RUHUL AMIN INTERVIEW BY ROMUZ UDDIN
Ruhul Amin makes films around the life of the Bangladeshi community in the East End of London. His films are very poetic
like the melody of a Bengali folk song. It creates a mesmerising intensity which evokes a poetic feel. He depicts the experience
of migrant life with great care and in a dignified way. His films are critically well received around the world. His work
has been likened to the early films of De Sica and Satyajit Ray.
Few years ago I came to know him through a film workshop
which he was conducting. Since then I kept in touch and am spellbound by his passion of filmmaking.
He has been knocking
on doors for last five years to raise funds for his latest project “Hason Raja”. Here I talk to him to find out
about his current project and the main driving force behind his passion.
Romuz Uddin (email@example.com)
- Half a million Bangladeshis are settled in Britain. They are in their fourth generations and many of
them have established themselves in various professional fields. As far as we know you are the only home grown filmmaker involved
in the mainstream British TV and film industry.
Ruhul – I think you’ve put me an awkward position. I have to
ask half a million people to find out why they are not into filmmaking?
Romuz - Bengalis of Bangladesh and west Bengal have contributed significantly to the world cinema. Why do you think we in Britain have descended so awfully?
Ruhul - Now let us see, as a British
Bengali community why are we left behind in this media race? Well, to understand our plight we have to travel back a bit.
Vast majority of our people left their rural homeland in search of a better life. They discovered the land of gold and
Through out their journey they faced violent storms, they fought and survived. Soon after the Second World War few
people started settling in various parts of United Kingdom.
But the larger bulk of the community migrated during the war of liberation in 1971.
government originally invited them to fill the shortage of labour forces.
They were welcomed, but a certain section of
the British society reacted violently.
Racism spread everywhere. Vicious confrontation dominated the life of the newly
Racism prevented them from assimilating or participating fully with the greater society.
them to stick together and they formed ghettos, they were segregated from the mainstream society.
Their life was centred
around their small community.
They formed villages away from their village. They felt threatened, they hold on to their
tradition and old values, which they brought with them. Their profound religious values took a deeper root. Sexuality is considered
as part of decadent culture. They developed revulsion towards western culture. Cinema fulfils those criteria of that decadent
Islam phobia and current western politics towards Islamic countries have marginalised these simple people further.
They are in desperate search for an identity. Recent phenomenon of revival of Islam provides them with a historical perspective.
This recent phenomenon is rapidly driving them towards orthodox practises, which is confined with strict religious values.
I feel the community is going through a metamorphosis. They are split between present, past, East and West. I feel they have
to confront many more storms before they appreciate and become proud of their glorious cultural heritage. Then inventively
they will run everywhere with the camera in search of their lost treasure.
Romuz - What exactly involves becoming a
Ruhul - Let me simply explain my understanding of this magical and most powerful medium.
Filmmaking is a
complex art form. To become a filmmaker it requires a burning desire and a passion to go through an intensive learning process.
Initially it doesn’t provide you any security of livelihood. It doesn’t bring instant name and fame. One has to
begin his or her journey with an understanding of all that and be prepared to face any daunting challenge.
Cinema is Painting,
cinema is music, cinema is poetry, cinema is people, and cinema is our culture. Cinema touches everything is to do with our
existence and us. Cinema is just not to do with camera, sound and light. Cinema is an art form. It tells story, story of people.
It requires a discipline, commitment and love. You have to have tremendous love for that art and craft. And for that love
you have to be prepared to climb Himalaya. Well, this may sound intimidating, but not to worry. Every one of us is born with
creative instinct. If we are given an opportunity or grow up in around right kind of cultural environment, we are bound to
be influenced by it. So far filmmaking has been confined with the privileged class. Very recently with the emergence of video
technology, has allowed accessibility to the wider world.
Romuz - What inspired you to become a filmmaker and how did
you manage to enter into the industry?
Ruhul - I was extremely fortunate. It is partly to do with my background where I’m
I grew up in one of the most beautiful part of Bangladesh. It is a small town in North East of Bangladesh, surrounded
by lash green hills and beautiful tea gardens reflect a stunning beauty of nature. Culturally the place was very vibrant with
wonderful minority communities such as, Manipuri, Nepali and the trivial people of the tea gardens who kept the landscape
alive with their music and colourful festivals. My parents always enjoyed watching old Bengali films. So, I grew up watching
films and overwhelmed by their passionate discussion.
RUHUL AMIN INTERVIEW BY ROMUZ UDDIN Pg 02
From my early childhood I became fascinated by films and infect at the age of seven
I decided to become a filmmaker
and wanted to capture the beautiful life of those beautiful people. One day I discovered the power of the magical lamp, I
mean the projector throwing waves of light and creating images on the screen. That was a magical moment for me.
obsessed to learn and became a magician of cinema. I would say I have a natural instinct towards creatively. The seed of the
film was sown in an early age. I became attracted and deeply fell in love with that magic. When I came to England in the begging
of 80s my search continued to learn filmmaking. While I was at school I joined a local film workshop and I made my first short
film. Later I joined film industry as an assistant. Within short time I made my first documentary “FLAMAE IN MY HEART”
for Channel 4 TV. In 1986 I made my first feature film “A KIND OF ENGLISH”. Then I joined National film and Television
School and done some short courses. Since then I made about 13 films including documentary and feature films for British Television.
- You are a British filmmaker. Your experience is to do with Britain.
What motivated you to do a film in Bangladesh?
you tell us about your latest venture “Hason Raja”?
Ruhul - You are right; my entire experience is to do with
the East End of London. I hardly know anything about Bangladesh. But I’m shaped by my childhood experience.
always reminds me of my decent and colourful past. I still hallucinate about that beautiful land and its people like painting.
I still hear the beautiful haunting music of trivial flute. I’m aware of the richness of our folk heritage and abundant
Lot of people in our community never had a chance to experience that beautiful side of Bangladesh. The
story of Hason Raja is set around 150 years ago. It depicts an era of golden Bengal, which was rich with cultural activities.
This film is a vehicle to enter into our rich folk heritage. I’m sure this film will provide an insight into a rich
culture, which is vanishing rapidly. The songs and mysticism of Hason Raja is direct and simple.
It burns with passion
and intensity. He drew Buddhist, Hindu and Sufi philosophies and images he filled his songs with powerful longing for spiritual
This open-ness gives his work a spatial meaning for today, with harmony so threatened by communal division.
– Why this project is taking such a long time?
Ruhul – I do not have any simple explanation for this. All I
can say, the funding institutes and the effluents are not showing any interest. I’m left with on option but to run after
poor individuals around the community. I’m knocking on every door with a hope that there must be somebody who will pose
for a moment and think differently.
Romuz - You been travelling between India and Bangladesh and have gathered well-known
artists and Technicians from both places.
What are your opinions or experiences with the industry of that part of the world?
- I would say it is a unique experience to gather all those talented artists and technicians from India and Bangladesh. Wherever
and whoever I went to meet they came with a helping hand. This tremendous respect and support proves how seriously they have
taken our film.
Romuz - There are well known stars in Bangladesh. What is the logic behind casting Mithun Chakarborty
Ruhul - To reincarnate Hason Raja I need an actor whose philosophy is above this hype.
believe in stardom. He is such an artiest, the light of his love and passion glows across the globe. An artiest of his clever
bound neither by geographical territory nor carries the burden of any specific race, religion or cast. So was the Hason Raja.
- Originally we heard Bhupen Hazarika was doing music. Now we hear Bappi Lahiri. What is the reason for this change?
- Recently Bhupen Hazarika declined for his health reason. I approached Bappi Lahiri another legendary Bengali music director
who happily accepted to do the job. Bappi Lahiri dominated Bollywood for more then 2 decades. His parents are from Bangladesh
and he is an authority on Bengali Folk music.
Romuz - British Bengali community are not at all familiar with a subject
like this. Their aspiration is contemporary Hollywood and Bollywood films.
How do you see a film like Hason Raja is going
create an impact on them?
Who are your audiences for this film?
Ruhul - You are absolutely right, present generations
of British Bengalis are not at all familiar with a folk subject like this. It is like a fairy tale to them.
And this is
the very reason this film is going to attract anybody from anywhere in the globe.
RUHUL AMIN INTERVIEW BY ROMUZ UDDIN
Romuz - The vibrant commercial
film industry of Bangladesh is in rapid decline. Middle classes have given up
going to cinemas.
Is there a future for that industry?
Ruhul - As the world is changing rapidly so is the cinema. Technological
advancement is beyond recognition. Cinema of Bangladesh is integral part of overall changes in the country. The chaotic and
corrupt political system disrupts changes in any society. And that also hampers the progression of the any artistic expression.
Bangladesh film industry is still struggling with the outdated technology. To attract people back to the theatre would require
a drastic change of attitude of the authority and the filmmakers. They have to compete with the rest of the world and produce
quality cinema. To produce better cinema requires proper training. Bangladesh still doesn’t have a film institute. Primitive
method of filmmaking is no longer acceptable to the audience. Bangladesh is the land of world’s one of the largest population.
Cinema is the only main entertainment form, and if the filmmakers cannot attract them to the theatre then something is seriously
wrong. Despite all that negativity parallel cinema is growing strongly. I’m very optimistic about future of Bangladesh
Just reflect back on our past, that land has produced so many outstanding filmmakers.
Cinema is their cultural
inheritance it cannot be suppressed or taken way from the people.
Romuz - What kind of films or the directors you
are influence by?
Ruhul - During my childhood in Bangladesh, going to the cinema with the family was an exciting event.
At that time I saw a film called “SUTORANG” directed by a well-known filmmaker Subash Dutta. At that early age,
without having much knowledge of films some how I was touched by it. Now I see why? It is the power of its lyrical visuals.
I’m inspired by the work of Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Ozu, Kursawa and Tarkovsky.
One of my favourite films is