Bangladesh came into existence in 1971, after a fierce battle between Bengali resistance fighters and the Pakistani army. Fifty years after this historic event, the country’s future leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s war cry “Joy Bangla” resonates on both sides of the border. Here is a look at how Bangladesh’s filmmakers captured the battle for liberation from Pakistani rule.
Tareque and Catherine Masud’s War Trilogy (1995-2000)
Muktir Gaan documents a cultural troupe inspiring Bengali resistance fighters across the region in 1971. The second, Muktir Kotha, looks at the wartime experiences of Bangladeshi audience members watching Muktir Gaan. Narir Kotha examines the role of women in the war.
Stop Genocide (1971)
Shot and released right in the middle of the 1971 war, Zahir Raihan’s 20-minute documentary features newsreel footage and photographs that draw parallels between the Pakistani army’s atrocities in Bangladesh, Nazi violence in the Third Reich, and the bombing of Vietnam by American forces.
Nodir Naam Modhumoti (1996)
A tragic love story is the heart of Tanvir Mokammel’s film with the liberation war in the background. When Bachchu (Tauquir Ahmed) leaves home to join the Bengali guerillas, his stepfather, a Pakistan-supporting village strongman, forcibly marries his childhood love (Sara Zaker).
Children of War (2014)
Mrityunjay Devrat’s sprawling and frequently violent Hindi film attempts to give a 360-degree view of the horrors of the violence committed by the Pakistani army and militias on Bengalis in Bangladesh. In particular focus is the rape of Bengali women by Pakistanis.
Matir Moina (2002)
Tareque Masud’s autobiographical debut, titled The Clay Bird in English, is a poignant look at a rural Muslim family grappling with both religious fundamentalism and the nationalist movement. The film is set a few years before the liberation war. In one scene, the independent-minded Ayesha Bibi (Rokeya Prachy) observes, “Earlier there was a heaven-and-hell difference between home and what was outside of it, now it feels the same”.
Bengali star Jaya Ahsan plays a freedom fighter taking on Pakistani forces while also searching for her missing journalist husband. The highlights include Ahmed Rubel playing Altaf Mahmud, the Bangladeshi freedom fighter and songwriter who popularised the revolutionary song Amar Bhaiyer Rokte Rangano.
Shyamol Chhaya (2004)
Author-filmmaker Humayun Ahmed’s film follows a group of frightened people on boat, escaping the war, as they muse about “shyamol chhaya”, a elusive land of peace.
Aguner Poroshmoni (1994)
Humayun Ahmed’s second film has a heroic freedom fighter belonging to the Mukti Bahini, the Bengali liberation force, finding refuge in a Bengali middle-class home. While revolution rages on the outside, love blossoms inside between the rebel and the daughter of the house.
Meherjaan was controversial at the time of its release in Bangladesh. The titular protagonist (played by both Shaina Amin and Jaya Bachchan) looks back on the war, during which she fell in love with a Pakistani soldier.
Bhuban Majhi (2017)
Parambrata Chatterjee had already played a poetic and conflicted young man who becomes a Naxalite in the 2009 film Kaalbela. In this Bangladeshi production, Chatterjee revisits the character type with the liberation war as the backdrop.