The gaping hole left by
It was 2009 when we lost Nowajesh Ahmed, a renowned scientist and photographer of Bangladesh, and it was a huge blow to the Celebrating Life family to have lost a member such as him. After the incident Tareque Masud jokingly had said to me that he would like to remove his name from the film jury panel of the contest, “What if I am next in line to expire? I can't take the risk as 'Kagojer Phul' is not completed yet.” 'Kagojer Phul' was the latest project on the silver-screen that he had started about two years back. Tareque Masud and Catherine over the years had given up hope for a child. The greatest gift they could imagine, Nishad, filled the gap just last year. His unexpected arrival had rescheduled 'Kagojer Phul' and its production. Tareque bhai, after his return from America, invited me over to his place to introduce me to Nishad. His joy was insurmountable, yet even then, he was a bit perplexed and there was a shadow of doubt behind his eyes, “Rafi… I am now a father at a very old age. I can't help but wonder, how old will I turn out to be during the youth of my son? Will I even be around to see him grow up into a man? What will happen to him if it turns out that my time has come in the next few days?”
Just before The Celebrating Life Competition was starting off in its journey, I had approached quite a few people for support and advice on how to organize the project. Such one person very close to my heart was Tareque Masud. On approaching him he had praised my efforts and said it was a great initiative that The Daily Star in collaboration with The Standard Chartered Bank had taken up. He was even more supportive of it as I was behind the whole idea, and had given me assurance of being there for whatever support I needed of him. In the last four years, his involvement in the Celebrating Life project has proven how true he is to his word.
Tareque Masud, in his writings, reflected on his humble nature. His seniors used to refer to him and his peers as 'calves' when they had started off in the filmmaking industry. Even though the name they were called was offensive to many, he never paid any heed to what his seniors referred to him by. People, including the same seniors to have called him a 'calf' in the past, started to praise him and tease him by saying he 'sprouted horns' after achieving honors and much acclaim for his works. But Tareque Masud in total humbleness would always joke and say that he would rather break off his 'new grown horns' and remain a 'calf'. If his life and work are considered and pondered upon, he was in actuality not making a pun in any sense when he had wanted to rid himself of the 'horns'. Rather, it was his love for the art and its promotion in which way he had always wanted to work with the youth in the sector, and hence wanted to remain a 'calf' in that sense. It was his love and conviction to take and lead the upcoming youth in the sector that has seen many of them become successful under his guidance. I personally cannot think of another who can provide the same leadership to the 'calves' of this generation. Losing him has been devastating for all those who have always looked up at him, and to those who never had the opportunity to meet him. For it is rare even amongst the seniors to take up his spot to lead and guide the younger generation of upcoming film makers. His death has left a gaping hole in Bangladesh film industry - one that is in dire need of direction.
Tareque Masud was always about the work in the field. It did not matter to him if he had the resources to film a shot or not. Even if it was through the lens of a cell-phone, he would say that it was film worthy of screening if there was content worth portraying. Unlike many colleagues of his, who have never produced anything worth mentioning, he had always made positive criticism. His criticism would reflect positively on the criticized and not demean the person in any way, while being absolutely straightforward in pointing out the shortcomings in the person's work. He would never show biased attitude to people, and judged works depending on their content and quality only. And in doing so, he not only made his position clear, he also equipped the person being criticized to learn and deliver better.
Working still from the movie 'Runway'
There has been never an instance where he had given word and backed down from it. Even through his busy life and impossible schedule, he had never even for once rescheduled any of his appointments for The Celebrating Life Competition. He had always maintained time and punctuality in his work. It goes to show how dedicated he was from just the fact that he had agreed upon being one of the jury members on the film panel for this year's contest, as he had done in 2008, 2009 and 2010, even after his father passing away just a few days earlier. Even on the ill-fated day, 13 August 2011, as he was on his way back from shooting part of 'Kagojer Phul', the day his life was snatched away from all of us in the fatal road accident, he was supposed to come back to take care of many other scheduled tasks including the finalization of the results of the Celebrating Life 2011 Film Contest.
Tareque Masud in 2010
I have been approached by many and asked on numerous times as to why I did not write about this tragic loss earlier. Tareque Masud was like an elder brother to me, and I had not comprehended how big a loss it has been to lose him until I started writing about it today. I guess all my emotions have been burdened so heavily by this unexpected tragedy, that I cannot get this load off my chest that easily. It is hard to say how much he had meant to me, and even harder to decipher the loss that Catherine has to endure for the rest of her time. It is even harder to describe the emptiness that Nishad has to grow up with in the coming years. It is no less than an utter tragedy that all Nishad will know of his father's greatness will be from his works, and from the mouths of those that love him. To talk about the loss for the people affiliated with the silver screen: who will take up his spot? Who will be humble enough to break off their 'horns' of arrogance through achievement and return to being a calf to lead as a peer without the sense of overwhelming pride? Who will replace him? We need a Tareque Masud among us for our own good.
Thoughts on Filmmaking in Bangladesh
A sort of guideline for good film making will sort of naturally come out through a process of brainstorming. I think it can grow further through this process. When we say we want to make a film for Celebrating Life, what kind of film are we talking about? There needs to be some debate and some sharing regarding the kind of films we want to see made. A good film production not only requires the film itself to be good, but also the environment in which it is produced and conceptualized.
Tareque Masud speaking at the Roundtable "Films we want made" in 2008
A strong theory exists that a good film must be a reflection of society. It must represent and portray society, country, or life in reality. Another way to look at it is that a good film, just like any other art form, is a medium for free self expression. The inclusion of society in this regard is of secondary importance. In practice, all of these theories are true side by side; they are not mutually exclusive of each other and usually overlap. There also exists a third stream of thought, based on which the mainstream operates: Cinema is essentially to entertain people. But what should be noted here is that concept of entertainment can vary according to background, gender, age, level of education, social status, etc. Not all films need to be necessarily entertaining. Some film makers create films to create a “jerk” in society, usually portraying values of the middle class society, even if such film may give rise to discomfort.
There is a completely different form of good film making besides these. Films can also be based simply on dreams, which is another extreme belief. There is a good mass of audience who after a hard day's of work want to relax with a film that is based on wish fulfillment. This is created when a film maker imagines and fantasizes something incredible and bases the film on what he imagines. This is a completely separate form of art.
In light of technological innovation and the digital world we live in now, certain preexisting beliefs or typecasts need to removed from our minds. Whether a film is good or not does not depend on whether it has been shot using 35mm film or not. Whether a photograph is good or not does not depend on whether it is taken using a Manual SLR camera or a Digital Camera. Art has no definition. The media, tools or the format used do not dictate the quality of art. We need to broaden our horizon and instead of defining the tools, we should define a good film as one that is a work of art.
There is a need for joint ventures and artists collaborations on an international level which can enable the domestic Bangladesh film industry to reach out to the other countries' markets. Direct handouts from the government are not to be desired, rather, government assistance is required in the sense that government intervention should not become an obstacle for filmmakers. There is also a need for private entrepreneurship in the film industry of Bangladesh. Institutions like The Daily Star can create connections between people who can create good films and people who have the right business minds to make that film successful. The involvement of Standard Chartered Bank can have a significant impact. Also, there should be a national film policy for Bangladesh.
The column above is taken from Tareque Masud's speech at the Roundtable Discussion titled “Films We Want Made” organized by the Daily Star in 2008 marking the beginning of “Celebrating Life” Competitions. Although the thought above were expressed three years ago, they are as pertinent today as they were then. Tareque Masud, an award winning independent film maker, moderated the roundtable discussion. He passed away recently in a tragic road accident on 13 August 2011.
(R) thedailystar.net 2011