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    Volume 9 Issue 10| March 5, 2010|

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Duniya's World

Anika Hossain

Cast and crew of Duniya.

Sharbari Zohra Ahmed's film Duniya is a fresh take on the concept of self-actualisation. It is a short story about a young woman called Duniya Islam (played by Iffat Nawaz) who is unlucky in love but is determined not to give up hope. She leaves the US and follows her lover back to her home country, where she decides to write poetry to "wear down" the man she thinks is her soulmate and make him realise he loves her too. Her friends and well wishers (played by Zarah A Quddus, Alizeh Ahmed and Munize Manzur) try to dissuade her from her goal, telling her she is wasting her time and her talents but Duniya is a romantic idealist who fails to be deterred. In her efforts to win him back, she turns to drugs and alcohol to lessen the blow of each disappointed attempt, until the brutal BDR massacre which took place on February 2009, makes her realise her suffering is trivial compared to that of her countrymen. For the first time since her return, Duniya decides to rediscover Bangladesh and finds it has much more to offer than her lost love. She finds new and more beautiful material for her poetry, which heals her, renews her passion, and sets her on the path to self-discovery.

Duniya is a low budget movie, which was written in two days and filmed in four, but it manages to touch on important issues such as the lifestyle of the current generation of the privileged classes in Bangladesh, the easy availability, abuse and negative effects of drugs and alcohol. It even incorporates the political climate of the country, all in 19 short minutes. The movie has already been screened at several international film festivals. It was screened for the first time in Dhaka on the February 26, 2010 at the Brac Centre Inn, at a film festival organised by Future Shorts, one of the world's leading short film labels. Future Shorts has an international network comprising more than 100 cities and 25 different countries and passionately promotes the viewing of short films.

Left: A jampacked audience watches Duniya at the Future Shorts Festiva. Right: Sharbari Ahmed, Director of Duniya.

While the fact that Sharbari Ahmed, who is a writer based in New York, had to make this film under extreme budgetary costs, hence the non-professional actors and brevity in length, the film could have been smoother in terms of picturisation. At times the acting appeared a little stilted although the dialogue was quite authentic, depicting the complicated nuances of Dhaka's elite. There was a feeling that even though a short film, it should have been longer to explore the transition of a naive rather self-centred woman to a much wiser, more generous individual who finally finds herself rather than her previous objective of love.

Despite the obvious hiccups of a film made under such huge constraints, the novel theme, excellent music and clever cinematography were quite impressive. Ahmed has managed to portray Dhaka from a new and different point of view, using fresh new faces, music and poetry. It is a first yet significant step for her into filmmaking and there is indication that there is more to come for this Bangladeshi American whose talent as a writer and playwright has been well established.

Cast: Starring: Iffat Nawaz, Zarah Quddus, Alizeh Ahmed, Rumana Habib, Adnan Shaiful Khan, and Munize Manzur

Music: Bangla (Anushe), Srabonti Narmeen Ali

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