Colombo, May 27: Tauquir Ahmed’s Bangladeshi film Halda virtually swept the awards given away at the Eighth SAARC Film Festival which concluded here on Sunday.
The film bagged not only the Best Feature Film Award, but also those for Best Original Score, Best Editor and Best Cinematographer.
At the last festival in 2017, Tauquir’s film Oggattonama had won the Best Screenplay award.
A beaming and confident Tauquir, an architect-turned-actor-turned director, said that by making Halda he had kept to his passion for making films on burning social and national issues.
While Oggattonama was about the pathetic situation of Bangladeshi migrant workers centered round the return of an unidentified body from a Middle Eastern country, Halda is about the woes of fishermen whose catch keeps dwindling as the river gets polluted by factories and other wastes from the land.
The Halda River is the one and the only natural carp breeding ground in Bangladesh from where fertilized carp fish’s eggs are collected by local fisherman and egg collectors during April to June almost every year from time immemorial.
Pollution of the river leads to poverty, and soon, into abject dependence on the rich to provide the fishermen some sustenance. Their women are forced into marriage with old rich men. But these women are treated as slaves rather than wives.
The struggle of the fishermen and their women is the theme of Halda. Tauquir’s script and direction had created a gripping movie which won a well-deserved applause at the end of the show.
Answering questions from the audience, Tauquir said that initially the film was to be only about fishes and fishermen but he soon realized that nobody would want to see a film only on fishes and fishermen and decided to weave the woes of fisherwomen into the story.
There was little scope for songs in the movie given the tear jerker of a theme, but eventually he included four or five songs so that the film was appealing to the masses.
“I didn’t want my producer to lose money. With the songs the film ran well and the producer did make money,” Tauquir said smiling.
Asked if his socially meaningful films have had an effect on government policy, Tauquir said that the government did take Halda seriously and schemes to rid the river of pollution were implemented.
“This year the breeding was good. Halda is back to normal,” he said.
The other award winners from the Halda team were: Cinematographer Enamul Sohel, Editor Amit Debnath, Music composers: Tauquir Ahmed, Pinto Ghosh, and Sanzida Mahmood Nandita.
Tauquir Ahmed collected the awards on his colleagues’ behalf.
Twenty six films were shown at the festival from May 22 to 26. There were no entries from Afghanistan and Nepal this year for want of English subtitles, a SAARC Cultural Center official said.
Entries from Bhutan and the Maldives took the audience by surprise as they were outstanding. While the Pakistani entries left much to be desired, the Indian and Sri Lankan entries were of high quality with some of them bagging prizes.