o n t
r a s t
Ashfaq Wares Khan
live in a country of contrast", a minister once stated
on the subject of wealth disparity in the country. With
his Sylheti-Bangali accented English complementing his adhoc
ensemble of brightly coloured suit and tie, it seems, he's
a man of contrast as well. A man, more importantly, who
signifies the complex web of contrasting occurrences within
Bangladesh. A man with what the middle-class traditionally
considered a “khat” regional accent, can climb
to the top of the town, breaking down old orders ironically
juxtaposed with the polished academia that is imbued with
a supposed higher culture.
A high culture, which is slowly being turned
on its head: contrasted, with the violation of its sanctimonious
Rabindra Sangeet's "immortal" way of performance,
hijacked, polluted, contaminated with the supposed vile
impurities of "western technology". NO! They cry,
it is cultural imperialism, we cannot let them penetrate
our "culture", they say!
A sight of contrast indeed, considering
Rabindranath himself composed most of his music on a family
piano - a Western instrument --and just to think that his
philosophy would be geared to experiment and embrace the
global nouvelle, the profane, the downright madness that
is the progress of music and its ever expanding reach into
the darkest crevices of one's soul. These young urban ruffians!
Contrasted, yes, for they are the young
ruffians who continue to swear in Hindi and smoke, inject
and drink their way to a tranquil solitude. While they work
in an ethically disengaged world of technical education
of business, engineering and technology. Inculcated with
the manic logic of "material security": “Let your
emotions go” they say, so that nothing hinders your path
to "security: marriage, money and MORTALITY."
Contrast, yes, yes indeed it is. Where a
country full of junkies are junkies because of no employment.
Yet, they mug the vulnerable little lady on the rickshaw
to earn the cash to pay for a rue-filled injection in order
to console for the very fact that they cannot earn; what
is the missing link...lost in an unfathomable sharp contrast
I say - the twilight zone.
A twilight zone - haze between the opposing
and contrasting colours of life: first, the twilight zone
of the Bangali male peasant. The rural dweller, with no
dwelling to dwell, he goes to view his favourite Dhaliwood
movie: gyrations infinitum, breasts, thighs, close-ups of
the crotch, rapes, seduction, love, merriment, JOY, pleasure
ingenious scheme: to provide an all-in-one "paisa
ushul"; the perfect solution for the millions
of monetarily challenged. Contrast: THE film-maker considers
it cheap tripe. But sir, cheap is what makes it ingenious!
It is a genre in itself, like Humayun Ahmed's brilliance
in consoling the secured middle and lower classes, providing
a solace in their dull, but not so dull life with an anomaly
in their midst: Misir Ali or even a Himu.
Himu, however, doesn't go home and marry
-- he sleeps with older women, talks to chics with cigs,
hangs 'round old spiritual “dudes”; he himself is spiritual.
Is Himu the postmodern temple of urban ghettoed spirituality?
Contrast: the village twilight peasant also holds the aforementioned
traits as Himu. However, he is taken as "inferior"
because of a supposed “high” and the upper-middle class
voluntary excursion by Himu into those spaces, rather than
being a “victim” of the peasant's reality of lower class
“conditions” -- the sharp contrast of Bengali stratification.
we also locate the peasant participating in an all out thrashing
of a pre-marital pregnant female--a pregnancy caused by
the rape of the village mattobor. Why is she being beaten
one asks; a chorus replies: because she should've stopped
her own rape?! Contrast of the colours black and red, with
a shade of blue to hue her soul. The same mattobor,
who devours the sight of the Dhakaite seductress on screen,
comes home, “forcibly sleeps” with his wife then bars her
from venturing outdoors. He is leading others into a thrashing
of the woman based on the assumption that the woman provoked
the rape - contrast of a sharp nature.
Ah! Coming back to the seductress of the
screen, she appears on two levels for our contrast seekers:
firstly, she appears in the titillating ensemble of spandex
wearing-gyrating hip, suggesting plenty more that provides
the ammunition for the constructors of socio-sexual taboos
the orthodox anti-Himu - with that very thing!
But they--the peasant, Himu, and the Anti-Himus
-- crave for it, just like the women do, they need sexual
expression, damnit! The contrast: these actors of society
in dark, damp, danky cinema with its dark and danky ways,
contrasted against their functions during sunlight as the
upholders of socially virtuous norms and, of course, FAITH!!
The sedActress disappears into a twilight
zone: the ATN Bangla incidental music hits a crescendo and
shifts to the monkey man with a hat and a beard reciting
the virtues of the seventh heaven where pure men get obedient
girls -- he himself, nevertheless, has amassed 47 highly
obedient "girls". Our actress re-appears in another
four hours in a TV interview, spreading her gospel of the
pious practices of a hip-gyrating-pornstar that as she has
reached her obligations of full womanhood for a Muslim female,
she must marry and retreat to her homely duties!
maybe, who knows! But our minister shaheb is a
man on his toes, he'll bring it down on da housh! His lingo,
his contrasts are the pliars to tear the place apart like
Mujib's rural colloqial bantering. Displacing the priest
of high culture with that of the mass, and that of superiority
with the respectful different! On that note, Humayun Ahmed
for what he is, the god of the urban middle-class - he too,
wears brightly contrasting shirts!