his head from his navy blue cap, Mostofa Sarwar Farooqi looked at me and smiled as my boss introduced us - an inspirational director, screenwriter, film producer and more.
The session mainly included young students from different universities filled with questions on Farooqi's recent release, 'Television'- a movie that has captured the hearts of many. Being the creator of films like 'Made in Bangladesh,' 'Bachelor,' 'Third Person Singular Number' and many television ads and films, Farooqi had set a firm ground for himself when it came to popularity. However, 'Television' was a unique movie altogether with respect to the narration, plot, technical aspects like shot division, characters, etc. These multi-various aspects arose several questions in the minds of the young students.
Nazia Nusrat, a student of Newcastle Law Academy and Sabhanaz Rashid Diya from Independent University, Bangladesh, bombarded the filmmaker with questions. Nusrat's first question was on how the director was capable of creating such a versatile script. In response, Farooqi explained that the dynamic nature came from the way people would view it. The perception of the same incident would vary from person to person and often it was the neutral aspect of the incident that would be considered when he would write a script. His partner in crime in such cases is often writer Anisul Haque, who helps him create some of the best scripts. However, it's Farooqi's own personality that affects his script. There are features in his own being that enables him to look at a man with flaws in different ways. He added humorously, that even a bad person who does evil has goodness ingrained in him and that this is something he often tends to portray in his films. He further states that he does not want to be conclusive or judgmental.
Viewers of ‘Television’ in conversation with the director.
As he explained with patience, another question popped up on the heterogeneous reaction of the audience that went to watch the film. Farooqi stated that he always looks at people's facial reactions and for this film, some cried and some laughed. In his previous movie, 'Third Person Singular Number', he noticed the discomfort felt by the audience. Although, Bangladeshis love the 'masala' factor when it comes to the issues depicted in the film, yet when displayed on a big screen with a hall packed with audience, a certain tingling guilt always purges. But, 'Television' was an exception to all this, which allowed an international audience to connect emotionally to the film. At a cultural context, when Kohinoor, the female protagonist is punished, it makes the audience roll with laughter at home, while it truly shocks the international audience.
Furthermore, the dialect used is of the Noakhali district which acts as an agent to make the audience watch the movie even more carefully. Farooqi, in all seriousness, elaborated that after the film was released on January 25, 2013, he came across a group of six members who came to watch the film six times and each time they said that they discovered a new term in the dialect used. Since they were unfamiliar with the language, they watched it multiple times and each time was a bonus!
As the session got more interactive, Farooqi spoke more about the setting of the shoot. He modestly stated that he had never really worked in a rural setting and had faced some difficulties while working there. He had to learn the lifestyle of the villagers. He needed to know the minor details of a village life, so that the audience would find it as a flawless creation. Attention to detail was his goal. He adapted to the village life in such a manner that the village itself would fall in love with him. The villagers also had designated roles to play as he did not hire any junior artist to work with him from Dhaka. They co-operated quite well and would enthusiastically cross check with each other at a regular basis to see if all was going well. They readily took the load of direction in their hand, making it 'easier' for Farooqi.
Farooqui and his young fans.
Although, at times it was quite difficult, as people would show more excitement than warranted and would crowd around the set and wave their hands to the director. In order to avoid these, Farooqi had to create distractions where he would make a dummy act with a few actors to deceive the 'overly enthusiastic rural people'. In the meantime, the main shoot would go on somewhere else.
An interesting question on the title 'Television' was asked by Mohammad Ar-Rafi Waseq Hossain, a student of Bangladesh Medical College. Before asking the question he shared an incident that had occurred with his friend one day. His friend came up to him and asked, "Did you watch 'Television'?" Awestruck, young Hossain did not know what to say as he 'did' grow up watching television! Was it the director's plan to play with words? Farooqi replied by saying that he had no specific reason to choose such a term but for him television itself was a character and it is the mind's imagination that is considered a television. 'Kolponar jogot' is a crucial theme used in the film- as every character imagines and floats in infinite fascination.
The hyped-up session nearly came to an end when Farooqi gave inspirational ideas on creating a platform for Bangladeshi filmmakers. He said that this industry is like a garden, where all kinds of makers, creators and people exist. There is no discrimination or dispute on such issues and one must make a trademark style to exhibit their talent in the world market.
However, with a man of his wit, nothing really comes to end without him bombarding back questions to these young individuals who attended the 'adda'. As the discussion came to an end, both Farooqi and the young people could not help laughing at quips made at each other. He asked the young men and women their opinions on relationships and also tried to research a little on how these young people got around with their respective boyfriends and girlfriends, and also had enough time to do other activities. Much to Farooqi's surprise, majority of the young men attending the ‘adda’ said that they were single and wanted to stay that way because of gamophobia -- a fear to commit to one person! This most certainly baffled the filmmaker who despite of being famous for making films about break-ups believes in surviving love. He claims that his generation was that of 'cheesy lovers,' while today, the boys and girls seem more involved elsewhere. In many cases, relationships and all the love - chatter barely means anything to these young folks, he said, as the young people resented the statement!