Renowned Bangladeshi War Films which shaped the current generation

By Dilshad Hossain Dodul

The teenager who was out on the street of Rangpur and the college-goers of Dhaka who chanted slogans against the regime of a coalition government of BNP-Jammat Islami in 2001 had one thing in common. They were youths who had watched ‘Ora Egaro (11) Jon’, a 1972 Bengali movie based on the Liberation War of Bangladesh. This moving film not only portrayed the dedication of our freedom fighters to liberate our nation, but it also revealed local collaborators of the Pakistan Army.

For those of us in their thirties, we have grown up experiencing political shifts within the country – be it military-based governance or a move to establishing a more democratic government. it wasn’t just a volley of political shifts and movements, this generation has also been at the frontlines of massive socio-cultural changes stemming from the 90s. This is perhaps the reason behind the political consciousness of the generation, and the enduring affinity to uphold the basic ideology of the independence war. This is also the reason which endears movies on our independence among the 90s kids.

To depict the liberation war of Bangladesh in a more realistic way, Chashi Nazrul Islam, director of ‘Ora 11 Jon’(1972), had cast 11 freedom fighters as the main characters of this movie and used original footages of ‘just finished’ war. This is among the very few films which have shown women as freedom fighters. The movie portrays two female characters – ‘Keya’, a trained freedom fighter who unflinchingly killed her father for being an agent for the Pakistan Army. Secondly, we have Mita, the brave, resilient nurse who displays stunning strength of character; who even after being sexually violated by the Pakistan Army, does not falter in her duties as a nurse to the freedom fighters.

Women are seen to play very strong characters in movies which are based on liberation war by director Chashi Nazrul Islam. Buri. the main character of his another film named Hangor Nodi Grenade, made in 1997 and based on another example of sacrifice by a woman to have an independent country. To save the life of two freedom fighters from the Pakistan Army, Buri sacrificed her only son in the movie. Chashi Nazrul Islam’s films have hugely inspired the female youth of Bangladesh to contribute directly to every social and political movement of the country.

Films by notable and powerful writer/director Humayun Ahmed played a significant role in shaping the political consciousness of 90s kids. Aguner Poroshmoni, a 1994 film based on the novel of the director himself, won National Film Award in eight categories including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Plot. The plot of this movie was Guerrilla operation by a young guerrilla force inside Dhaka in the middle of the year 1971. Badiul Alam, one of the main character of this film is a young, educated man who plans to start guerrilla operation in the capital, and hides in Mr. Matin’s house who lives in Dhaka with his wife Surma and two daughters Ratri and Opala. After a few successful guerrilla attacks against the Pakistani military, some of the freedom-fighters of Badiul Alam’s guerrilla force were caught, tortured and murdered by the Pakistani Military. Alam was shot and injured and because of the curfew, was unable to be taken to the hospital. He was waiting for dawn to show him a free country in the last few moments of his life.

Director Humayun, without showing much about direct warfare, had told a very powerful story which includes a middle-class family and few educated youths of the capital who are parallelly fighting to free their motherland from West Pakistan. In his another film, the eponymous novel of Shyamol Chhaya, which was released on 16 December 2005.

Humayun Ahmed portrayed the existence of secularism among mass people in 1971. In that film, the audience sees a character of a Moulvi (Islamic academic) saving a Hindu woman from a Razakar (Bangladeshi agent of Pakistan Army). They both were in a boat with few other helpless people headed for the liberated zone. However, during their journey, they met a group of freedom fighters and helped them to drown a big ship which was bearing assistance for the Pakistan army.

Humayun Ahmed, being a Dhaka University student during 1971, experienced how university students devoted themselves in the liberation war and thus created the magnificent character of Badiul Alam in Aguner Parashmoni which created an everlasting influence on the youth of Bangladesh. Being a son of a martyr police officer who has given his life in the name of Bangladesh, Humayun closely experienced the helplessness of mass people during the war and through Shyamol Chaya, he tried to shift that feeling of helplessness of being detained inside someone’s own country to the youth of the new century and it will not be an overstatement if we say that he succeeded in doing so.

Tanvir Mokammel, director of another important liberation war-related Bengali movie, had also depicted the story of a remote Bangladeshi village of 1971 through his film, Nodir Naam Modhumoti(The River Named Modhumoti), which was released in 1996. One of the important characters’ in the film was Motaleb Mollah, a local Muslim leader and a collaborator of Pakistan army who had killed an idealist Brahmin teacher, Amulya Chakrabarty and forcefully married his widow daughter Shanti. Motaleb’s son Bacchu, on the other hand, was a guerrilla freedom fighter and according to the code of the guerrillas, the penalty of a collaborator was a death sentence. One evening, Bachchu crossed the river Modhumoti with a rifle and with a determined sense of mission.

Like Humayun Ahmed, Tanvir Mokammel was also very sound in developing the character of collaborators of the Pakistan army and to design the story where youth have the power to decide the collaborators’ fate.

The movies mentioned throughout the article inspired a generation of youth who are aware of our independence struggle and capable of upholding its values. They (movies) have shaped our youth to be bold enough to speak up when the dark forces of 1971 try to crawl out and demean the values we hold dear. It gave rise to the “Shahbag Protests” which ensured the fair trial of the war criminals leading to their capital punishment. The movies are already shaping the avenues of our future by teaching our youth the value of fairness, equality and justice.

* Dilshad Hossain Dodul is an Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Journalism and Media Studies at Stamford University Bangladesh.