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India to help Bangladesh produce films on PM Hasina, her father Mujibur before polls there

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The proposal is seen as an indication of New Delhi’s interest in supporting Bangladeshi PM’s bid for the third term in power.

New Delhi: India has decided to join hands with the Bangladeshi government to produce a documentary on the country’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, months before she and her Awami League Party head to the polls.

The Modi government will also help the Awami League dispensation produce a film on Hasina’s father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the country’s founding father, and a documentary on the Bangladesh War of Independence that will prominently feature Rahman.

According to sources, discussions to this effect will take place between the two countries Thursday, during the first meeting of the joint committee on audio-visual co-production; an agreement is also likely to be signed between the two countries on the same day.  Officials from the Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, All India Radio and Doordarshan, among others, will be attending the meeting with their Bangladeshi counterparts.

The documentary on the Bangladeshi prime minister is being seen as a strong indication of New Delhi’s interest in supporting Hasina’s bid for a third term in power.  Officials admit that New Delhi is carefully monitoring the situation in Bangladesh and is aware of the growing public criticism aimed at Hasina, who has been accused of taking control of democratic institutions in her country, including the Election Commission and the press.

Modalities being worked out

It is still not clear on how India will help with the documentary on Hasina, but it is expected to be part of the joint co-production. It is being produced by the Ministry of Information, Bangladesh, but funding and other aspects on which India can provide help will be discussed in a separate meeting Thursday.

As for the film and documentary on Rahman, highly-placed sources say India is likely to fund 80 per cent of both projects, while the Bangladesh government would pitch in with the remaining 20 per cent. The two countries, however, are yet to work out the finer details such as shooting schedules, approval of scripts, selection of director and pre- and post-production of the film. All of this is expected to be discussed and chalked out during the meeting.

Sources told ThePrint that the Indian government is keen on eminent filmmaker Shyam Benegal making the documentary on Rahman. For the feature film on Bangladesh’s founding father, the government will finalise a filmmaker from a list of shortlisted directors such as Gautam Ghose, Jahnu Barua,  Anurag Basu, and Kaushik Ganguly, among others.

A senior official said the projects are likely to be produced by the National Film Development Corporation, a PSU under the I&B ministry. The joint production of the feature film on Rahman and the documentary on the independence war were mentioned in the joint declaration, issued by prime Ministers Modi and Hasina, when she visited India in April 2017.

‘An India-friendly party’

Hasina’s Awami League has been in power since 2009 and had a controversial win in the 2014 elections, with opposition leader Begum Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) boycotting the election. As a result, the League had won more than half the seats unopposed.

The League is also considered friendly to India, as compared to the hardline BNP. Hence it suits India to provide support to Hasina and her party at this crucial time in Bangladesh, with political parties carrying out high pitched political campaigns, sources said. Several other media-related issues would be discussed during the meeting Thursday, they said.

Some of them include talks on Akashvani Maitree, which broadcasts a blend of content from India and Bangladesh for Bengali listeners on both sides of the border, television broadcasting, and collaboration on community radio and between the Indian Institute of Mass Communication and a mass communication institute of Bangladesh.

The delegations are also slated to discuss the possibility of joint film production in the private sector, reviewing of restrictions on the screening of Indian films in Bangladesh and facilitating easier movement of filmmakers and artists across the border.

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