Bangla Director Dedicates New Film to 1971 War Martyrs

Pallab Bhattacharya/New Delhi
Bangla Director Dedicates New Film to 1971 War Martyrs
Bangladeshi director Tanivr Mokammel has dedicated his new film Rabeya (The Sister) to martyrs of the 1971 Liberation War who were denied a proper burial.

Scenes from the war seems to have left an indelible mark on a then 16-year-old Mokammel, who says he was horrified by the insensitivity of occupying Pakistani troops who let bodies of Bangladeshi fighters rot in fields, rivers and ponds without being allowed a proper burial.

Rabeya, a de-construction of Greek philosopher Sophocles' play Antigone is set for its debut in international festival circuit next month in Singapore.

"I had read Antigone when I was a student (of English literature) and was moved by the courage of a sister who, against all institutional forces, was determined to bury her dead brother," Mokammel told PTI.

"Indeed, to honour the dead is a sacred custom, which is followed by all. But in 1971, the Pakistani military and their Bengali collaborators denied this right to many; corpses were left in the open during the war in a devastated country. My film is dedicated to the memory of the martyrs who didn't even get buried properly," the director said at the movie's premiere last year.

Having made acclaimed films like Chitra Nadir Parey (1998), Lalshalu (2001) and Lalon (2004), Mokammel opens Rabeya with a shot showing some local allies of Pakistani army declaring that anyone trying to bury the corpse of an "Indian agent" and "terrorist" killed by the "patriotic" Pakistani army would be shot dead.

However, a young woman defies the diktat and comes out at night and tries to cover the dead with a shroud, lights incense sticks, places flowers and desperately tries to dig a grave. The woman is Rabeya, and the corpse is of her brother Khaled - a member of the guerrilla group fighting the Pakistani army.

Scared of Rabeya's uncle and village chairman Emdad Kazi, who supports the Pakistani army, villagers keep mum against injustice to Rabeya untill she is shot dead. This sparks the villagers' sleeping conscience and the Bengali freedom fighters win the final battle and declare her a martyr.

The film, shot extensively on the bank of Rupsha river, features some of artistes from Bangladesh television and parallel cinema including Bannya Mirza (as Rabeya), Aly Zaker (as Emdad Kazi), Tauquir Ahmed (the intellectually challenged son of Emdad Kazi,) Arman Parvez Murad (Tarikul, Rabeya's fiancee) and Jyotika Jyoti (Rabeya's sister Rokeya). Abul Hayat, Chitralekha Guha, Uttam Guha, Bhaswar Bandopadhyay play brief but important roles.

Rabeya, funded by the Bangladesh government, is scheduled to be shown at Copenhagen this May at an event organized by Bangladesh-Danish Friendship Association.

Meanwhile, continuing his love for Liberation War-based stories, Mokammel is now busy editing the rushes of a forthcoming documentary "1971," his second since making his debut with Smriti Ekattor in 1991.

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