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    Volume 9 Issue 28| July9, 2010|

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Camera–Connecting Culture

Elita Karim

It is not unusual for children and young people to be dazzled by what they watch on television or see on

Khijir Hayat Khan

the silver screen. In fact, many youngsters in Bangladesh at one point dream of becoming a part of the glamour world showcased in front of the camera. The thrill of being an actor or a model, a part of a drama cast or just experiencing confidence as a television anchor on set would create a huge impression on these young minds. Moments built up in front of the lens, are indeed, beautiful and memorable.

And then there are some like Khijir Hayat Khan who would rather create these beautiful moments from behind the lens. The private world of a scriptwriter, an art director, the editor or the graphics person would intrigue his young mind, rather than the very public one in front of the camera. While growing up in Comilla, Khan would make it a habit to watch all the movies he could get his hands on, both foreign and local. He would not let go of books either, and would often imagine writing full-length scripts from the books that would grab his attention. Clearly, it was at a very young age that he had decided to become a filmmaker.

Thirty-two-year-old Khan's first work had been a full-length feature film on Birshreshtho Flight Lieutenant Matiur Rahman, Astittye Amaar Desh. Even though the film had not gained commercial success, Khan proved his brilliance as a filmmaker, ready to take the risk and experiment with new ideas, in terms of direction and projection. “I am happy with the response to Astittye Amaar Desh,” says Khan. “It wasn't a flop, if you look at it in terms of the financial return. But I wish the film had reached a wider range of audience, which is very difficult in Bangladesh.”

It was, however, with the well-acclaimed film, Jaago, that Khan managed to reach a wide range of audience all over the country. In fact, Jaago, a film about a group of young amateur football players based in Comilla winning a tournament against the team from Tripura, a state champion team in India, had been nominated in 15 categories at the Film Awards Bangla 2010 (FAB'10 Awards). A first of its kind, the FAB'10 Awards, hosted in Bangkok, brought together artists, actors, directors and play back singers from both Bangladesh and West Bengal. Khijir Hayat Khan won the Best Director Award for Jaago, which also won the awards for Best Film Critic's Choice, Best Music Direction, Best Actor Female, Best Playback Singer Male and Best Sound Design.

As a young student at the Sylhet Cadet College, Khan had to go through a rigid routine, fit for those who would eventually enter the army. He has also double majored in Economics and Environmental Science from Hamline University, Minnesota, USA. “I was young and I thought I could make a career in one of these fields and move with the flow,” says Khan.

However, Khan could not stop himself from moving back to his first love- filmmaking. A self-taught maker, Khan says that the entertainment sector in Bangladesh is very difficult and one has to sacrifice a whole lot to be part of it and be successful. “With every film that I make, I seem to grow up a little and understand my surroundings better,” he says.

For one thing, Khan talks about how difficult it was to get through to the bookies during the post-production of Jaago, who would ultimately run the movies all over the country. A very complicated network in the country, it is very difficult for a new filmmaker to penetrate the market, unless he or she has the right contacts and knows the right methods, which sometimes happen to be unethical as well. Unfortunately though, a very vocal Khan got on the wrong side of the bookies, which fared badly for the movie. In fact, Khan has also got himself in the bad books of a powerful TV channel, which plays a significant role in defining new artists and talents in the country, not always, however, pertaining to ethics. “I really want my film to run in the Kakrail halls,” says Khan, referring to one of the biggest hubs of cinemas and bookies in the country. “But I know that, this will never happen. My film will just get slashed!” he smiles.

Scenes behind the movie 'Jaago'.

Khan's work is inspired by what he sees around him, be it happy or painful. In fact, most of his films talk about the general people and their emotions. Khan shares an incident he had witnessed right outside his home situated at DOHS Baridhara. At around 9 pm, the security police at the main gates of the area stopped Khan's rickshaw. According to the security, the rickshaw would not be allowed to go inside the area and Khan would have to walk the rest of the way. And if the rickshaw went in, it would not be allowed to come out. “This seemed like such a silly rule!” says Khan. “My home was still a good walk ahead and I did not understand how the authorities could come up with something like this. How would they expect older people to get off a rickshaw and walk the rest of the way home? What scared me was that the sergeant was doing this in a normal fashion, like it was something he did on a regular basis.” Khan could have moved away, but something screamed inside his head. That night, he stood at the check post, verbally fighting with the officer in his own way. "I could not understand why they would let the rickshaw get in the area but not let him get out. It was an illogical rule for anybody! My biggest pain was that I could not save the rickshaw puller. I was frightened and did not want to get into an awkward situation with the police sergeant and lose my dignity. He reminded me of Denzel Washington, playing the role of the corrupt cop in the movie Training Day." The problem was of course resolved when friends belonging to political backgrounds came up and helped Khan to solve the problem. “That night I understood that an ordinary person, with no political affinity, has no rights in Bangladesh. It is only the ones with money and strong political connections who survive,” says Khan.

Khijir Hayat Khan is a young filmmaker with unfulfilled dreams, someone who is still struggling to make it big in Bangladesh. However, his work has been both admired and criticised alike in the international arena as well. Rumour has it that Khan will soon be working on a film based on the Sunderbans and also the extinction of tigers, both in India and Bangladesh. “I am not going to work on that now, though it was in the pipeline,” says Hayat. He has, instead, decided to go back to school and get a postgraduate degree in Digital Media, a rapidly growing sector in the Bangladeshi media today. “I believe I can prove myself better once I experience the academic scene in this field, along with the practical side,” explains Khan. “After all, nothing beats a well developed educational background to shape up your career, no matter what field it is.”

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