Indraneil Sengupta, Raima Sen and Tilotama Shome’s war film has been facing a lot of criticism for showcasing the India-Bangladesh relationship in a bad way
Indian filmmaker Mrityunjay Devvrat’s Children of War: Nine Months to Freedom, a film on Bangladesh’s Liberation War, is luring audiences to the theatres despite many panning the film for not reflecting the real Bangladesh.
It is now being screened in 12 halls, eight in Dhaka and one each in Rajshahi, Sylhet, Joydebpur and Tangail, Bangladesh news agency bdnews24.com reported.
The Butcher of Bengal, Gen Tikka Khan’s, drive to ravage Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) and wipe out unarmed Bengalis rings across the film.
Local collaborators led by Jamaat-e-Islami duly figure in the narrative – those who believed in Pakistan and committed rape and murder on their people for the sake of an idea that had clearly lost out.
The film, in which rape forms an integral part, and the director believes even one such “gruesome” scene is enough to get the point across, was premiered at Dhaka’s Star Cineplex May 16.
Narayan Saha, a buying house employee, said he came to see the movie simply because it was about 1971. He says he didn’t bring his children because some scenes might be too brutal.
“It’s good, all these things did happen,” he said, with a lump in his throat.
Happy with the excellent feedback, Mejbauddin Ahmed from Star Cineplex said: “We had housefuls last weekend. The kind of people who come to watch our films are usually learned and sensible.”
“Sometimes people leave the hall when movies have brutal scenes but no one has walked out yet.”
Romin Rayhan, manager at Blockbuster Cinemas, said the turnout was better than expected and took pride in offering “something alternative” for viewers.
“I saw it too, Bangladeshi filmmakers should make movies like this,” he said.
Sudipto Das, a partner in Khan Brothers, the film’s distributor in Bangladesh, said the hype was great when the movie opened, but ticket sales slowed a bit since then.
The filmmaker deserves to be praised for his gut-wrenching portrayals of the lives, trapped in what is repeatedly termed by the captured women as Jahannam (hell), all for the cause of Pakistan.
More than 600,000 rapes took place in nine months during the 1971 Bangladesh genocide.
But questions are being raised about the quality of the Bangla dubbing, as experts feel it is nowhere near the way Bangladeshis actually speak.
“I found today that even though we use the same language in India and Bangladesh, the meaning and feeling could be very different,” says Tasmiah Afrin Mou, a young filmmaker after watching the movie.
She says captive Bithika, played by Tillotama Shome, might have been inspired by Kakon Bibi, a Birangana who was a spy for Mukti Bahini who stole ammunition from Pakistani camps and fought in many battles.
“I think I recognised her because I already knew about her. Others will have no idea. But the part where she steals ammunition is so amateur that you will almost think there were no soldiers guarding the weapons silo.
“The characters talk like the Bangals we see in West Bengal soap operas,” Mou wrote on Facebook.
Many more feel the dialect sounds artificial.
Advocate Nazmun Nahar Rony said the film’s title and reviews in the papers drew her to it.
Asked if it had touched her, she answered: “Not necessarily. But it did put me in stress, because every time I see these I get stressed and think why our problems aren’t resolved yet.”
Irtiza Miraj was equally critical, if not more.
He did not like the elated expression Rafik, a child freedom fighter, wore when he saw the Indian flag at Charhati, as he reached there with his sister Gaosor after surviving a terrifying trail of death.
“I’ll praise the movie for its style and technique. But it does not reflect real Bangladesh. I didn’t like the story. The movie Guerilla is much better. There is more to Liberation War than rapes,” said Miraj.
His wife Nazia Islam Jisha also was far from impressed with the movie for its geographical inaccuracies.
“It’s said the Pakistani camp in the movie is in Dhaka but there are high hills in the background,” she said.
However, Senjuti Shonima Nadi, who reviewed the film for bdnews24.com, said: “I’ll forgive all errors just for the song ‘Roktoito…’ It’s so powerful and the accompanying montage of the genocide’s historic photographs was recreated with such care it touched me very deeply.”