From Insight Desk
The cover story of this issue is of a unique nature.
It is about a film that presents a delicate issue through a simple story.
An issue that runs through Bangladesh as a whole and a story that
brings together motivations for in-migration of village
folk and their ultimate tragedies...
DAY in and day out, I have been faced with a few common questions. Am I becoming religious? Or, have I sworn my allegiance to an extremist group? When I grew a beard and kept my hair long to match with it, I had not fully understood how it would change how the society would view me. Given the might of Facebook where both my current and past photographs exist, thousands of online friends (ninety percent of whom I have never met) ask me very similar questions. And all these people who do not know me comment on my photographs as if they knew me all my life. They say, “You look weird. Please cut your beard and then you will look normal.” Most of the times, we find it very easy to remain at ease believing only what we think and say is right. This leads us to being disrespectful of others' views and we are unable to respect differences in opinion.
Our society is quite different from what it used to be, it is a lot more techno-oriented now. Unfortunately, with time, we are becoming more technologically advanced and our lives are becoming faster, but for some reason, we are losing our ranges of tolerance in society, making it more and more difficulty for people to not conform to the averages and live differently. I used to be irritated by these questions in the beginning, but after years of facing the same questions, I no longer feel the bite and simply state that this is the way I want to look; that this look suits my lifestyle and me and I'm quite comfortable with it. I am happy the way I am.
Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of being part of a special screening event of “Runway”, and new feature film by Tareque and Catherine Masud. The movie presented a very simple story, which deals with quite a sensitive issue. In the movie, Ruhul lives with his family in a small hut next to the runway of the international airport. His mother Rahima struggles to support the family by selling milk from a cow bought with a micro credit loan. His sister Fatima works long hours in a garments factory. There's been no word from their father for over a month, since he left for a job in the Middle East. The family learns that people who went to the Middle East from Bangladesh are not doing that well. They are not finding work and some are even returning to Bangladesh. Those who are still living there are maintaining a minimum standard of life. The grandfather of the family is an unbelievably optimistic man who is ever hopeful. He says that their life will return to normal and they will be solvent again. Unemployed Ruhul spends his days wandering under the shadow of the planes, aimless and frustrated in his futile efforts to find work. One day at a cyber café he meets Arif, a computer savvy young man who exudes confidence and a sense of purpose. The world Arif introduces him to seems inspiring and new, but eventually Ruhul's life spirals into a nefarious netherworld of intolerance, violence and ultimately, death.
Ruhul find the means to an end in Arif. Arif leads Ruhul to a group of people with extremists who take matters into their own hands and coerce people into doing what they believe is right. Ruhul, as a part of the group, start to question himself. He questions their methods and their ideologies. Although he actively participates in their missions, he cannot accept the fact they are doing so much harm to achieve good. Ultimately, he realizes that their methods are inhumane and he turns his back on them. This is a story about humanity. This is a story where a boy realizes that life, by itself, it beautiful. Ruhul realized that life is better without being a part of this group and the light of freedom he was looking for does not lie with them.
The beauty of the film lies in the director's ability to present such a sensitive issue through such a simple story. This quality is in which the director's craftsmanship belongs. We cannot deny the presence of these people in society. Most of the characters have been portrayed by new actors, but there work has been commendable. The director needs to be applauded here as well, since it was his direction that chiseled these new actors into their respective characters.
Tareque and Catherine's “Runway” has been filmed for the first time by the enforced hind-sight, that had conned one of the corners of the nation's youth and is still conning it. Many have freed themselves from this path, because of unfaltering will-power such as Ruhul's, but many more could not be brought back. Many of the youth, well trained in Guerilla ways, are straying away. They are in dire need of education, jobs, and livelihoods. The people of Bangladesh are a religion fearing people; slogan of an anti-religious rebellion is futile. Yet, the whole society needs to be aware of those who in the name of religion try to coerce sense of religious disputes and Jihaad onto the masses. There is no profit for us from the import of 'Jihaad' from Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Middle East. I believe that caution will be strengthened from drawing examples from the desolate Afghanistan or Pakistan's periodic perils.
There is no doubt that the theme that built this courageous film is being criticized and discussed profusely. But, the qualified able creator of the film had stepped ahead keeping this in mind. I believe on release, not only will this film grab the attention of the general masses, but will also grasp the attention of the culturally enlightened as well. Praise is definitely due to the film's maker on account of the theme's direction and the courage and determination shown through the craftsmanship. Even though the film surrounds a particular time frame, it remains as a reflection of today's Bangladesh.
The formation of such extremist groups is a result of an injustice-stricken society. This movie is wise in this ideal as well, because it does not point fingers and say who is bad and who is good. It simply presents the reality of the current society and tries to trace the underlying socio-economic factors that cause people to choose such extreme measures. More importantly than fighting the extremists, should we not counter these socio-economic factors? Should we not rid the youth of Bangladesh of their frustrations that eventually force them into paths they really would not have chosen otherwise? I believe only then can we live in a society where people are tolerated for the ideals they believe in and only then will the different ones not lash out at everyone else.
Cinema used to be our part of life. Families used to visit the cinema together on the weekends. Unfortunately, over time, social segregation has separated us from the cinema halls. And people would rather buy DVDs and watch it at home rather than go to a cinema hall; after all, which cinema hall is playing what they want to see? As a result, cinemas are losing their ability to impact the elite and the affluent of society. Cinema halls have not been differentiated in terms of content, but they are losing market as well. Other and more commercially viable prospects are forcing them to close and they are being replaced by shopping malls. The power of the cinema is fully understood in front of the large screen. And whether the culture of going to cinemas will ever be revived, I don't know, but I do know that we can start going to the cinema halls again for this movie. My request is for you to not form an opinion about Runway based on my article. My request is for you to go a cinema hall near you and see the movie yourself.
(R) thedailystar.net 2009