Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, July 19, 2007




New Market seriously has to change its name; for God's sake it is in no way “new” anymore. Anyways, by no doubt Dhaka is an awesome, radical, bustling, fabulous, little grandeur, one of its kind city. For one thing, Dhaka is manifested with random historical sites which I am sure most of us pay no heed to, and very diligently ignore. So this summer, I decided to roam around Dhaka City and weekly visit the many remnants and relics that our ancestral beings had unwillingly left behind. Who knows, I might even stumble into some new “Cool Adda” spot in the process.

Scanning the map, I decided to start from the southwest part of Puran Dhaka which consequently led me to the recently re-painted shockingly “pink” Lalbagh Kella near the infamous Buriganga River. The fort is a mere 10 minutes from New Market past the Eden Mohila College; just ask any rickshaw puller and he will take you there in no time. The fort is open from 10 am to 6 pm, 7 days a week; entry fee is Tk. 5 and be sure to keep change, because the counter almost always has none. Before venturing into other facts, let's get the historical stuff out of the way. With the construction initiated in 1678 by Mohammad Azam under Aurangzeb, the fort was apparently left unfinished; how an unfinished fort actually was to protect them I have no idea. Nonetheless, Azam's successor Shaistha Khan probably did not like the fort and decided to leave the fort unfinished, until his daughter, Pari Bibi (Lady Fairy, exactly translated), passed away there in 1684 and he started considering the fort ominous. So we have an unfinished “lal” fort painted pink which is potentially haunted.

The Mughals loved luxury and hygiene, and there is no contradicting that. Consequently the fort has over 30 fountains and supposedly an exceptional “Recently Exposed Drainage System” as per a signboard in one of the areas. The site is also pretty well maintained (other than a huge trash-filled place almost in the middle, attracting flies and crows and what not); at least a lot better than I thought. However, entry to almost all the buildings in the fort is banned with rusting locked gates, which makes the place kind of tedious. Most of the passages in the fort are underground giving the place a more fascinating outlook, architecturally at least. The major attraction of the place is the central museum which contains an array of old daggers, sheaths, spears, 6-feet long rifles (how on earth did they use those things?), flint-lock and percussion pistols, awesome looking coins from 1556-1707, paintings, hand-written Qurans with breathtaking calligraphy, and weirdly, Chinese jars and Persian ceramics (which I have doubts was actually found in the fort)!

One of the other prime attractions of the fort is the marbled hamman khana or the shower place (which occupies almost an entire palace!), with a decent bathtub, a hanging chandelier, and is pretty ingeniously made for warm water. What used to be the most clean bathing place for the Mughals is now spotted with various colored bird poo in a variety of places adding to the décor, which I am sure the administration missed during their “weekly” cleaning routine. I spotted only a single canon in the entire fort, which was outside of the shower place. I do not mean to be rude but as the administration wants us to believe, it seems that the Mughals wanted to be guarded only when they were showering. I also managed to find a small opening in one of the “doors” under the shower place (which was the highlight of my visit). Following the cave-like passage (using light from my cell-phone) and ending up in an enclosed room, I found myself visiting a snake hole and a few baby snakes, after seeing which I really did not bother to wait around to meet the mommy snake.

The mausoleum of Pari Bibi is also wonderfully decorated with mosaics in the surrounding walls, but the only problem is that entry is restricted and one will have to comprehend the beauty from the outside, which can be a little frustrating. The mosque also has been wonderfully built, and is apparently printed in one of our money notes. A portion of the wall of the fort also used to be printed in our old 100 taka notes when Khorshed Alam was our governor.

With the place literally infested with couples, like bees swarming around a hive, you can find them “making love” randomly behind every bush possible, even right beside the mosque. No joke! On the contrary, most of the people visiting there for sake of history had the same complain: “Why every passage is locked and why there are no proper labels in any of monuments?” If properly maintained and advertised for tourists, the place will certainly attract hundreds of people. Talking with the guards I also heard a pretty interesting story regarding the fort. It is rumored that the fort contains three deep underground passages that extend throughout the country. When the fort was first being investigated, dogs bound with long chains were sent into the passages to see whether the passages were really as deep as rumored. At some point the dogs stopped moving deeper, and when the chains were pulled back, the dogs were absent, just the empty intact collars! Apparently, from then on all the passages were blocked off. How much the rumor is true, I leave that to you to judge.

If you are looking to break the monotony of your dull boring life or maybe even a new place to hang out, take a peek or visit this “almost” fabulous place. Avoid extremely hot times of the day and you will be just fine. On the bright side, you will get to know a few things about the city you live in. Till next, adieu!

Story and photos by: Adnan M. S. Fakir

Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic: Ioan Gruffudd
Ben Grimm/The Thing: Michael Chiklis
Sue Storm/Invisible Woman: Jessica Alba
Johnny Storm/The Human Torch: Chris Evans
Victor Von Doom/Dr. Doom: Julian McMahon
Alicia Masters: Kerry Washington
Voice of the Silver Surfer: Laurence Fishburne

Twentieth Century Fox presents a film directed by Tim Story. Written by Don Payne, Mark Frost and John Turman, based on the comic book and characters by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. Running time: 92 minutes. Rated PG (for sequences of action, violence, some mild language and innuendo). Opening Friday, with some midnight screenings tonight.

Eloping, though, is out of the question. Sue longs for a normal, fairy-tale wedding like all woman seem to want in real life -- and in the movies.

The quartet is soon dealing with paparazzi who literally crash the wedding as well as a mysterious figure that Mr. Fantastic dubs "The Silver Surfer" after Johnny's description of an encounter with the creature.

Fans of the comic book will be happy to know that the origins of the Silver Surfer (a k a Norrin Radd) are faithfully retold. And we do mean retold. Radd (voice of Laurence Fishburne) tells us he surfs from planet to planet, heralding the apocalypse in exchange for his own home planet being spared.

And though Fishburne reads every line as if it reflects the conflict, weight and complexity of a Shakespeare sonnet, the film would have benefitted had director Tim Story shown us only Silver's predicament.

The Surfer works for a cosmic force he calls Galactus. From what we can tell, he doesn't seem to think about his job all that much. It's as if destroying planets is on par with pushing paper at the DMV. And yet it is in his hands that the Earth's salvation or destruction is placed.

His boss Galactus is less of a god than he is sort of like a giant Dyson vacuum with a planet's gravitational pull. After the Surfer tags a planet, Galactus shows up on the eighth day to consume and destroy it (as in all teardowns, cleanup takes longer: one more day than it took in the Bible to create the Earth).

Why doesn't Galactus make a snack of Saturn as he makes his way toward Earth? Who knows? Perhaps planet rings are bad for his cholesterol.

An absurd thought? No more absurd than the actions of the U.S. military in the film. Our fantastic foursome are given full background checks and yet the intelligence data on Victor Von Doom is about as flawed as what led us into the Iraqi war.

As the Human Torch/ Johnny, Evans again stands out with some of the best lines and material. His character thinks nothing of auctioning off exclusive photos of his sister's wedding and selling ad space on his uniform, and at one point he even hesitates to "flame on" because he's wearing a designer suit. Johnny might be flashy, loud and shallow, but at least he embraces his quirks.

By Tareq Adnan

Harry Potter mania has spread so far and over so many platforms that I wouldn't be surprised if they started selling Harry Potter underwear.

Harry has already carved a niche in the gaming world. Albeit he occupies a little annoying corner but a corner but a corner nonetheless.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (PS2):
The game was actually released after the Chamber of Secrets on the PS2, there already being a version on the PS. This fact alone points to the fact that the game came into being as an after thought. Shoddy graphics, which barely show any emotions on the cheesy characters, card-board like grounds make this game not very visually appealing. Thus the whole 'grandness' of the magical world is lost. The game play is has a very easy learning curve and the spell casting and running around isn't very complicated. The camera angles though don't stay in place. The storyline follows the book in general but leaves out the deatails. In the end, the games feels like playing fetch since you even have missions based on retrieving textbooks.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (PS2):
The first Potter on the PS2. This one is actually good, considering that the 'adventure' elements of the game actually come through every now and then. The storyline actually follows that of the movie and so you'll find yourself wondering about a lot of events that aren't there. The graphics are pretty good and pixel and frame hold together to give a cohesive feel. The music score and the sound effects though are annoying because the music again doesn't add to the whole atmosphere while the character voices sound unreal. The game play unfortunately sticks in a lot of places and the game itself has you doing a lot of things over and over. The camera angles could be better though and the menus more friendly. However the game has a way of keeping together that at least reassures the gamer.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (PS2):
This game more or less managed to keep me happy throughout. Unfortunately it also managed to piss me off too. The story once again follows the movie and at times you'll find yourself going 'whoah' just because the story manages to be quite independent from that of the book. The game play lets you play the game and is quite simple with an easy learning curve. The graphics are good but not great, especially the close ups. The sound work once again manages to alienate itself from the game and doesn't contribute much really. The missions though have improved and you don't find yourself getting bored within five seconds of starting one. This installment is more or less good and worth playing just the one time.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire:
Cross-over games from movies don't normally make you smile and jump for joy. This one was no different. The graphics were passable, you recognized characters without squinting and the environs aren't eyesores, unfortunately everything eventually gets repetitive. The game follows the book and the movie nicely, although the 'extras' that are used to lengthen the game can be annoying. The sound score thankfully more or less meshes in but the voice acting could have been more convincing. The game play is simple and easy and no quite boring. The multiplayer is worth fiddling around for awhile with your irritating kid brother but loses its charm over time. The game ends up as quite repetitive but with three mediocre sequels that is too be expected. If you expect the blasts and adrenaline rushes like the book, you delusional. You should know by now.

The Order of the Phoenix has just been released on the PS2, PSP and the PS3. The games are good at times and infuriating as well but the most chronic thing missing is that feeling of magic prevalent in the books and even the movies. The magic ends up more cartoonish and comic than being real.


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