Vol. 5 Num 631 Wed. March 08, 2006  

Celebrating International Women's Day
Nargis Akhter

Empathy with women

Nargis Akhter is known to be a demanding director. Her films deal with hard-hitting issues often shunned by others. More importantly, women have a special place in her movies, their emotions are portrayed with finesse and their issues are highlighted. She believes in ‘calling a spade a spade’. Nargis did her graduation from Dhaka University in the Social Welfare Department. Nargis' strength of conviction is very strong and it is reflected in her work. She is pursuing a career in a field that is still dominated by men. Very few women are involved in the technical aspects of filmmaking in our country.

Nargis directed her first film Meghla Akash (A Shabana Azmi starrer) in 2002, which was selected among the best of films (out of 600 entrees) at the International Women's Film Festival in Germany. Her second film titled Char Shotiner Ghar (A Home of Four Wives) also created quite a stir among the public. Nargis shares experiences of her first film, Meghla Akash. In her words, "I was always attracted by the equation of men and women. So when the producer approached me with the subject, my answer was positive. I don't understand why we are so uncomfortable speaking about HIV/ AIDS. I like to handle riveting and sensitive issues in my films. Meghla Akash was a great experience. The film received an overwhelming response from people at home and abroad. The highlight of the film are some bold dialogues where I have dealt with sensitive issues."

Talking about her upcoming venture, she says, "At present I am busy with my latest film -- Poush Masher Pirit, which revolves around rural women. I am also set to make my fourth film Megher Koley Roud, based on the story of a young girl who is HIV negative but her parents have been tested HIV positive. The character fights for her basic rights in a society that considers HIV positive people as social pariahs."

Talking about issues a female filmmaker faces in the mainstream genre, Nargis says "While Dhallywood actresses are emerging as popular stars, female directors are still confronted with several issues.

"In our country, few opportunities are available to female filmmakers. It is one of those inexplicable paradoxes of showbiz that a whole lot of female-centric films are being made by males."

Asked about her concept of media, she says, "I believe the media is a tool to bring about social changes, particularly in the lives of the underprivileged and oppressed. This has been made possible mainly due to the digital revolution in computer networks, compression technologies and proliferation of satellite broadcasting. Gender-based violence has been recognised as a major public health and human rights concern worldwide. A complicated web of social, cultural and economic factors trap women and girls in its meshes, rendering them vulnerable to various forms of violence. I intend to explore the social processes that perpetuate early marriage, gender-based discrimination and violence through media."

Talking about her dreams and aspirations, Nargis states, "Creative satisfaction is my priority. As important as box office success is, I don’t consider it to be the decisive factor. I just make the film I want to make. I don’t want to be confined to women-oriented films only. Certain issues are raised in my films which men would be able to identify with as well as women.