Mejbaur Rahman, director of Hawa, said he hasn't been going to the theatres that much when asked about the critical feedback he had been receiving. Instead, he has been watching reaction videos of the screenings held at Madhumita and other single screen theatres.
"I have noticed that upper and middle class audiences of the cineplexes have a certain kind of expectation and hype surrounding the movie. I thought Hawa wasn't necessarily the type of film that would connect with everyone. However, after experiencing the reactions, I am happy to concede that I was wrong."
Hawa, released on 29 July, has breathed renewed vigour into moviegoing audiences. Halls across the country were fully booked up for over a week, including Cineplex and Jamuna Blockbuster, in the capital. The situation is the same in Narayanganj, Bogra, Savar, Sirajganj, Chittagong, Sylhet and most other cinemas where Hawa is being shown.
The Business Standard caught up with Hawa director Mejbaur Rahman Sumon after the film's theatrical release. Sumon said that the movie isn't the type of story that is meant to resonate with everyone, even though the whole point of the artform of filmmaking is to connect to people.
He said that the majority of Bangalee audiences want to watch action films or romance movies. Any other genre of story usually gets relegated to the small screen. Just because what viewers expect from a cinematic journey may not be present in Hawa does not mean that there isn't an audience for such a film.
"I had trepidation regarding the reception of the plot with the general audiences, but I was very happy to see that even if some viewers didn't get the metaphor of the movie, they felt an emotional resonance with the journey of the characters. I am more than happy that the audiences actually enjoyed the movie," said Mejbaur.
We asked the director about his perspective on the resonance with his plot. According to him, it succeeded in connecting with the audience because the plot of Hawa is ultimately a folktale, which is a recognised genre of storytelling in our culture. Mejbaur simply retrofitted that genre with a modern, cinematic take, which is why in his opinion, the plot managed to enrapture the audiences.
The director reiterated again that he was quite surprised by his film's reception, especially with people who only watch commercial films. The success of his arthouse movie has actually emboldened him for his next endeavour. Managing director of Grey, Syed Gousul Alam Shaon, reached out to Mejbaur to congratulate him on his film's reception, saying that the positive reception of this movie will open the gates for various other genres of stories to be adapted for the big screen.
"We could've made a film specifically for film festivals and shop it around internationally. But I personally wanted the story to gain traction locally before I considered such a move," said the director.
Actors of the film have been joining audiences for screenings ever since the release. Sumon however has been shunning the limelight and enjoying the reception away from the crowds. We inquired as to why this was the case.
"Our actors and crew members are attending the shows and representing our efforts with aplomb. I feel that for me, now is the time to listen. I work away from the spotlight, behind the camera. I just want to enjoy the release period away from the limelight as well. it is important to me that I don't get too caught up or overexcited," explained Mejbaur.
Speaking about the production and shooting process of Hawa the director said that the biggest challenge was shooting in the sea. Hawa revolves around nine characters, the plot is not borne on the shoulders of the lead actors as is the case with most films. All the characters have full arcs, which is another facet that sets this movie apart from commercial films and brings it closer to the realm of folklore. Each and every performer on screen is a consummate practitioner of their craft.
"My aim was to put people in a different world for 120 minutes. The story is a slow burn and takes time to unfold. I am happy to see that audiences are taking in the movie with a cool head," said Mejbaur.
Some people are commenting on the slang and coarse language that appears in the movie. The director simply states that he actually turned down that particular dial and that audiences are unfamiliar with how seafaring communities speak. If anything he portrayed only a small glimpse into how rough and direct their speech patterns are. The sailor's have their own colloquial way of talking and it is quite a ways apart from 'Shuddho Bangla'.
Mejbaur Rahman Sumon is set to start pre-production work of his next film in a few days. Hinting at the plot of the new film he said that his next tale will encompass both the land and water. "I will tell the story of two estranged people separated from society. The film will have a village or river. But that will not be the main point of the story."