History of Bangla Film from 1896-2000
The people of Bhola saw the bioscope also in April of 1898. Hira Lal Sen’s Royal Bioscope Company arranged the shows in the bungalow of the Sub-Divisional Officer of Bhola. Hira Lal Sen also arranged bioscope shows at his native village Bagjuri, Manikganj at the same time. The Royal Bioscope Company also exhibited shows at the Joydevpur palace of Bhaw
al Raj Rajendra Narayan Chowdhury on 15th April, 1900.
The cinema came to this subcontinent back in 19th century. The first bioscope show was held at Watson Hotel in Bombayon 7th July, 1896. A little later the bioscope arrived in Calcutta, the capital city of undivided Bengal. John Stevens, Hudson and Father Laffaun of Saint Xavier’s College were the pioneers of bioscope shows in Calcutta.
Stevens also exhibited bioscope shows in Dhaka during the year of 1896-97 with a touring Theatre company though the documentary evidence of Stevens’ shows are not available. According to Bengali weekly Dhaka Prokash, the Dhakaities had their first views of bioscope in 1898 at The Crown Theatre which was located at Patuatuli near Sadarghat in Dhaka city. The exhibition was arranged by a Calcutta-based company named Bredford Bioscope Company.
The Royal Bioscope Company was the first exhibition-production organization of the Bengalees established in 1898 by Hira Lal Sen (1866-1917) of Bagjuri village of Manikganj, near Dhaka. Hira Lal Sen was the son of a landlord.
When the first bioscope arrived in Calcutta in 1896, Hira Lal Sen was attracted to it and contacted exhibitor Stevens and Father Laffaun. He procured necessary equipments and started doing bioscope shows. He exhibited shows at the Minerva Theatre , Star Theatre, Classic Theatre. On 4th April, 1898, he established ‘The Royal Bioscope Company’ in Calcutta along with his brother Matilal Sen, Deboki Lai Sen and nephew Bholanath Gupta.
Lal Sen was also the first film director producer of undivided Bengal. Between 1900-1901, he took shots of various scenes in Calcutta and Manikgani and with the help of Amarendra Nath Dutta, Hira Lai also took shots of ongoing scenes of drama at the Classic Theatre, Calcutta. The Architect of First Bengali Feature Film Chandra Kumar Ganguly was the Manager of Dhaka Nawab Estate. This Company controlled the exhibition and distribution circle of bioscope in India, Burma and Srilanka till 1916. The Madan Theatres ventured to produce Bengali cinema. The main architect of the project was Priyonath Ganguly. Under his able guidance, Joytish Benerjee made ‘Bilwa Mangal’, the First silent Bengali feature film in 1919 under the banner of Madan Teatres. Dhirendra Nath Ganguly (better knownas as D.G) of Barislal and a close relative of poet Rabindranath, established the first Bengalee ownership film producing company named ‘Indo British Film Co’ in 1918. His first production ‘Bilat Ferat’ (The England Returned) released in 1921. He came to Dhaka to sell shares for his Company. In 1923, Naresh Mitra of Jessore took the leadership of making the first story of Rabindra Nath Thakur into screen. The film was ‘Maan Bhanjan’ Many film production and studios flourished in Calcutta, Dhaka remained with exhibition only. The regular film shows got started in Dhaka during the first World War in Armanitola. A regular cinema house named ‘picture house’ began showing shows there in 1913-14. Later this house renamed as ‘New Picture House’ and ‘Shabistan’, This was the first cinema hall of East Bengal (Later Bangladesh). About 80 cinema halls were established by 1947.
There was no film industry until 1957 in this region. The East Bengal Provincial Govt. of newly created state of Pakistan took initiative to start s film division in 1953-54 and for that purpose a studio and laboratory went in to operation in 1955 in Tejgaon, Dhaka. The Film Development Corporation (F.D.C.) was established by the legislation of East Bengal Provincial Assembly in 1958. It opened a new vistas for the film industry of Bangladesh. In the meantime, there were several attempts to produce films in Dhaka between 1931 to 1956. The results were The Last Kiss (1931), Salaam (1954) and Mukh-O-Mukhus (1956) which is said to be the first feature film.
At that time Calcutta was the bastion of film producion with full facilities of artists, technicians and studios. Dhaka was devoid of all these facilities. The young group of Napa fan-duly at the Dhaka University at first initiated to produce short film ‘Sukumari’ (The good girl) as a test case, Khawja Azad, a graduate from Aligarh University and for camera Khawja Aimal. Nawabzada Nasrullah played the role of hero and Syed Abbus Sobhan, a youngman was chosen to play the role of heroine. For the female part, the male Sobhan was made into ‘she’, The shooting was done in Dilkusha Garden. Their first venture silent ‘Sukumari’ was completed by 1928-29. The adventure was successful. The film was screened privately. Later, the print of ‘Sukumari’ lost for ever. Only one still photo (with hero Khawja Nasrullah and heroine Syed Abdus Sobhan) has been retrieved to Bangladesh Film Archive in 1979.
The first venture ‘Sukumari’ was successful, so the group went for a bigger ventuer. The Last Kiss, a feature film of Bangladesh. The film was directed by Ambju Gupta under the production of Dhaka East Bengal Cinernatograph Society. Other cast and crews were Nawabzada Khawja Nasrullah, Khawja Adil, Khawja Akmal, Khawja Zahir. The Last Kiss’ was released at the end of 1931 at the Mukul Hall (now Azad) of Dhaka.
In the year of 1931, the famous rebel poet Kazi Nazrul Islam joined in the Madan Theaters Ltd. of Calcutta as a music trainer for brushing up the voices of artistes for sound pictures. Later, Nazrul came out in the filmdorn as director-music and organizer, He jointly directed the film ‘Dhruba’. He jointly directed the film ‘Dhruba’ (1934.) He also acted and composed the music and lyric for that film.
In 1947 a new state was born and Dhaka became the capital of new province of East Bengal (East Pakistan). With that, new hopes brought new blood in cultural activities. Many enterprising people floated new production distribution companies. Nazir Ahmed, a radio broadcaster with some film background was as-signed by Pakistan Central Govt. to make a newsreel on the visit of Mohammad Ali Jinnah in East Bengal in March 1948. Nazir Ahmed produced a newsreel on 10 days visit of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the first Governor General of Pakistan. He took all technical helps from Calcutta. This was the first film of newly created of East Pakistan. In 1954, a film unit was started under the Public Relations Division of East Bengal Government headed by Nazir Ahmed. He made a documentary named ‘Salamat from that Unit Salamats story centered on the life of a construction worker, who saw the changes of new capital city of Dhaka. Its music was scored by Abdul Ahad. At that time, Dr. Abdus Sadeq, Director of Bureau of Statistics of East Bengal also took initiative to produce films and formed’East Bengal Film Co-operative Ltd. They started a documentary named ‘Appayon’. In the meatime, Abdul Jabbar Khan ventured a full length film Mukh-O~Mukhus’ (The face and the mask) in 1954 and also porduced a documentary on food.
A film studio and laboratory was established in Tejgaon. Dhaka by the Provincial Govt. which started operation in 1955. Several documentaries and publicity films were produced and processed from that studio : Fateh Lohani-directed few of the producilons such as’Salya Kaft Bobo IQ (an advt film on mustard oil), The Wheel, The gate way to East Pdkislan etc. While no studio laboratory, no experienced artists or technicians and no government help was available, Abdul Jabbar Khan an engineer by profession, a dramatist by instinct took the challenge to make a film under the banner of lqbal Films Ltd. His venture was full of obstruction. But he was successful and came out victorious with the first full length sound feature film of Pakistan. ‘Mukh-O-Mukhush’ (The Face and the Mask),which was released on 3rd August, 1956. This film was the result of the Bengali language movement of 1952 which took martyrdom of several lives. The story of ‘Mukh-O-Mukhus’was as usual family drama, evil versus good.The presentation style was theatrical. The film is remembrered for its historical importance. Inam Ahmed, Purnima Sen, Nazma (Peary), Zaharat Ara, Ali Mansur, Fafiq, Narul Anarn Khan, Saifuddin, Bilkis Bad & others were amongst the cast. 0. M. Zaman served the camera while Samar Das did the musc score.
In 1957 the East Pakistan Film Development Corporation (EPFDC) was established by the elected Provincial Govt under the initiative of Labour, Trade and Industry Minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. With the establishment of the Film Development Corporation, the motion picture industry got its footings with facilities of shooting, dubbing, recording, printing and processing. Nuir Ahmed was assinged by the Govt. to take the anchorship of this organizations as an Executive Director. The newly created FDC allowed few selected directors with backgrounds of education and culture.
The first film, Asiya (The life of a village girl) was born from the womb of FDC under the directorship of Fateh Lohani. The master planner of Asiya was Nazir Ahmed. The film centered around rural life and received high acclamation. The cast included Sumita, Kazi Khaloque,Shahid, Ranen Kushad, Sona Mia. The music of the film was scored by noted singer Abbasuddin Ahmed. The Asiya got the President Award of Pakistan as the best Bengali picture in 1961. Jago Hua Savera (The day shall dawn), the second film produced at FDC in 1959 which got international appreciation from London, New York, and bagged an award from Moscow Film Festival, The story of the film was taken from popular novel of Manik Bandopadhaya, scripted by poet Fayez Ahmed Fayez, Director A. J. Karder, a UK Pakistan citizen came to Dhaka with cameraman Walter Lassaly (Germany), recordist Jhon Fleteher (Uk), Editor Ms Binvovet (UK), music composer Timir Baran (India), Assistant Shantikumar Charthedee (India). The cast included Anis (Khan Ata), Tripti Mitra, Zuraine, Roxy, Redwan, Kazi Khaleque, Nasima, Moyna, Latif.
The sixties were dominated by general themes like style, presentation, subject, business, artistic inquest, urdu language, folklore, history. Ehtesham’s Rajdhanir Buke (In the heart of capital city) was the hit film of 1960 with new pairs Rahman-Chitra, Subbash-Nargis.Salahuddin’s Je Nadi Maru Pathe (That river goes to sand way) Mustafiz’s Harano Din (The Lost days), Mahiuddin’s ‘Tornar Amar (Thine & Mine), Zahir Raihan’s Kakhono Aseni (Never came) were released in 1961. Of them, Kakhono Aseni (Never came) was an inquest of artistic merit. In 1962 Salahuddin’s Surjasnan (The sunbath), Ehatesham’s Chanda marked two different aspects. Surjasnan was an off beat film with social conscience, while Chanda was an Urdu Language movie which hit the commercial circuit of whole Pakistan. This film paved the way for making more Urdu films.
Zahir Raihan’s Kancher Deyal (The Glass wall) and Salahuddin’s Dharapat (The Numbers) were produced in 1963.Kancher Deyal got 11 awards for artistic merit. Mustafiz’s Talash (in search) was a commercial success of the year. In all 5 films were released in ft year 1963. Among the 16 feature films of 1964, Zahir Raihan’s Sangam (The union) was the first color picture of Pakistan. While Subbash Dutta struck the international scene with Shootrang (Hence) in the Asian Film Festival of Frankfurt, Baby Islam’s Tanha (The orphan) was another remarkable movie of the year. Rahman’s Milan (The union) was a commercial hit film.
Sadeq Khan, the actor-producer-political activitist made Nadi-O-Nadi (The river and the woman) from a novel with artistic expression embracing rural life of Bengal in 1965. Two commercial films based on folklore were released in the same year. One was Salahuddin’s Roopban, a famous folk story which hit the box office, Later this inspired the makers to produce more and more folk films. Another was Mustafiz’s Mala centred on the lives of snake- charmer In all 11 feature film were released in 1965. Urdu and folk films dominated the year of 1966. Out of 26 productions mentionable films were Subhas Dutta’s Kagozer Nouka (The Paper boat), Fazlul Haque’s Son of Pakistan. Zahir Raihan’s Behula, Kazi Zahir’s Bhaiya (Brother). Khan Ataur Rahman an actor-director-composer-singer came with historical venture Nowab Sirajuddoula in 1967. Other important movies were Ehtesham’s Chokori, Subhas Dutta’s Ania-0-Abshistha (The Glass & the residue). Zahir Raihan’s Anowara, Rahman’s Darshna (meeting), Kazi Zahir’s Nayan Tara (The Stay of eye). In all, 23 films were released in 1967. The year of 1968 (34 films) and 1969 (33 films) featured With Urdu and folk, Of them, Khan Ata!s Soye Nadia Jage Pani (The river flow) 1968, Joar Bhata (The flow & recession) (1969), Subhash Dutta’s Abhirbav (The apperance) (1968), Mita’s Ato Tuku Asha (So little hope), Ibne Mizan’s Shahid Titumir, (11968), Kazi Zahir’s Moina Moti (1968), Nurul Haq Bachu’s Beder Meya (The daughter of snake charmer) 1969, Kamal Ahmed’s Abanchito (Undesirable- 1969) were mentionable, Subhas Dutta’s Abhirbav got special award from the Queen of Cambodia.
Liberation is the ultimate goal of a nation. The Bangalees (later Bangladeshi) proved this in 1971. In 1969-70, popular mass movement rose to the highest peak, against the autocratic rule of President Ayub of Pakistan. In 1970, Zahir Raihan the veteran director took this theme on the screen in Jiban Theke Neya (From the glimpse of life). For the first time camera was cranked on the political subject along with love romance and family drama. Zahir Raihan predicted the liberation o Bangladesh in this film. 41 feature film were released in 1970. Other mentionable films were Karigor’s ‘Misar Kumari ‘(The Queen of Egypt), Rafiqul Bad Chowdhury’s ‘Tansen’, Rebeka’s Bindn Theke Britta’ (Circle from dot), Subhash Duttwas’Binimoy (The exchange), Nizamul Huq’s Kothay Jeno Dekhechi (Seen some where).
1971 was the year of Bangladesh liberation war. A number of director artist-technicians took part in this war. Of them Zahir Raihan -made a documentary Stop Genocide depicting the oppression, of Pakistani Military, plight of the refugees and heroic struggle of freedom fighters. The exile Bangladesh government formed a film unit under the headship of Abdul Jabbar Khan. Several documentary films were produced from the unit on liberation war. On the other hand five feature films were released In Pakistan military occupied territory of East Pakistan (Bangladesh).
On 16th December, 1971 Bangladsih was freed from Pakistan and in the following year film activities took new turn. 29 feature films were released during this year. Chasi Nazrul Islam made Ora Egarojan (Those 11 freedom fighters), Subash Dutta made Arunodoyer Agnishakhi, (Witness to sunrising), and Momtaz Ali made’Raktakta Bangla’ (Bengal in bloodshed) on liberation war. Others also announced or started works on liberation war. Kazi Zahir made the super hit Abuj Mon’ (Tender Mind), Hasan Imam brought Lalon Fakir into screen on the life of great mystic poet philosopher Lalon. Out of 30 films released in 1973, Zahirul Huq’s’Rangbaz ‘(The Romeo) a social action movie hit the box office. Three films based on Bangladsh liberaion war were also released during the year. The films were Dhire Bohe Meghna (Quiet flows the river Meghna), Alamgir Kurnkum’s Amar Janmobhumi (My birth land), and Khan Ataur Rahman’s ‘Abar Tora Manush Ho’ (Be Humane again), Rwittik Ghatak, the noted Bengali Indian director made ‘Titas Ekti Nadir Nam’ (Titas is the name of a river) based on a famous novel, was a landmark of the year. Kabir Anowar’s maiden venture, ‘Slogan’ (Chanting), was another film which may be mentionable. Severe flood and famine of 1974 engulfed the country and people. Thirty full length feature films were released during the year. Amongst these, Chashi Nazrul Islam’s ‘Sangram’ (The fight), Mita’s ‘Alor Michil’ (Procession of light), F. A. films unit’s ‘Shanibarer Chiti (Saturday’s letter), Mohiuddin’s ‘Essa Khan’, F. Fabir Chowdhury’s ‘Anek Din Agey ‘(Many days ago) got international appreciation.
In 1975, film got governmental attention, which included introduction of National Award Film Grant Fund. recognition of film as an industry, exemption of taxes on children and educational films. The noted cameraman -director Baby Islam’s Charitrahin’ (Characterless), Sound recordist, Director Mohsin’s ‘Badi Thekey Begum (Queen from maid servant) and Mita’s ‘Lathial’ (The striker) were the best movies of the year of 1975. ‘Lathial’ got first National Award as the best film, while Zahir Raihan’s’Stop Genocide’ got SIDLOC Award in Delhi Film estival. In 1976, 46 films were released. Of them, Alamgir Kabir’s ‘Surja Kanya’ (Daughter of the Sun) was a combination of fantasy and realism with modern presention. kabir Anowar’s ‘Shupravat’ (Good morning), Amjad Hossain’s’Nayan Moni'(Love of eye), Rajen Tarafdar’s ‘Palanka,’depicted the feudal and village life, Harunar Rashid’s Megher Anek Rang’ (The aftermath cloud) was brilliant presentation of war and human angle. The film bagged National Award. In 1977.Alamgir Kabir’s ‘Shimanapariye’ (Acrose the fringe), Subhas dutta’s ‘Basundhara’ (The mother earth) and Abdul Latif Bachchu’s ‘Zadur Banshi’ (The Magic lute) got appreciaiton from the audience.
In the year of 1978 four films were made based on literature. Those films were Abdullah Al Mamun’s Saren Bau (The wife of ship driver) from a popular novel written by Shahidullah Kaiser, Amjad Hussain’s Golapi Ekhon Traine’ (The endless trail) from his own novel, Subhas Dutta’s Dhumurer Phool (The unseen flower) from a short storyof Ashraf Siddiqui. These films got national and international award. Golapi and Dhmurer phool exhibited at the Moscow Film Festival. Actor-director Darashika made a historical film named ‘Fakir Majnu Shah’ who fought Against the British and landlord during the late 18th century. Shibli Sadique made Nolok (The rose ring) based on superstition of rural life. In all, 38 films were released in 1978. In the year of 1979. 51 films were released, But the qualitty were poor in number. Mashiuddin Shaker and Shaik Niamat Ali, two film society movement activitists struck the international arena with their maiden venture Surja Dighal Bari (The ominous house) from a popular novel written by Abu Ishaq based on hunger, war and partition of pre-independence of 1947.’Surja Dighal Badi’ bagged five international awards including Mennheim Film Festival, Portugal Film Society etc. The other remarkable movies of 1979 were Abdus Samad’s Suria Sangram (The Sun fight), Alamgir Kabir’s Rupali Soikete (The loner), Kazi Hayat’s The Father, ‘ Amjad Hossain’s Sundari (And she was beaufiful) and Belal Ahmacrs Nagardola.
Fantasy and action dominated the decade of eighties in Bangladesh film scene. Syed Salahuddin Zaki and Badal Rahman, trained from Pune FTV Institute (India) turned director in 1980. Zaki’s Ghuddi (The kite) with Subarna-Asad-Tareq from TV and stage was an off beat movie. Badal’s Emiler Goenda Bahini (Emil and his team) was a colorful Children venture. Besides these, Abdullah Al Mamun’s Sakhi Tumi Kar (Darling to whom you belong) and Amjad Hussain’s Koshai (The butcher) were relief in the action and fantasy loaded filmdom of 1980. The film scene of 1981 was almost barren from the creative point of view, Shahidul Huq Khan’s Kalmilata, Amjad Hossain’s Janmo Theke Jalchi (pains since birth) and Syed Hasan lmam’s Lal Sabujer Pala (The Saga of colors) were exception to this. The critic journalist-director Alamgir Kabir came up with his new venture Mohana (The river mouth) in 1982. Chasi Nazrul Islam pasteurized Popular novel Devdas written by Sarat Chandra, Amiad Hossain’s ‘Dui poishar Aalta’ was another good movie of the year.
in the following years between 1983-1989 action and fantasy were the chief commercial elements with a few exceptions. A new generation Murshedul Islam, Tarik Masud, Tanvir Mukammel, Enayet Karim Babul, Mustafa Kamal, Ismail Hussain, Habibur Rahman Habib, Dilder Hussain appeared on the cinematic frontier with new visions under the leadership of director teacher Alamgir Kabir. They started the short film movement. In 1984, Akhtaruzzaman made Princess Tina Khan based on the life of an opera girl, Rafiqul Bari made Pension and Amjad Hussain made Bhat Dey (Hungry). In the year of 1985, two films, one full length Dahan (Affliction) by Shaikh Niamat got awarded at the Kadovyvary International Film Festival and another short film Agami (Future) based on Bangladesh liberation war made by newcomer Murshedul Islam judged as the best movie at the Indian International Film Festival. Ramer Sumati (The kindness of Ram) based in Sharat Chandrs’s novel directed by Shahidul Amin was another social movie of the year. Another important film was Chashi Nazruls Shuvada (good girl) in 1986 based on Sharat Chandra’s novel.
In the nineties new faces, love romance-song drama dominated the Bangladesh screen. Ehte sham’s Chandni (The moon ray) hit the box office with a new pair Nayeem-Shabnaz in 1991. Shohnur Rahman Sohan’s Keyamat Theke Keymat (From doomsday to doomsday), a copyright film of Bombay created Record in the Box of Ice in 1993. In the same year, Padma Nadir Majhee (The boatman of the Padma river) directed by Gautarn Ghosh drew attention of the educated audience. At the end of the 1993. the elected Govt announced the re-introduction of Film Grant Fund. This was a positive step on the way of better cinema of Bangladesh.