The camera pans downwards as Sanjida Khatun sings "Akash Bhora Surjo Tara" in the background, and she slowly appears in the frame.
This is the opening scene of the biographical documentary film "Bodhibrikkho," directed by Abir Sreshtho. The film is a part of documentary series produced by Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy (BSA).
The scene was filmed at Ramna Park, where Chhayanaut organises Pohela Boishakh programs every year. The film includes interviews of Sanjida Khatun's colleagues and students. Fahmida Khatun, younger sister of Sanjida Khatun shares stories of their childhood in the documentary. Archival photos used in the film is a treat for the audiences.
With a motto to document the contributions of iconic cultural figures of our country, BSA has been producing the series of biographical documentaries since 2017.
So far, the academy has produced around 22 documentaries on the life and works of veteran cultural personalities, including Mustafa Monowar, Sanjida Khatun, Kamal Lohani, Professor Mustafa Nurul Islam, Syed Salahuddin Zaki, Serajul Islam Choudhury, Fakir Nahir Shah, Syed Jahangir, Sudhin Das, Rafiqun Nabi, Selina Hossain, Hasan Azizul Huq, Syed Hasan Imam and Murtaja Baseer among others.
Based on the ideas of Liaquat Ali Lucky, director general of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, the documentaries were made by various filmmakers.
Masud Sumon, assistant director (cinematography) of Drama and Film department at BSA was involved with the project as a coordinator.
While speaking to The Business Standard, Sumon said, "So far we have made 22 documentaries on 22 cultural individuals, and most of the films have been released."
"Our plan was to keep making these films every year. However, due to the pandemic, the project is on hold for the time being," he further informed.
Sumon added "In 2017, we made the first film experimentally on the life of Mustafa Nurul Islam sir, and then we decided to make biographical documentaries featuring individuals who have contributed to Bangla language, literature and culture."
In the 2017 to 2018 fiscal year, the team made 10 films and the next fiscal year they made 11 more documentaries.
"Our plan was to resume the project this year after Mujib Borsho celebrations," said Sumon.
Abir Sreshtho directed a total of three films from the series including "Bodhibrikkho," "Shilpo Sarothi" and "Sohoj Manush."
"Bodhibrikkho" depicts the life and works of cultural icon and president of Chhayanaut, Sanjida Khatun while "Sohoj Manush" is based on Fakir Nahir Shah, a Lalon disciple.
"Shilpo Sarothi" narrates the life of Mustafa Monowar, the great puppeteer, painter and sculptor, with authenticity.
Speaking about "Shilpo Sarothi", Abir said, "It was very challenging to capture the life of such an iconic person on camera. We had to work really hard to depict his works on the silver screen."
"He is a very versatile and multi-talented person, but also forgetful," he added. "The film brings forward unknown facts about the great artist who has contributed so much to different artforms in our country."
Abir said the film also portrayed how the puppet artform in Bangladesh was established through Mustafa Monowar.
"From the film, the audience will get to know that Satyajit Ray was so impressed after watching Roktokorobi, directed by Monowar, that he sent him a message through Tareque Masud," he said.
Cultural institutions like Chharukala, Chhayanaut and Shilpakala Academy are highlighted in the film through beautiful cinematography in the process of showcasing the life of the pioneering cultural personality of Bangladesh.
"We also filmed in Jhenaidah where his father Golam Mostofa was born," Abir said.
"We finished filming in one and a half years. But throughout the making process, we learned so much from Sir. He also helped us to design the lights," recalled the director.
The films are available for streaming on YouTube and the official Facebook page of BSA.