Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Mapping the basic instinct of humans

A still from the film Adim directed by filmmaker Juboraj Shamim

A still from the film Adim directed by filmmaker Juboraj Shamim

One of the emerging faces of independent cinema in Bangladesh, Juboraj Shamim is in Delhi to participate in the ongoing Habitat International Film Festival where his latest work  Adim (The Instinct) was screened. The 84-minute Bangla film, for which Shamim raised money through crowdfunding, is set in a Dhaka slum and stars real-life residents and their stories of struggle, love, and desperation.

The film was screened in the competition category at the 44th Moscow International Film Festival and won the NETPAC (Network for the Promotion of Asia Cinema) jury award last year.

An electrical engineer by training, Shamim was hooked to books and writing from a young age. Like most Bengalis, he says, he started by writing poetry. The urge to make films on real-life experiences took him to Dhaka International Film Festival in 2010 where he watched  Kindness: A Letter from Tibet by Clementine Ederveen and got into a conversation with the Dutch filmmaker. She took Shamim to a film workshop where he met filmmaker Mohammad Nuruzzaman. “It was Mohammad Nuruzzaman who encouraged me to make a film with whatever I had.”

Edited excerpts:

Bangladeshi filmmaker Juboraj Shamim

Bangladeshi filmmaker Juboraj Shamim
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What was the catalyst behind  Adim?

My favourite areas for observation are the railroad tracks and railway stations. I used to sit on the railroad tracks and converse with the passengers arriving at the station. One day I came across a beggar and found him to be extremely interesting. He became the catalyst for the story. Then I realised that I don’t truly understand these people well and that I need to live with them to do so. I resided in the slum with them for seven months. It helped me to understand their lifestyle, while I wrote the screenplay.

What are you trying to say and why do you think it is finding an audience across cultures?

I didn’t really have that much in mind while I was making the movie. While living with them in the slum and writing the sceenplay, I discovered how similar our emotions were. Our primal instincts are the same. I merely wanted to depict human life and emphasise that, in the end, we are all simply humans.

What is it like working with non-actors, particularly people who are not always on the right side of the law?

I expected the film to be produced by a local theatre artiste. However, after living in the slums for some time, I realised that those who have never lived in the slums will only imitate it; it is impossible to come close to reality. So I decided to make this film with real-life characters. At first, nobody thought I’d make a movie about them. Instead, I was once detained by the police as they mistook me for a drug addict. And on the other hand, drug dealers mistook me for a crime reporter. Once during the shoot, our camera was also stolen. But thankfully, some people were always by my side, believing in me and assisting me.

Despite the numerous obstacles, it was a learning experience for me in preparing a good screenplay. Essentially, I spoke with my real-life characters about various scenes in my film and they shared their feedback. That’s how I prepared the script. In that sense, they are my film’s co-scriptwriters. They have done an excellent job.

Tell us how you managed the finances for the film.

I think everywhere finding money is a challenge for filmmakers who want to make films in their own way. The film is financed by the common people. I sold shares of the film to common audiences to gather money. As Ederveen continues to help me a lot creatively and financially, she is the co-producer of the film

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