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Why some people are upset seeing only trailer, asks Shyam Benegal

Responding to criticism on social media, Indian film director Shyam Benegal has said it is very difficult for him to guess why some people are upset and noted that one cannot pass a comment on a film by seeing only its trailer.

“You cannot pass a comment on a film by seeing a 90-second trailer. You can comment on just the trailer,” he told The Telegraph, adding that he just got a message that there have been some comments.

Trailer of ‘Mujib – The Making of a Nation’ was released at Cannes Film Festival on Thursday, triggering a volley of criticism against its director Shyam Benegal from many Bangladeshis. The film is expected to ready by the end of 2022.

A trawl through YouTube and Facebook reviews of the trailer have thrown up criticisms such as:

Arifin Shuvoo, who plays Mujib, lacks the aura and baritone of Bangabandhu whose speeches, even his mere presence — and their audiovisual recordings — have given goosebumps to millions of Bangladeshis across generations.

The visual effects (‘VFX’ in cinematic parlance) of the fighter jets and tanks — used by Benegal to tell the story of the nine-month Liberation War — give the impression of a “cartoon film”.

The research on Mujib has been inadequate. He has been shown wearing spectacles during his famous March 7 address — which set the stage for the freedom struggle — despite the records showing he was without glasses.

Lack of attention to detail: the trailer shows two different Bangladeshi flags being used during the Liberation War — one with a map and the other without it.

Benegal has also been accused of inappropriate castings for other key characters and of a possible “India-oriented storyline”, a political hot potato in Bangladesh.

“A biopic of Bangabandhu is not just a film, it’s a matter of our emotions, linked to our history as an independent country,” said Hashibur Reza Kallol, a Dhaka-based filmmaker.

“Sheikh Mujib is an icon for all Bangladeshis, whatever their differences. Unfortunately, the trailer has exposed several shortcomings in the film and people are upset.”

The co-production agreement for the film ‘Bangabandhu’ was signed on 14th January, 2020 between two Executive Producers — NFDC and Film Development Corporation (FDC), Bangladesh.

The total budget of the film is over US$10 million (INR 75 crores) shared in the ratio of 40:60 by India and Bangladesh respectively.

The release is delayed owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. The entire shooting of the film ‘Bangabandhu’ has been completed, spread in four schedules in India and Bangladesh.

The actors in the lead roles Arifin Shuvoo and Nusrat Imrose Tisha, for the love of the nation and the emotion named Mujib, have worked for free.

Arifin Shuvoo has played the role of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his life’s journey from early days to the Making of a Nation has been depicted in the film.

Tisha, plays the role of Sheikh Fazilatunnesa (Renu), the better half of Mujib. The film showcases her family, struggles, strength and her role in Mujib’s success as one of the greatest leaders in the world.