Bangladeshi Film Industry: Fight for Survival

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MNA Editorial Desk: Film is not only a way of entertainment but also a great and very effective medium of education which many books cannot do. Our industry is stepping towards a dark phase and it will definitely fall into some deep crisis.

After the independence the decades of seventies and eighties witnessed the golden time of film industry. Currently, Bengali cinema is passing through a threatening and critical period. Cinema halls in the country have been reduced to half. Releasing new cinemas has also come down to half. After all the quality of films are not satisfactory to the audiences as well.

The lack of patronization of government, non-government, influence of sky culture, unhealthy and dilapidated condition of cinema halls, not producing quality films, financial constraints, lack of modern technology, lack of filming education and training can be identified as the prime causes for miserable days of this industry.

During the 2000s, Bangladeshi films began doing poor business and initially, the numbers of films decreased. The term ‘Bangla Cinema’ became a matter of joke among the people. Though there always have been some independent film makers who attempt to make movies in a good manner, their work attract only a few audience. Viewership of Bangladeshi films has dropped, and the industry has been criticized for producing low-quality films whose only appeal is that of cheap melodrama.

Golden Years of Bangladeshi Films

filmThe cinema of Bangladesh is the Bengali language film industry based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The industry often has been a significant film industry since the early 1970s. It is often referred to as “Dhallywood”, which is a portmanteau of the words Dhaka and Hollywood. The dominant style of Bangladeshi cinema is melodramatic cinema, which developed from 1947 to 1990 and characterizes most films to this day.

The 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and the first half of the 1990s were the golden years for Bangladeshi films as the industry produced many successful films. The Face and the Mask, the first Bengali language Bangladeshi full-length feature film was produced in 1956.

Directors such as Fateh Lohani, Zahir Raihan, Alamgir Kabir, Khan Ataur Rahman, Subhash Dutta, Ritwik Ghatak, Ehtesham, Chashi Nazrul Islam, Abdullah al Mamun, Sheikh Niamat Ali, Gazi Mazharul Anwar, Tanvir Mokammel, Tareque Masud, Morshedul Islam, Humayun Ahmed, Mostofa Sarwar Farooki, Zahidur Rahman Anjan, Kamar Ahmed Saimon, Bijon Imtiaz, Amitabh Reza Chowdhury, Fakhrul Arefeen Khan and others have made significant contributions to Bangladeshi mainstream cinema, parallel cinema, art films and won global acclaim.

Cinema Halls on Threats

There were about 1,200 cinema halls in the country and only in Dhaka city there were 44 cinema halls.  Since 2001 this number started to reduce and at present there are 500 cinema halls and out of them 100 halls are seasonal which remain closed almost all the year round.

In Dhaka city there are only 33 cinema halls now and in Chittagong only three cinema halls are in operation. People started to forget going to cinema halls to watch movies as the number of movie-goers was decreasing slowly after the death of Salman Shah. The cinema halls were shut down one after another.

Importation of Foreign Movies

filmThe Bangladeshi film industry has faced increased competition from foreign films, satellite TV, home video, and other sources. In 2014 India’s Reliance Entertainment Limited had expressed their interest in producing Bangladeshi films. However, the Bangladesh Film Corporation didn’t respond due to the ban on Indian films in Bangladesh.

Ever since its independence from Pakistan in 1971, local cinema halls have been banned from showing Indian films. It was an attempt to protect the local film-making industry which is worth $20m (£12.9m).

Despite the strong protest from directors-producers-actors, Bangladesh Cinema Hall Owners Association imported Indian Bangla movies to exhibit those in their halls. Cinema halls here will show three Indian Bengali movies and nine more Hindi movies from Bollywood will be screened later.

Even though the move is not permanent, it has angered film-makers, producers and actors and has caused a fight between them and the theatre owners. Film industry leaders also warn that more than 100,000 people are dependent on the industry and their jobs could be in danger.

Besides, pirated DVDs of these films are freely available across the country with Bollywood stars are more popular than local actors. In the age of satellite channels, internet and cell phones, the demand for good and well-made movies is increasing. So it seems Bangladeshi films cannot avoid competition for very much longer.

Bright Sides of Hope

filmHowever, the arrival of some brilliant young directors especially Mostofa Sarwar Farooki, M A Jalil Ananta  who is both a producer and actor, Giasuddin Selim and others has shown us hope of lights and saved the film industry from its destruction.

Bangla movie experiences some benchmarks with completely different, wonderful stories, unprecedented cinematography and the phenomenal improvement in every technical side of movie making.

Developing a film institute is a crying need of this industry. The institute will produce talented directors, producers, actors and actresses. Sound, culture friendly, timely films can be produced which will exhibit relevant issues discussed at the present time.

Since 2012, Bangladesh has developed several big production and distribution companies, such as Monsoon Films, Jaaz Multimedia and Tiger Media Limited and the films produced by them have been doing better business than others for their large budget and glamorous appearance.

The year 2014 has been the most profitable year in the last ten years, while the previous record was expected to be surpassed in 2015, but 2015 is one of the worst time for Bangladeshi cinema.