After suffering the wrath of the ongoing global pandemic of COVID-19 for the majority of the past two years, the film industry in Bangladesh finally made its long-awaited glorious comeback this year with a handful of quality films and queues for tickets outside the cinema halls.
The "almost dying industry," according to many tired and retired moviegoers and industry-experts, observed the return of the cinephiles at the multiplexes and cinema halls across the country, celebrating a few major releases - which set the year on a restarting mode, seeking an even better future.
According to the data collected from the producers, distributors and cinema hall authorities across the country, there are less than 60 active cinema halls currently showcasing films in Bangladesh. The number is astonishingly poor, considering the fact that Bangladesh had approximately 250 active cinema halls before the pandemic, and more than a thousand running halls back in the 90's.
It is an undeniable fact that the cinema industry around the world suffered the havoc of the pandemic; however, the situation in Bangladesh had been worsening for such a long time even before the pandemic. The industry drastically drowned during the pandemic lockdown without the presence of in-house audiences, the bloodstream in the vessels of the entertainment industry through the cinema halls.
That being said, there was a lack of quality content over the years which did not thrive the moviegoers to the theatres, and thankfully that situation got slightly improved this year with the arrival of a good number of quality movies.
Undoubtedly, the trailblazing film for this year has been the much talked about and several accolades conquering film 'Rehana Maryam Noor'. The second directorial venture of talented filmmaker Abdullah Mohammad Saad earned the glory of becoming the first Bangladeshi film showcased in the prestigious Un Certain Regard category at the 74th Cannes International Film Festival this year.
After being screened at the Sal Dubusi Theater in the Cane Pale Do Festival building on July 7, the film finally hit the silver screens across the country on November 12, and till now the Azmeri Haque Badhon starrer film is enthralling the local and international cinephiles and bagging awards all over the world, namely the "Best Actress" award for Badhon at the 14th Asia Pacific Screen Awards (APSA) for her stellar performance, while director Saad received the "Jury Grand Prize". The film has also bagged the "New Talent Award" at the HongKong Asian Film Festival 2021, "Best Actress" award for Badhon at the Mosaic International South Asian Film Festival 2021 and more, while also being nominated for the official nomination from Bangladesh for the Oscar 2022.
Another film which has similarly created the buzz around the world was young filmmaker Rezwan Shahriar Sumit's maiden film 'Nonajoler Kabbo' (The Salt in our Waters), released for the moviegoers in Bangladesh on November 26. Regarding the film's unique and heart-warming promotional activities, Sumit told UNB/DC: "We have successfully organised 3 screening sessions on November 23 and 24, as part of our coastal screening in Patuakhali, honouring the fact that the film is made on the life of our coastal fishing community - so they were the first ones to watch it in the country, as per my commitment to the community. The area which we used for the shooting, a remote fishing community in Patuakhali, has lost its existence due to river erosion. They were as emotional to see the land and story of their lives unfold on the silver screen, and it was emotional for me as well.
The film was showcased and highly acclaimed in the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP-26) on November 8, at the IMAX screening at the SEC Centre in Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom. It also won several national-international awards and grants, including the NETPAC Award (Best Asian Feature) at 26th Kolkata International Film Festival in 2021, TFL Audience Design Fund 2020, Bangladesh's National Film Grant in 2017, CNC Aide aux cinémas du monde 2018, and Spike Lee Writing Grant 2016, to name a few.
The year also observed the grand release of the much-anticipated, multi-starrer cop action thriller 'Mission Extreme' on December 3, and for the first time ever any Bangladeshi film was released across three continents (Europe, North America and Australia) at the same day of its local release. The film is a two film series Bangladeshi Police action thriller extravaganza, jointly directed by Faisal Ahmed and Sunny Sanwar, Superintendent of Police at Anti Terrorism Unit of Bangladesh Police, which was scheduled to release on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr in 2020, but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Arifin Shuvoo's rigorous body transformation for his character in this film and Miss World Bangladesh 2018 Jannatul Ferdous Oishee's debut as a Dhallywood actress, Taskeen Rahman's steller performance as the main antagonist and a powerful ensemble cast including Misha Sawdagor, Iresh Zaker, Sadia Nabila, Sumit Sengupta, Raisul Islam Asad, Fazlur Rahman Babu, Syed Nazmus Sakib and others have enthralled the audiences.
Speaking of Dhallywood debutant Oishee, her other major film 'Raat Jaga Phool' is also scheduled to be released as the final Bangladeshi film of 2021. The film is made with a government grant and scheduled to be released on December 31, marking the silver screen directorial debut of actor Mir Sabbir.
The year has also observed some other major releases and a good number of those films are periodical, historical movies including 'Chandrabati Kotha,' 'Sphulingo,' 'Padmapuran,' 'Lal Moroger Jhuti' and more, while films representing other genres such as the recent release 'Mridha Bonam Mridha' starring Siam Ahmed and Tariq Anam Khan among others, catered the audiences who prefer to enjoy the family-relation based storytelling.
The year should also be marked as one of the most satisfying, engaging, busy and successful years for the OTT platforms and their contents, a significant part of which were some of the unique films. OTT platform Chorki emerged this year with a handful of its original films including Adnan Al Rajeev's dark-comedy 'YouTumor,' ' young filmmaker Abrar Athar's musical film 'Adhkhana Bhalo Chele Adha Mostaan' based on and featuring popular singer-music director Shayan Chowdhury Arnob, veteran director Amitabh Reza Chowdhury directed mystery drama film 'Munshigiri' starring Chanchal Chowdhury, acclaimed independent filmmaker Kamar Ahmed Simon's 'Neel Mukut' and more.
Although many do not consider the fast-growing OTT platforms as the best solution towards the ongoing crisis in the cinema industry, many filmmakers have chosen the platform as the last and arguably the best profitable alternative, following the footsteps of Bollywood and Hollywood. Audiences also seek the comfort and mobility when it comes to enjoy their desired films, which made the situation even more challenging for the surviving cinema halls and multiplexes in the country.
"We had a plan to launch more than hundred single screens inside our multiplexes, as part of our countrywide expansion masterplan. Due to the pandemic havoc, we had to compromise that plan, now having only 14 screens inside our four multiplexes (Bashundhara City in Panthapath, Shimanto Shambhar in Dhanmondi, Sony Square in Mirpur and SKS Tower, Mohakhali). We are surviving based on bank-loans, and although the recent releases including 'Rehana Maryam Noor,' 'Mission Extreme,' 'Nonajoler Kabbo' and some of the recent Hollywood blockbusters including the James Bond film 'No Time to Die' and the very recent 'Spider-Man: No Way Home' boosted our ticket sales, we need more quality contents from our local filmmakers as well as the permission from the government to screen Bollywood and foreign films simultaneously," Mahboob Rahman Ruhel, Chairman of STAR Cineplex, told UNB/DC.
With a good number of upcoming films namely 'Shaan,' 'Damal,' 'Golui,' 'Operation Sundarbans,' Ananta Jalil's 'Deen - the Day,' 'Noor,' 'Mission Extreme part two,' 'Dhaka 2040,' 'Beauty Circus' and a handful of other films including the highly anticipated biopic of the Father of the Nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman titled 'Bangabandhu' - the year 2022 has all the potentials to be the gamechanger for the cinema industry in Bangladesh.
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