'Meghmallar': TIFF Review
First-time writer-director Zahidur Rahim Anjan's drama focuses on rural teacher on the eve of the 1971 war that ended with the birth of Bangladesh from the former East Pakistan.
A rare Bangladeshi feature to reach Western shores, Meghmallar is a dramatically and technically amateurish melodrama set on the eve of the 1971 war that ended with the birth of Bangladesh from the former East Pakistan. Terrible dubbing in place of live sound along with acting that would be ripe for Mystery Science Theater 3000 ribbing sink any prospects for serious exposure in the West.
Played out during a relentless downpour, first-time writer-director Zahidur Rahim Anjan’s adaptation of a short story by eminent local novelist Akhteruzzaman Elias focuses on rural teacher Nurul (the histrionic, seriously telegraphing Shahiduzzaman Selmin) who just wants to keep his head down and stay out of trouble amidst the growing insurgency that’s threatening the authoritarian Pakistani regime.
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Potential danger is posed by Mintu (Joyonto Chattopaddhay), the dashing, bearded insurgent brother of Nurul’s grim wife (the couple has a virtual zombie of a daughter). When Mintu zips out on a mission, he leaves his raincoat behind and when Nurul absently puts it on when called to a meeting at school, you know it’s the beginning of the end for him.
Selmin so overplays his looking-over-his-shoulder anxiety and fear that he would instantly provoke anyone’s suspicion that he’s guilty of something, and his interrogation scenes with a horribly dubbed officer are ludicrous in their linguistic ineptitude and, frankly, the lack of any torture worthy of the name. The frequently misspelled and awkwardly translated subtitles don’t help either.
There are some nicely framed pictorial exteriors, but the interiors possess the evenly lit visual flatness of traditional daytime television. Sound work possesses a similar lack of realistic layering.
Venue: Toronto Film Festival (Discovery)
Production: Work of Hands, Bengal Entertainment Ltd.
Cast: Shahiduzzaman Selim, Aparna Jara, Joyonto Chattopaddhay, Aminur Rahman Mukul, Aditi Karim, Mosharaf Karim
Director: Zahidur Rahim Anjan
Screenwriter: Zahifur Rahim Anjan, based on a short story by Akhteruzzaman Elias
Producer: Abul Khair
Executive producer: N. Rashed Chowdhury
Director of photography: Sudheer Palsane
Production designer: Towfiqur Rahman
Editor: Sameer Ahmed
Music: Abhijit Bose