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Film Review

A Treat for Children

Amongst the dearth of healthy entertainment for children, Amar Bondhu Rashed,
makes a sincere but weak presence in Bangladesh's film industry

Tamanna Khan

Scenes from the film Amar Bondhu Rashed. Photos: Courtesy

Fifteen years ago a teenager soaked the pages of Amar Bondhu Rashed, desperately trying not to wake her parents up with her weeping. With streaks of gray in her hair now, that once-upon-a-time teenager tries her best to choke down the tears as the film Amar Bondhu Rashed comes to an end in the hushed-up dark hall of Star Cineplex. However, the tears this time are more of disappointment and failed expectations from the movie rather than the emotional depiction of the already loved story line.

Amar Bondhu Rashed, a fictional story based on the Liberation War of Bangladesh and written by the popular children's litterateur Dr Mohammad Jafar Iqbal, inspired Morshedul Islam to adapt the novel into a film. "The story includes issues that I felt will help the young generation understand our emotion regarding the Liberation War" says Islam. Another reason for choosing this story is that the film's main character is a class-eight student. I myself was in class-eight during the Liberation War and was living a captive life in Dhaka. My elder brother was a freedom-fighter. When he came back, I along with my other siblings had to hide the machineguns he brought and secretly transfer bayonets from one place to another. Reading the book, I felt as if it is my story," recounts Islam.

Scenes from the film Amar Bondhu Rashed. Photos: Courtesy

Islam's emotional attachment to the story, however, has not portrayed itself well throughout the film because of inadequate and amateurish acting of his young cast, who are the main protagonists of the story. Unlike the well-balanced cast of "Dipu Number Two", the young cast of Amar Bondhu Rashed playing, Rashed - the lead role, Ibu, Ashraf, Fazlu, Dilip and Kader is a disappointment. The very first scene of the movie invokes irritation, the moment grown-up Ibu's (played by Raisul Islam Asad) son mechanically spews out a dialogue. Although Asad could overshadow the young boy's acting, his shiny, black wig whisks away the viewers' attention.

Nevertheless, Islam has tried his best to recreate the atmosphere of 1971 at least location-wise. In fact it was one of the biggest challenges that he faced while making the movie. "The first challenge was the budget" informs Islam. "We felt that if we want to make the film properly then we will need a lot of money because it included many sequences of war. Besides budget, we also needed the cooperation of the Army and Navy. I am lucky that we received positive response from both the Army and Navy. Another challenge was to present the Bangladesh of 1971. One or two modern houses always appeared in the frame of an area no matter which town we chose for shooting. It became difficult to depict that time (pre-liberation period). We had to search the whole of Bangladesh until we found a suitable location in Dinajpur." Though the location problem was solved the contemporary appearance of military equipment and vehicles used in the film could not be hidden.

Like his previous projects, this time too Islam has introduced new faces for the well-loved characters of the book. His young cast has tried to bring out the emotions of a period that they never experienced, with little success. Rashed played by Chowdhury Zawat Afnan needs more expression in his voice and face. His nonchalant and meek appearance does not at all match the character of Rashed. In fact Zawat himself feels that he could have done better. On the other hand, viewers can easily identify Dilip and Ashraf played by Likhon Rahi and Faiyaz Bin Zia just by their appearance. Acting-wise Rayan Ibtesham Chowdhury has done a good job in playing the role of Ibu, the narrator of the story. "In 2009, I participated in the International Children's Film Festival as a child-director and Morshed sir, being the Chairman of the Children's Film Society saw me there. Later he called me to take part in this film, I applied and got the part," says Rayan.

However it is Humayra Himu who receives full credit in bringing up Aru Apa both in her acting and costume. Arman Parvez Murad, playing Shafiq Bhai, looks a little older for a university student and his fake beard indicates once more the director's hurry to complete the film. Although Gazi Rakayet's presence is for a short while in the movie, his acting is nevertheless flawless.

Morshedul Islam is one of the few filmmakers of our industry, who still dares to make films for children -- the most neglected audience of the entertainment world of Bangladesh. In Amar Bondhu Rashed Islam deliberately had to remove some of the amusing parts of the original story to include the informative portions from which the audience can learn history. As a result, the bond among the friends and their innocent pranks are almost lost in the film version.

Though films on our glorious war depicting the role of young boys have been made before, most of them never reached the silver screen commercially. Moreover, in recent years too, no film, that is both entertaining and educational for children and adults as well, has been released. Here's where Amar Bondhu Rashed, directed by Morshedul Islam, produced by Impress Telefilm Ltd and Monon Chalachitra, makes a difference. It is a commendable effort to bring something entertaining for children but one that could have been done with a little more finesse.

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