Mujib: The Making Of A Nation, probably in the interest of staying non-controversial, is dry and boring, observes Deepa Gahlot.
In recent years, film-makers in search of patriotic content have made films and series about the 1971 War, which resulted in the separation of East Pakistan from West Pakistan and the formation of Bangladesh, with the support of India under Indira Gandhi’S reign (Sam Bahadur is coming up soon).
But there have been very few films showing the other side of the story, from the point of view of the Bangladeshis.
India had been partitioned on the basis of religion, Punjabi Pakistan was culturally, politically and economically far removed from Bengali Pakistan. There was bound to be discontent when an entire population felt ignored by its government and treated like second-class citizens.
A situation like this is ripe for a charismatic leader to step into the void and speak for the aspirations of his people, and for East Pakistan, that was Sheikh Mujibur Rehman.
It has taken a long time for his biopic, maybe because when a beloved leader is portrayed on film, there is invariably more indignation than admiration.
There was an animation film Mujib Bhai released earlier this year, but when the governments of the two countries collaborate and the task for bringing the story of Rahman and Bangladesh is taken up by Shyam Benegal, expectations are high.
The title Mujib: The Making Of A Nation, suggests more than just a biopic of Rahman.
1971 is not that far back in time for many viewers not to remember the suffering of the people of the country, the guerilla warfare of Mukti Bahini-facing Pakistani weapons and tanks, the influx of refugees across the border into India, for which Indians were taxed.
There is fire, brimstone, injustice, rage and tragedy in the story, and what the film turns out to be is a dispassionate look at the life of Mujib.
Maybe it was all too much to fit into a 178-minute film, and the viewer feels shortchanged.
The film is more like reading edited pages from a history book — Mujib’s (played by Arifin Shuvoo) life, his political apprenticeship under the charismatic Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy (Tauquir Ahmed), his happy marriage to Begum ‘Renu’ Fazilatunnesa (Nusrat Omrose Tisha), who is the narrator of the film, and the birth of his children (His daughter Sheikh Hasina is the prime minister of Bangladesh).
A young Mujib demanded the recognition of Bangla as the national language when Jinnah imposed Urdu, that led to prolonged periods of incarceration.
The oppression and economic hardship of the people is hardly conveyed.
Mujib’s popularity threatened the leaders of Pakistan, and even when his party swept the elections, he was told by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto that a Bengali would never be accepted as the prime minister of Pakistan.
It is much later in the film that Mujib puts forward his six-point agenda, which led to brutal and violent reprisals by the Pakistani army.
However, the impact of the Mukti Bahini, the involvement of India (Indira Gandhi is seen in a television interview) and the large scale displacement and the poor is not given due importance.
The other people around Mujib are not even properly introduced — all they seem to do is sit around having stilted discussions or making speeches.
The way Mujib and his family (barring Hasina and Rehana who were abroad) were massacred was a shocking tragedy but one did not expect a film-maker of Benegal’s stature to have the camera slowly pan over the his body and the blood-soaked bodies of his wife, children and grandchildren.
Arifin Shuvoo looks like Mujib, and dominates the rest of the cast, none of whom really stand out.
Mujib: The Making Of A Nation may be a source of information for a generation that is unaware of recent history but probably having to mind the many restrictions in the interest of staying non-controversial, has made the film dry and boring.
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