Millennium Post

Bangladesh and Bollywood sneer

While that may only be true for selected movies of a handful of directors or actors, genuine refinement in a Bollywood mainstream movie is still a far cry. Instead, what has developed is the manifestation of raw Indian regional power and snobbery on the celluloid. Interestingly, this condensation isn’t naïve either, but very much informed by profit-making factors. The only things absent are propriety and principle.

Few years back, Bollywood actors lined up to take oath that they won’t utter anti-Pakistani dialogues in the movies. Initially, many were taken aback by such generous civility of these performers, given the India-Pakistan antagonism in regional political sphere, just to find out later on that Pakistan actually allows Bollywood movies to be run in their countries and also Pakistani expats form a huge section in the Bollywood movie watchers in UK, USA, Gulf etc.

Bangladesh, on the contrary, doesn’t allow Hindi movies to be commercially run in its theatres. That space is occupied by B Grade Bangladeshi Bangla movies with the exception of some theatres where often Bangladeshi parallel cinema of some quality is being shown. That explains why Bollywood doesn’t care about Bangladesh with which India has much lesser issues than say Pakistan, with which India has a host of volatile issues, yet the Bollywood film makers care about its sentiment.

It’s not that Bangladesh is hostile towards Indian movies. Until 1965 Indo-Pak war, Bangla movies made in Kolkata were shown in erstwhile East Pakistan and those were highly popular to the cinemagoers. The ensued ban that wasn’t lifted in independent Bangladesh had less to do with anti-India disposition and was more about the downward slide of Kolkata movies since mid-1970s. Again, in Bangladesh, there was never a popular demand of commercial running of Bollywood movies in the theatres; although a lot of Bangladeshi actually watches Bollywood movies in TV and CD/DVD. Somehow emotions related to Bangla language, culture and associated identity politics of the past have prevented the Bangladeshis to accept movies made in the (barring south) Indo-Pak lingua franca, i.e. Urdu-influenced Bollywood Hindi, in the national public square.

Whatever may be the case, should this absence of business interest in Bangladesh permit careless distortion of sensitive historical fact that millions of people of a neighbouring nation hold dear? It appears that the smug Bollywood protagonists, be it the relative newcomer like Ali Abbas Zafar, the writer-director of recently released Gunday, or seasoned ones, mostly don’t want to invest much of their brain or effort for historical exactitude sensitive to many people unrelated to their profiteering venture. This is more about a transgressed class attitude and also a casual show of class power. Therefore, whatever else they might be, with this primitive bania culture still in vogue, mainstream Bollywood has surely not yet reached the mark where words like ‘sophisticated’, ‘subtle’ or ‘sublime’ can be associated with it.


The author is an associate research fellow in Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies
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