From the likes of ‘Paris, je t’aime’ to ‘New York, I Love You’, here comes a film from Bangladesh as a letter to its capital- Dhaka. ‘ Iti, Tomari Dhaka (Sincerely Yours, Dhaka) is an anthology film of shorts with the central theme being the titular city. While it’s not as an out-and-out love-letter to the city, it does present romanticism in the form of characters that have a love-hate relationship with it. Moreover, it gives the honest portrayal of their respective feelings towards a city that they’re a part of. The film had a world premiere at Busan International Film Festival and it is a part of this year’s London Indian Film Festival (LIFF).
The film is executive produced by Faridur Reza and Ebne Hasan Khan for leading Bangladeshi studio Impress Telefilm. Eleven exceptionally promising directors from the Bangladeshi film fraternity have teamed up for this project. Seven different shorts are compiled to present the experience of living in Dhaka. Most of them have a minimalist approach, aiming to share a certain feeling associated with the narrative.
Nuhash Humayun’s ‘The Background Artist’ tells about a side actor in the hope of leading a film one day. In the process, his encounter with a tailor blooms into situations leading him towards understanding his self-worth. Syed Ahmed Shawki’s ‘Cheers’ tells a story of two naive girls in their twenties, who are hoping to get a bottle of liquor, as a mean to protest against her cheating boyfriend. The whole story is largely dependent on the city where it’s a taboo for a woman to have freedom over such basic factors. Robiul Alam Robi’s ‘Maghfirat’ talks about the claustrophobia of living in the city with rapidly evolving globalization. The tale is shown from the perspective of a driver who has come from a small town leaving the farming business. Certain situations lead him to constantly be in a state of being trapped, while never having a moment to breathe.
Tavir Ahsan’s ‘Where, Nowhere’ tells about a mother trying to get her son out of jail for a petty crime he is accused of. She is in a constant pursuit of getting enough money to bail him out, while his sister seeks for newfound confidence over her nuisance of a boyfriend. Abdullah Al Noor’s ‘M for Money Murder’ is shot in black-n-white and paradoxically tells a highly relevant tale in the current capitalistic environment. An employee, after being accused of a fraud that his colleague committed, seeks for a way of redemption with the gutsy approach. It presents a pitiful nature of the minute existence of humans in the highly volatile world.
Krisnendu Chattopadhyay’s ‘Jinnah is Dead’ talks about the lives of marginalized citizens who’re originally from Bihar (India). Its commentary on them being looked upon by the actual residents from Bangladesh suffers from not using a subtle approach. Syed Salah Ahmed Sobham’s ‘Juthi’ weaves a delicate drama between two lovers who go through one of the nights together towards ultimate self-realization. It again criticizes the role of women in their society in the most subtle way possible.
All the short-films, as a collective, bring about a largely authentic picture about dreams, burdens, social injustice, and solitude among other topics. While some of the shorts were soaked in the melancholia or pessimism throughout the duration (Juthi, Maghfirat), others dwell into comic undercurrents before proceeding to more shocking truth (Cheers, The Background Artist). The different approaches don’t break the flow as much as the inconsistencies do, to tie these different narratives creating often a jarring effect during the transitions.
And the central idea of relating all of these stories to the city of Dhaka isn’t particularly prevalent to all the narratives. Especially ‘The Background Artist’ or ‘M for Money Murder’ can even occur elsewhere around the globe. Besides, the aforementioned difference in each director’s approach doesn’t necessarily provide a fruitful result every single time. Sometimes the time and space is handled masterfully yet the message it too simplistic to register a long-lasting impact on its viewers.
The acting performances are perhaps the strong point even in the weaker segments from this anthology. Especially the ones from ‘Cheers’ and ‘Maghfirat’ are so strong that they enhance the impact of the already intriguing narrative. Overall, the film presents an engaging yet underwhelming collage of people and their lives.