Acclaimed filmmaker Delwar Jahan Jhantu, a strong critic of the release of Bollywood films in Bangladesh, is once again in the limelight with the release of his latest movie 'Sujon Majhi' coinciding with Shah Rukh Khan's 'Jawan'.
Two other Bangladeshi movies, 'Dusshahoshi Khoka' and 'Antarjal' were supposed to get a theatrical release in the same week as 'Jawan', but backed off and stalled the release. 'Sujon Majhi', however, held its ground and was released on 8 September, a day after the release of 'Jawan'.
Why did Jhantu go forward with the release of the movie even though it ran the total risk of flopping at the box office?
"I didn't actually want to release the movie at that time. The risk of failure was always there. But the producer insisted we release it on the same day as 'Jawan', so I didn't decline his proposal," said Jhantu.
The movie has not yet been profitable, as it was screened only in 19 theatres around the country in the first week of its release. The theatres in Dhaka where the movie was being shown had very few audiences.
"I went to Sainik Club on the day of its release. I didn't get a ticket there and came back. But I can't say that the picture is in every theatre. The movie is performing average," said Jhantu.
Any Bangla cinema has an initial investment of more than Tk50 lakh. But knowing all the risks involved, was it worth taking a chance?
"My movie did not have a big budget. On the other hand, Jawan has a lot of Urdu in it, even though it was supposed to be a Hindi movie. We fought hard for our language. With the screening of such foreign movies and with the usage of Urdu, there is a chance that the language might come back and be assimilated into our culture. We tried to revolt against that through the release of our movie in the same frame of time," Jhantu answered in a rather strong tone.
The decision to release Hindi movies in Bangladesh commercially was made through an understanding between the Bangladesh movie industry stakeholders and the Ministry of Information. Jhantu pushed back when asked why he was the only one still resisting the move.
"I think everybody got the wrong idea about my protest and is completely missing my point. What I had suggested was that Hindi movies be released in theatres on weeks in which Bangla movies are not released. This situation where our own movies are being affected by the release of Hindi movies could have been avoided if such a rule had been enacted by the film industry. No confusion would be there and everyone could profit from that," he answered.
Social media posts describe Jhantu as having directed 86 movies throughout his career, something many are questioning the validity of.
Jhantu answered, "that is not true. I have made 68 movies so far. But that still makes me the director with the highest number of movies under my belt in Bangladesh. Making a film is time-consuming and is not easy either."
At what age did you start directing movies and do you wish to direct more?
"I began directing movies right after my SSC exams. Currently, I have signed up to direct two more movies, titled 'Chanachurwala' and 'Fuljaan Bibir Swapna'. Their stories are being written and the shooting will begin afterwards. But these two movies will be my last. I want to enter my retirement after directing my 70th movie," he concluded.