September 26, 2009
Whatever, the genre, whether documentary or full-length, the Liberation War is a recurrent theme of Tareque’s films. Interestingly, the run of the mill ‘war scenes’ are eschewed in favour of the struggle of the common people in 1971.
So far Tareque Masud, along with his wife Catherine Masud, has made three documentary films on our Liberation War– Muktir Gaan, Muktir Katha and Narir Katha.
In a departure from the norm, he does not present a single hero in his cinema, rather he presents the collective contribution of people during our liberation. What inspired Tareque to transform these people into characters? Tareque says, ‘A filmmaker can make his directorial plans in two ways from practical experience and from the intellectual contrived aspect. I prefer practical experience as my method of direction. My first documentary on the Liberation War– Muktir Gaan– focuses on the contribution and the struggle of the cultural activists who have made an immense contribution during the freedom fight. I empathise with these characters. I have seen their activities and sufferings during the war. That is why I have taken those characters in my frame.
‘I believe that only the contribution of frontline fighters was not enough to emerge victorious over the disciplined Pakistani Army and their collaborators. The cultural activists of the country have also played vital roles. In fact, it was our moral victory. As we fought for rights, we won the battle against evil. And in Muktir Gaan I have symbolically represented ‘Song’ as ‘Morality’. As the contribution of the cultural activists is not well presented in the stereotypical movies on 1971, I have brought in this element in the film,’ he adds.
On the genesis of Muktir Katha, another film on Independence, Tareque says, ‘When Muktir Gaan was screened in the remote areas of Bangladesh, it got enormous response from the common people. Seeing the documentary, the unrecognised freedom fighters, living miserable lives in those remote areas, expressed their desire to share their experience on Liberation War. Subsequently, I portrayed those historical characters as the artistes of my documentary film Muktir Katha. And I have presented those honorable but unrecognised people from a different angle. Their story of frustration after Liberation, is the backdrop for our freedom fight. Not only have the Bangali fighters been presented as characters in the documentary but also ethnic people like Garos who fought against the Pakistani regime. Moreover, through the chorus songs of those frustrated fighters, the film recounts the story of the few freedom fighters who used the post war condition for their own selfish ends.’
Could this latter segment of characters be the central theme of a future film? ‘I have a very good script on this issue’ says Tareque. But, I think the time is not yet ripe for an analysis of our freedom fight or the role of some freedom fighters who manipulated the post-war condition, as the anti-Liberation forces are still powerful in Bangladesh. If I make such a film, the anti-freedom force will manipulate the opportunity to fulfil their desire.’
About the few ‘war scenes’ in his films, Tareque says, ‘We lack the skills and technological support that are needed to picturise a credible war scene. That is why in most of the movies, ‘direct war scenes’ have been infrequent. As a result, the grandness of war has appeared as melodrama, because of the poor handling of those movies. Moreover, many outstanding war films have been made without presenting any war scene. That is why I like to present war by depicting the struggle of the people. Likewise, in my other documentary Narir Katha, I have presented the Liberation War.’
But why the emphasis on the rural life in his documentaries? ‘I lived in the village during our Liberation War. I have seen their struggle, sufferings, contribution and postwar frustration. And I like to portray all these things on the screen.’
‘Usually we oversimplify the facts of war, which should not be the ideal approach during making a film on war. Usually, the portrait of a Pakistani collaborator is presented as an extreme evil person having beard and tupi. And in most of the cases the characters of these films are either very good or very bad. But I believe that the real facts remain in between these two criteria, as duality remains in every person earth. Sometimes the situation and time force a person to take a position. To make a film, having aesthetic value these facts should be reflected. And these things have been reflected in my film Matir Moina, which has received many prestigious awards including the FIPRESCI International Critic’s Prize in Cannes Film Festival 2002 and Official Oscar Submission from Bangladesh, which is a milestone in the history of our film and has got nomination to compete in the Oscar.’
‘The story line of Matir Moina was set against the backdrop of the eventful days ’69-’71. And as the film ends, the freedom fight starts. In that sense it is not a film on freedom fight. But it presents the facts of the pre-war scdenario. And the ‘Kazi’ character in the film can present duality of those people who became Pakistani collaborators later on’, he continues, ‘If a film can present the duality, repentance, self-realisation of a person perfectly, it becomes a classic. My ‘Kazi’ character in the film Matir Moina has got that quality. And this is the only Bangladeshi film that has been screened in the mainstream theatre hall in the US’ he adds.
Tareque adds that more classical movies on Independence should be made and screened to grow patriotism amongst the citizen of Bangladesh. Moreover, he thinks a proper preservation system should be introduced in Bangladesh Film Archive, so that these films remain for the future generation.