Live From Dhaka: A man’s journey through the bleak underbelly of Dhaka

As a young adult who’s been born and brought up in Dhaka, much of our generation view the city in rose-tinted glasses online or in media. In the age of social media, you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who isn’t familiar with aesthetic photos of Dhaka from numerous Instagram posts or through popular song lyrics. #JadhurShohor. But the stark reality is that living in this city is much grimmer than it might seem. The dog eat dog nature of Dhaka has been beautifully portrayed in the recently released film “Live from Dhaka.

Nothing but the truth

Written and Directed by Abdullah Mohammad Saad, “Live from Dhaka”, chronicles the days of Sazzad, the protagonist played by Mostafa Monwar, and his miserable state of life in the city of Dhaka. Sazzad being unemployed and partially handicapped is seen as a guy down on his luck after losing most of his money when the Dhaka Stock Exchange crashes.  In addition to his own physical and economic woes, he is being hounded by loan sharks and has to deal with his younger brother who’s plagued by addiction. Although receiving some support and solace within his girlfriend Rehana, played by Tasnova Tamanna, Sazzad decides to cut all his losses and permanently move to Russia.

A grim depiction of Dhaka

But as events transpire, it becomes increasingly difficult for him to escape the gritty reality of Dhaka. The harsh bleakness of his situations was beautifully portrayed in black and white throughout the movie before some very beautiful backdrops of Dhaka.

The film also didn’t shy away from showing the darker underbelly of Dhaka.

By the end of the film, you really start feeling for the protagonist but also reminded of how he is isn’t that different from everyone else.

The verdict

The acclaimed independent film has been gaining much hype among Bangladeshi film enthusiast back since 2016. It had premiered in a number of International Film festivals around the world and winning Best Actor and Best Director awards at the Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) in 2016. The Film was finally released in Dhaka, Bangladesh in Bashundhara City Star Cineplex, on March 29. With stunning visuals, gripping story and comfortable runtime of 1hr and 31mins, you should definitely catch this tale about our beloved Dhaka.

Get your tickets from here

Komola rocket: the floating montage of misery, lust and greed

Komola Rocket, the Bangladeshi drama film entirely shot in a vintage steamer, has landed on Netflix earlier this year. As a ferry vessel enthusiast, the film was a long overdue one for me. Here’s my two cents about this 112 minute feature film that have made its way to international film festivals and earned accolades as well.

The brilliant minds behind

Based on short stories (‘Moulik’ and ‘Cyprus’) by esteemed writer Shahaduzzaman, Komola Rocket is the debut directorial venture of Noor Imran Mithu. Mithu previously worked with Mostofa Sarwar Farooki as an assistant director and was the lead actor in ‘Pipra Bidya’. Mithun merged two stories of his favourite writer and turned it into a script for Komola rocket. As interesting as it may sound, the film was shot in a century-old steamer and locations range from Sadarghat to the river beds of Khulna.

The plot

(SPOILERS AHEAD)

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Rocket, a very old steamer where queen Elizabeth once onboarded (not kidding), starts its journey from Sadarghat towards Khulna. With a crazy mix of passengers, rocket moves toward Meghna river. We see a packed vessel where every passenger has a story worth listening.

From circus freaks to corrupt business magnate, the stark contrast in social class is the heart of Komola rocket.

Atik, an idiosyncratic man is going to Khulna on a hideout to spare himself from an arson conspiracy. He meets a dysfunctional family he would rather not involve with. The family consists a couple with a child and a young woman. Atik, ever so edgy, also stumbles upon a weirdo called Mofizul. Camouflaging as a poet and kabiraj, Mofizul runs a prostitution ring in the steamer. Atik is bewildered when Mofizul mistakes him for a client, but he gets used to his fawning.

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We see a narcissist young girl who secretly mates with her boyfriend, not knowing Atik is right beside her room. Atik seems uninterested. His only concern is to withdraw insurance money for fire attack at his factory. It is clearly implied that Atik is the mastermind behind this sabotage. Fatefully enough, a distraught man named Monsur also onboarded rocket with a corpse. His wife was burnt alive at a factory fire tragedy and he’s going to bury her at their native village. Monsur meets Atik, not knowing he’s the owner of the very factory where his wife died.

The subtle messages

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There are other supporting characters who appear once in a while, aptly reflecting our social conscience.

Unemployment, cheating husband, rotting dead bodies- Komola rocket explores it all.

In the final act of the film, the steamer gets stuck in a ridge and it stands still in the middle of the river. Food supplies in the rocket shrinks soon. people from VIP cabin to freeloaders- all stand in line with a hungry stomach to eat overpriced dinner. The movie ends on a depressing note. We don’t see where the characters end up; we only see their misery, lust and greed.

What works and what doesn’t

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Komola rocket sees Tauqir Ahmed and Mosharraf Karim sharing the silver screen for the second time. Atik and Mofizul are played by Tauqir and Mosharraf respectively. Samia Syed, a Lux-Channel I superstar contestant appears as the narcissistic girl. Other acting credits include Joyraaj, Sheoti, Dominic Gomez etc. One thing I have to highlight about this film is the pristine cinematography. There are several drone shots of the rocket which I significantly liked. Noor Imran Mithu gets a pass for his first direction. If I have to nitpick anything about Komola rocket, then it should be the dialogue. I think the dialogues could have been a bit relevant and matured with the context. Overall, Komola rocket should be on your watchlist as one of the few decent Bengali language movies out there.

Check out other Bangladeshi films streaming on Netflix. ‘Television’ and ‘Pipra bidya’ are some of the popular titles you will currently find on this website.

Alita: Battle Angel is exemplary, not revolutionary

Days up to Alita’s release has been surprisingly underhyped considering that it’s an adaptation from a manga classic. Mangas such as Death Note and Ghost in the Shell, that has previously received live-action adaptations were huge disappointments. So, when media moguls James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez announced that they’re going to be giving it a book to film adaptation, maybe not everyone was budged. However, Alita did not really disappoint and watching it on the big screen at Star Cineplex was a worthwhile experience.

Staying true to the source content

Most commonly the complaint from loyal fanbases after a book to film (or manga to film) adaptations starts from the story not being true to the real canon. In this case, the film’s producer and co-writer James Cameron is actually and fan of the original manga created by Yukito Kishiro. Cameron has planned to create an adaptation of Alita for over a decade so it only makes sense that he stayed true to the original content.

Outstanding visuals

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Since the protagonist of this film is a female cyborg, it called for extremely polished and high-tech CGI. This meant that they had to spend a staggering 200 million dollars just to make the movie. This did not leave much to spend behind actually promoting it. The visual representation of the character Alita is extremely realistic, sans her eyes. Those were left exceptionally large to stay true to the manga.

The manga actually provides an explanation for why her eyes are so huge in proportion to the rest of her face but since the movie takes on so much story and condenses it into a two-hour show, it is understandable that it didn’t explore much of her origins.

The action

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The action sequences of sci-fi films can be turned legendary if put in the right hands. James Cameron has explored such aspects in his previous works such as The Terminator. Much of the action in Alita: Battle Angel is surrounding a sport they play called Motorball. It’s kind of an amalgam of roller derby and rugby that is mainly played by the cyborg inhabitants of their fictional world.

The fluid action sequences and incredible motion capture could’ve only been possible with a significant budget.

Alita moves through the air with ease, and many of the cyborgs fell organic to the proceedings.

Motorball becomes one of the more thrilling elements of the film. Among many action-packed scenes, the one in which Alita encounters Nyssiana stands out.

Nyssiana is a cyborg assassin who ruthlessly pursues Alita in the film. She is a film-original character and resembles a minor antagonist who appeared in the first volume of the manga.

The Plot

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The whole movie is essentially a buildup to a much bigger battle of sorts. The movie begins with cybernetics physician Dyson Ido(Christoph Waltz) finding the remnants of a cyborg under a fabled floating city called Zalem. Ido rebuilds the cyborg and gives her the name Alita. Alita is amnesiac at first but like all movies that feature characters with memory loss, certain situations trigger flashbacks.

Since, Alita: Battle Angel movie is only based on the first four volumes of the manga, so several plot lines and characters were not adapted for the film. Dr. Ido’s story differs a bit in the movie because he is not the main character in every arc of the manga. The name of his manga counterpart is Daisuke Ido. Rosa Salazar characterizes Alita as someone who is just discovering a magical world, but who also has a lot of command over her life. She’s innocent but not afraid. And when the time comes to protect those that she loves, she is ready. The only element in the plot that didn’t play out that well, was the romantic element. Character dialogues and moments of climax had scopes of improvement too.

Complexity in character building

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Once Alita begins to unlock her potential as a Battle Angel, the movie has an awful lot to juggle. Not only the origin of her advance-tech heart (so powerful it could power the whole city for a year!) but the people who seek to steal it for nefarious purposes, including Ido’s ex-wife Chiren (Jennifer Connelly), another cybernetics doctor who works with Vector (Mahershala Ali) to create superpowered cyberathletes to compete in Motorball.

Alita and her romantic counterpart Hugo have an instant connection with one another and that plays a vital role in the story up to the very end. The revelation of Desty Nova in Alita: Battle Angel was one of the biggest surprises in the film. Desty Nova is a mysterious figure who is central to the final arc of the Alita: Battle Angel film. He possesses several bodies during the film and appears to Alita in flashbacks.  Nova is also a major figure in the manga, and he becomes the main antagonist of the story.

The verdict

Alita: Battle Angel is exemplary, not revolutionary

Whether you think the storyline of Alita: Battle Angel is special or not, the movie in its entirety keeps you on the edge of your seat.

Despite its long duration of run time, It doesn’t drag and leaves you wanting more.

Since the movie ends on kind of a cliffhanger, we can only hope that the directors and producers will come up with a sequel. In the meantime, you should watch this one while it’s still running in the theatres because it’s a sensational experience whether you love futuristic sci-fi or not. Get your tickets from here.

“Fagun Haway” explores 1952 in a new light with brilliant storytelling

“রাষ্ট্রভাষা বাংলা চাই, বাংলা চাই, বাংলা চাই!” – We sat there in the theatre with goosebumps, mesmerized how a scene with people shouting words could be so simple yet so powerful.

Fagun Haway is a movie about our Language Movement of 1952, inspired by Tito Rahman’s book “Bou Kotha Kou”. Directed by Tauquir Ahmed, the film features the extremely talented Nusrat Imrose Tisha and Siam Ahmed in the lead roles.

“Fagun Haway might seem like a quite serious film regarding ’52, but there is plenty of mainstream entertainment values embedded. It has romance, family drama and of course, humor”

The lead actor of the film Siam Ahmed added in an interview with Prothom Alo,

and indeed, we could not agree more.

The story

The movie starts by introducing the main characters- Dipti (Tisha), a medical college student, Nasir (Siam), a Dhaka university student and Pakistani police officer Jamshed Ali Khan (Yashpal Sharma) arriving in a ferryboat to the village of Chandranagar in East Pakistan.

Nasir and Dipti share beautiful moments on-screen- they become friends while working for a stage-play on Dinbandhu Mitra’s ‘Nil Darpan’ and soon fall in love. Meanwhile, the new officer at the police station, grumpy Jamshed Ali unfairly treats everyone. He not only forces people to speak Urdu, but also shows grave hatred towards anything related to Bangla language- from signboards written in Bangla to our people to even a mere bird humming the tune of “Bou Kotha Kou” simply because it’s Bangla.

Overall, the movie makes you go through a mixture of emotions. You laugh helplessly at the funny dialogues or hilarious expressions of Faruk Ahmed as a moulavi, you get angry and curse the Pakistanis for their cruelty towards East Pakistani people, you smile ear to ear as you see the two lovers unite, you sympathize with the Bangali police officers and the people for the torture they face, you sigh, seeing the irrational demands of Jamshed Ali Khan and most importantly, you feel the pride as the young rebels march on the streets of Chandranagar. Fagun Haway truly is a cinematic masterpiece that makes you feel as if you are a part of the journey itself!

The cinematography and acting

"Fagun Haway" shows an unexplored side of 1952 with brilliant storytelling

In addition to the story and concept of the movie, the cinematography and attention to details definitely won my heart! The recreation of Bangladesh from the 1950s was phenomenal. Starting from how Dipti(Tisha) wore sarees with a shorter aanchol similar to women in those days to how Tauquir Ahmed bought the Volkswagen 1954 model simply because the owner wouldn’t let him use it otherwise- every little detail was admirable. The costumes, the rural houses, tea-stalls and setups, the cinematic filters and color grading were aesthetically pleasing and take you back to the 1950s. Moreover, the rural Bangladeshi scenes shot with drones was stunning!

Tisha and Siam portrayed their characters beautifully in the film. Yashpal Sharma also fit his character perfectly and his acting as the evil police officer was spot-on. Saju Khadem, Faruk Ahmed, Abul Hayat and Fazlur Rahman Babu also blended in their characters beautifully.

The verdict

"Fagun Haway" shows an unexplored side of 1952 with brilliant storytelling

Fagun Haway was quite different from the conventional movies of today.

It was a beautiful watch, with various elements blended together that worked perfectly!

More movies on such historic events of our country should be made to infuse nationalism and patriotism into the mindsets of the new generation.

Fagun Haway is playing on Star Cineplex now; book your tickets and do not miss the opportunity to experience the glimpse of our struggle for our mother tongue (and a wonderful cinematic experience)!