Shyam Benegal on recreating the persona of the founding father of Bangladesh for his newest, Mujib: The Making of a Nation


Filmmaker Shyam Benegal continues to be thorough and considerate about his work, however doesn’t thoughts a couple of crackling gaps over a phone name to debate it animatedly. Particularly when he talks about rediscovering and retelling historical past, rescuing forgotten heroes or unpeeling the unknown layers of these we all know all too effectively. He seeps into analysis, research and analyses so deeply that his reinterpretation turns into virtually instinctive. Just like the last-minute title change he did to his biopic on Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, an Indo-Bangladesh joint manufacturing on one of many icons of sub-continental historical past.

When the movie went on flooring in January 2021, the working title was Bongobandhu, The Making of a Nation. “However then I assumed altering Bongobondhu to Mujib wouldn’t solely be placing, but in addition have extra that means. The title Mujib means an individual with solutions. And this towering persona was a deliverer of his folks, who regarded as much as him. Not simply that, they believed in him,” Benegal notes.

The veteran filmmaker, who has seasoned himself with humanising the persona of our nationwide icons by way of The Making of the Mahatma and Bose: The Forgotten Hero, had his arms full, making an attempt to discover the complicated sides of Sheikh Rahman’s life. Ultimately, he selected to conceive him from a uniquely emotional perspective. Says Benegal, “Reconstructing his life was a troublesome ask. However what appealed to me was his emotional chord. His biggest quote, ‘My biggest power is the love for my folks, my biggest weak point is that I like them an excessive amount of,’ was very telling. So I began learning extra about his human qualities. That’s once I came upon that amongst all sub-continental figures in historical past, Rahman was a religious household man. He had a cheerful household life and for all his public persona, by no means minimize corners together with his household. He was as uncompromising about his political views and actions as he was about household values and time. That’s the lens from which my movie sees him. The narrator of the movie, subsequently, is his spouse, the closest particular person to know him. Not solely that, she grew up in Sheikh Rahman’s family and in the end bought married to him. So it was simpler to chart the character’s development from this prism. The familial man formed the social and political imaginative and prescient of the person.”

Shyam Benegal, mujib Making of a Nation A poster of Mujib: The Making of a Nation.

Maybe Sheikh Rahman’s interview to BBC’s David Frost in 1972 would shed some mild on why he selected to be the protector of his household. On the assaults by the Pakistan Military, he had mentioned, “They destroyed my village dwelling the place my previous mother and father have been residing. My father was 90, my mom was 80. They despatched the military, drove my father and mom from the home and burned the home in entrance of them. So that they had no shelter.” He had additionally recounted how troops had began machine-gunning his home when he had holed himself together with his spouse and youngsters of their bed room. He then got here out and braced for the worst until an officer thought it was higher to arrest him.

In fact, that’s the pivot. However Benegal has chosen important features of his life and featured a few of his well-known speeches, too, to weave a story that traverses the trail of a nation in making – as a part of undivided India, as a part of Pakistan and a free Bangladesh after seceding from Pakistan. “He was an icon of Bengali nationalism and the language of andolan was positively a galvaniser of his motion. However his nationalism was not parochial. It was about defending a singular however definitive tradition that was typical of the Bay of Bengal delta,” provides Benegal.

Shyam Benegal To make Bongobandhu extra sensible, Shyam Benegal insisted that the foremost solid and crew and the author must be from Bangladesh.

Clearly, the speak of Bengali nationalism attracts comparisons with Subhas Chandra Bose, contemplating that in 2003, creator David Ludden, too, described Sheikh Rahman as a “forgotten hero.” Did Benegal really feel the necessity for a comparative therapy? “By no means. Their historic contexts have been totally different. In fact, Sheikh Rahman noticed Bose as an inspirational determine however Bose was an anti-colonialist. Rahman’s nationalism was extra cultural, ethno-linguistic and about the precise of individuals to stay with their heritage inside a sure territorial span. No two historic figures can ever be the identical as a result of every is a product of his time and has his personal imaginative and prescient and singularity of objective,” says the filmmaker.

One would assume that understanding Sheikh Rahman would have been a formidable problem for Benegal, contemplating he isn’t too aware of Bengali. However he took it in his stride, significantly due to the help from the Bangladesh Movie Growth Company (BFDC). “I used to be grateful that the Nationwide Movie Growth Company (NFDC) selected me because the director. However I had an excellent help system of researchers, writers, translators and interpreters. So the script was taut all alongside. I met his daughter and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina a number of instances to know the nuances of Bongobondhu’s persona and she or he gave us many unknown details. The truth is, she wished me to make the movie both in English, Urdu or Hindustani. However the story of a Bengali nationalist, who fought Pakistan as a result of it was making an attempt to pressure Urdu because the nationwide language when the vast majority of folks in East Pakistan have been Bengali, deserved no different language. Not solely that, the Bengali used within the movie isn’t of the type we communicate in Kolkata and West Bengal. It has the feel and flavour of the Bengali spoken throughout the border,” says Benegal.

To make Bongobandhu extra sensible, Benegal insisted that the foremost solid and crew and the author must be from Bangladesh. And though he did many area journeys together with his crew, he was fairly shocked by the benefit with which the challenge took off. “That is the primary time that actors are from Bangladesh and the technical group is from India. However they have been excellent professionals, coming to the units on time and with their strains prepared. It was not only a artistic expertise, it was a cheerful expertise with superb human beings,” he says.

A few years in the past, Benegal had mentioned how a lot of our historical past may very well be recreated. He had then mentioned he wish to work on the landmarks of historical civilisation, the Mauryan Empire, the liberty battle or the nice Mughals. “Even the British Raj has such a dimension; our reformers like Raja Rammohan Roy developed from these instances,” he had mentioned again then. Sufficient to maintain the grasp storyteller busy.

Mujib: The Making of a Nation has simply launched its poster and is scheduled for an autumn launch.


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