New Delhi: India and Bangladesh Tuesday signed a formal co-production agreement on Bangabandhu, a biopic on Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to be released during the celebration of his birth centenary, which is observed between March 2020 and 2021.
Rahman, the founding father of Bangladesh, had led the movement that helped the country secure independence from Pakistan in 1971.
The move, a top government official said, is among a series of initiatives that are expected to go some way in assuaging tensions stalking bilateral ties over the Modi administration’s decision to implement the Citizenship Amendment Act. The new law promises to provide citizenship to six “persecuted” non-Muslim minority communities from Muslim-majority Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
According to a second government official, New Delhi is also slated to actively participate in ‘Mujib Year’, to be observed by Bangladesh from 17 March 2020 to 17 March 2021.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the official added, is expected to attend the inaugural ceremony of the event in Bangladesh in March this year.
Additionally, a series of programmes will be organised in Delhi as part of the celebrations, the source said.
The formal agreement for the production of Bangabandhu was signed Tuesday between the information and broadcasting ministries of both countries.
The feature film was announced, alongside a documentary on Bangladesh’s Liberation War of 1971, in a joint declaration by prime ministers Modi and Sheikh Hasina, Rahman’s daughter, when the latter visited India in April 2017.
The much-delayed project will be directed by National Award-winning film-maker Shyam Benegal and shot in Bangladesh as well as West Bengal. It will be filmed in Baangal, a dialect of the Bangla language spoken in Bangladesh, and will be produced on India’s part by the National Film Development Corporation, which falls under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
As reported first by ThePrint last May, India will bear 40 per cent of the cost, while Bangladesh will pay the rest.
Ministry sources said the film will cost approximately Rs 70 crore, but Benegal said it would be unfair to discuss an estimate right now as there is much work left to be done.
“Putting a figure at this point will be speculative, because there is a lot of work which has to be finished,” he added.
Benegal said that work on the biopic had already begun. “The scripting is almost done. We are now working on the casting of the film. There is little time,” he added. “We are looking at finishing the film in a year from now.”
The project has seen an inordinate delay as it got tangled between the ministries of external affairs and information & broadcasting over the setting up of an expert committee meant to look into the various aspects of the film’s production. There were also alleged delays from the Bangladesh government in confirming the estimates needed for production.
A film city and radio cooperation
A statement issued by the government Tuesday quoted I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar as saying that the two countries share a great legacy. India, he added, will also extend all possible cooperation to Bangladesh in setting up a ‘Bangabandhu Film City’ in the country.
An airtime exchange programme between Prasar Bharati and Bangladesh Radio Betar was also launched Tuesday.