When Syed Salahuddin Zaki had his directorial debut with Ghuddi in 1980, only a few came to see the movie in the cinemas and it was declared commercially unsuccessful.
The director himself did not have a script ready even on the first day of the film's shoot.
But as history has it, there are several movies that are miles ahead of its time. Ghuddi is one such movie.
Even after four long decades, Ghuddi is one of the most talked about Bangla classics. This black and white movie can be dubbed as the forerunner of Bangla cinema.
In a recent tell-all interview, The Business Standard spoke with director Syed Salahuddin Zaki, veteran actors Raisul Islam Asad and Subarna Mustafa about the unforgettable journey of Ghuddi and how this movie is still relevant.
Most of Ghuddi's crew members, including Asad and Subarna, were working in Dhaka Theatre. Director Zaki had just come back to Bangladesh from Pune Film School and proposed to make a cinema.
"If Zaki bhai directs a film, we will act in it," Subarna Mustafa recalled saying.
So they began the shooting for Ghuddi amid the peak of uncertainties - no script, no initial set and not even a pre-cast main lead.
However, the savior in disguise was Raisul Islam Asad, who was an assistant director of the film till the last moment.
"Ghuddi wasn't a planned movie. A day before the shooting began, we got to know that we were shooting in a house in Dhanmondi. But the next day the shooting location was changed and we went to Sonakanda Fort. Besides, there was no script. We discussed the dialogues during the car ride to Naryanganj," said protagonist Raisul Islam Asad.
Asad was taken by surprise, when Zaki, during the first take, asked Asad to walk up the stairs.
"Then he told me, "Now you will act". That's how I became 'Ghuddi's Asad'," Asad told us as we walked further down the memory lane.
After four decades, when people still talk about this movie, they cannot help but talk about everything there was to this masterpiece. Whether it's the story, music, brilliant dialogues or the famed cinematography, this movie captured every cinematic aspect with sheer competence.
"Ghuddi is a film that was created as a group. It's a collaborative project. All our members specifically knew what to do and they executed it just fine. This movie belongs to Subarna and Asad, not Zaki. Their amazing acting and Swapon's choreography paved the way for the late success," director Salahuddin Zaki told us.
To Subarna being a part of an iconic movie - the first of its kind in Bangladesh to be more specific - has added great value to and throughout her career, and paved the way for a new genre in movies.
The veteran actor said, "Over the years, we've seen Ghuddi's impact on our lives. We can't think of a movie made in the late 70s - with such thought-provoking dialogues, beautiful cinematography and catchy songs - but Ghuddi did it. It was way ahead of its time."
Ghuddi introduced the art of presenting neorealism with the zing of modern-day love. This movie may be a hard egg to crack for some people, owing to its uniqueness, but Subarna cherished every moment of it.
We asked her to share a memory she cherishes from Ghuddi's shooting days.
"Whenever people ask me about a memorable experience, I always recall this comedic incident that occurred during the shoot of 'Jemon Nadir Jole'. If you notice carefully, you will see that my shari was wet before I fell from the boat. No cameras were rolling and I was practicing jumping from one boat to another. At one point I fell in the river and everyone jumped in to save me. This was quite an interesting experience for me," Subarna said, laughing.
It took around two years for Ghuddi's shooting to wrap up. In these two years, the movie reflected on the casts' personal lives too.
"It was difficult to manage finances for the movie at that time. So I had to mortgage my wife's jewelry. But I could bring back only half of it," Zaki said.
Back then, movie heroes used to be clean shaved. Asad, on the contrary, was heavily bearded.
"I was preparing for Vishwamitra's role in the Shakuntala play, hence the long beard. Zaki had asked me to trim my beard but as I was still in the play, I couldn't shave it. Asad's enigmatic character matched my actual appearance. But the shoot took a long time and I had to attend my wedding. So the beard needed to go," Asad said, laughing.
Ghuddi's timeless music and background scores are highly appreciated even today. Generations have passed with enigmatic songs such as 'Abar Elo Je Shondha' and 'Ke Bashi Bajayere?'
Speaking more about Ghuddi's musical score, Zaki said, "The songs were organic in Ghuddi. We didn't have to add in a romantic song in a scene out of the blue. The music synced with the movie well. It was all teamwork."
"Happy once told me that if I ever make a movie, he will be my music director. His contribution to Ghuddi was immense. In fact, Ghuddi owes 90% of the credit to its music score," the director added.
Ghuddi is a vibrant movie that brought to screens the multiple layers of a newly independent country's urban life.
From Tariq Anam Khan's role as Ghuddi's best friend to Happy Akhand's role of a young musician, each character defined youth in their own way.
Subarna told us that if modern cinema halls can rerun Ghuddi even for a month, today's youth will eagerly watch it as the movie preserves the freshness of youth.
"A special thing about Ghuddi is its diversity and authenticity. When you watch Ghuddi, you don't only see a rich woman, you also see an unhappy person who has a rocky relationship with her father," Subarna said.
As the conversation came to an end, Subarna recalled the bedrock of Ghuddi's plot that started with Asad living in a small room in Purana Paltan, showcasing multiple arcs of the life of a reckless and struggling young man.
"The internal struggles of different personalities and urban romance portrayed skilfully in Ghuddi can drive the youthful audience even today," she concluded.