Mujib: The Making Of A Nation(Bengali with English Subtitles)
Starring Arifin Shuvoo, Nusrat Imrose Tisha
Directed by Shyam Benegal
Rating: ** ½
It is acutely heartbreaking to say this. But Shyam Bengal’s bio-pic on the architect of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, is just plain dull and stiff-necked. The galaxy of earnest actors look right for their parts, as they are mostly from Bangladesh, except Rajit Kapoor(an old Benegal favourite) who makes a frightening Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
The bio-pic’s most colossal failure is Arifin Shuvoo in the title role.A television actor with little experience, he turns Sheikh Mujibur Rehman into a character in a highschool drama in this hagiographic drama.
In the hands of the brilliant Benegal(who earlier made an equally dreary bio-pic on Subhas Chandra Bose many years ago) the story of Sheikh Mujibur’s fight for separatism never transcends the laudatory leaps that the screenplay(Atul Tiwari and the regular Benegal collaborator Shama Zaidi) takes to make the subject of the biography look squeaky-clean.
The characters, locations , setting and emotions are so sanitized , we can smell the disinfectant.
Even the interiors are designed rather than organically induced. There is this longish conversation between young Mujib and his mentor and party leader Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy(played by Tauquir Ahmed)who served as the Prime Minister of Pakistan and who vehemently opposed the two-nation formula. This is Mujib’s last conversation with his mentor in England. A log of wood burns in a strategic corner of the room creating a stylish reflection in Mujibur’s glasses.
A stagey mood courses through the veins of this well-meaning but vain and selfconscious bio-pic. Every frame is designed to reinforce the myth about the Sheikh Mujibur’s virtuous character. Which would have been just fine had there been any room for some fun and mischief in the character. The only moment of enjoyment that I recall after nearly three hours of glorification is when Mujibur Rehman is seen swaying to Hemant Kumar’s Na yeh chand hoga. That’s 6 seconds in three hours.
The rest all posturing with very little feeling. Even the scenes of Mujibur with his wife Renu (Nusrat Imrose Tisha) and the children look like cutouts from a family album. Authenticity ,yes. Real emotions? Sorry , none that we can take home and recall in repose.
No one can fault Shyam Benegal for his research work.This selfconscious academic halo that the film wears gives it a look of turgid scholarship, but little else. It is often said about the talented singer Suresh Wadkar that he is over-qualified to be a film singer. Mujib: The Making Of A Nation is the cinematic equivalent of Suresh Wadkar.What it needed was to loosen up and enjoy discovering the human side of the man who created Bangladesh.