The humble production studio was bustling with people. In this space, you would find polarising settings.
While one room overwhelms your senses with the sound of crafty modellers sanding away, the space next to it is silent with thinkers looking at walls filled with mood boards, photos, and notes.
The 3D printer was always running with a resin printer sitting right next to it. This was a space where people were busy turning their ambitions into reality.
All of them were working on the two hour long film Project Ommi, directed by Amit Ashraf, which will be starring Naseeruddin Shah. It is slated to be one of the first science fiction films from Bangladesh and aims to place the country on the cinematic map.
The story of the film is set in the ship graveyards of Dhaka and revolves around an AI boy named Ommi, who is used to fight traffickers. While the boy may only be a product of technology, he comes to embody the grey area of morality that comes with automation.
The plot deals with many societal issues that Bangladeshi people will be able to resonate with, such as AI and the automation of labour. Part of the film will be in Bangla and will also be due for a local release. They also plan to shoot most of the film in Bangladeshi areas, such as Keraniganj and Puran Dhaka.
The diversity of skills and experience makes this team exceptional. As an expert in the industry for 10 years, Amit, the director, has worked on award-winning films, such as 'Udhao'. His other works include 'Kali', 'Apartment 5D', and 'Master of the Broken House'.
Rudmeela Nawsheen and Jenny Walker are working as producers on this project. Nawsheen, a tech entreprenuer, is the CEO and Founder of ConfigVR and ConfigRbot based in California and actively working in the media promotion space. Walker has produced over 40 hours of award-winning documentaries and docu-dramas for famous broadcasters such as BBC, C4, and ITV.
Rudmeela, who is setting up her robotics plant in Dhaka, said she wants to reach out to the masses about robotics and AI through this project. "I want to represent Bangladesh as a potential tech hub in the future and that's what this movie will show," she said.
The cinematographer, Barkat Hossain Polash, has seven years of experience and has won the Best Cinematography Award for his feature film, 'Jalal's Story'. Their team also has Jacob Yoffee, an award-winning film composer. He has worked on the trailer campaigns for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Pirates of the Caribbean, and more.
The story of Project Ommi has been an enticing one from the very beginning. Once the team reached out to Naseeruddin Shah with their script, the actor told them he thought it was an interesting project. Along with Naseeruddin Shah, Bangladeshi actor Shaan Rahman is confirmed to be starring in the film.
Even as one of the first science fiction films set in Bangladesh, the high production costs make it a huge obstacle to getting it off the ground. But Amit is confident this can be overcome.
Amit Ashraf says "Content is the future, and we cannot fall behind on that. Intellectual property is one of the most important sectors you can invest in now for the future."
The evidence of this demand is all around us, as we can see people successfully finding stable and viable income through platforms such as YouTube and Instagram. Furthermore, platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime are thriving.
Amit commented, "It's exciting to be living in this time with technology that's available on a consumer level. Materials and technology are in our hands, and it would be a shame not to do something cool with it."
The story for Project Ommi was pursued with a lot of thought for what the film would mean in the long run. Genres like science fiction are a great way to show how capable a team is, as they have to build a world by creating new technology, designing costumes, and incorporating visual effects.
The Director has been fond of the genre from a very young age and takes inspiration from the classics. He saw it as an opportunity as Bangladesh is price-competitive. Amit states, "We're making something that will cost ten to twenty million dollars, but if we made the same thing in the UK or US, it would cost more," he continues, "all we need to show people is that we can provide them with the support to create great films."
The end goal is for the film to get a global release. The movie is a collaboration with high-profile actors from India and investors from the UK, which means that its target audience is vast. "English is the global language, you can reach a larger audience. Then, you need a name cast to get through the fog," he continues, "and the story has to be awesome, which is the harder part."
To make the concept come to life, they have employed virtual reality technology to get a feel for their set and plan their scenes accordingly. Handmade props are a significant part of their set building such as the vacuum form they made themselves. CGI will be a huge component of the film as they will use it to create holograms of advertisements, modify their characters, add more robots, and beyond.
The project was first taken up several years ago, before the pandemic. It is currently in the pre-production stage and the team plans to complete the project within this year.
The plans for Project Ommi might be big, but the vision of how its legacy will carry on is much larger. From a small studio in Bangladesh, this team plans to show the world that you can make anything happen with a bit of ambition and a lot of creativity.