The filmmaker makes the case for abolishing the Censor Board and explains why his films have resonated with audiences
"Bir," the 50th movie of renowned Filmmaker Kazi Hayat, was released on February 14. It is receiving a positive response from audiences.
Though Kazi Hayat has worked with many actors, this is the first time that he has worked with the Actor Shakib Khan. He does not prioritise casting stars in his films – he focuses on a good script. "A film's story is my main concern and it is the strength of my movies," said Hayat. This time, the producer of Bir Shakib Khan and co-producer Mohammad Iqbal wanted him make the film.
When asked how he feels about completing the 50th movie of his career, he said, "I was expecting good responses from the viewers of the film because, after a long time, I have made a political movie. "Bir" is the kind of movie that audiences expect from me. Viewers enjoy the film's story and dialogue. After a long time, a commercial movie – which was not shot abroad – has been released in Bangladesh. The film's story is of Bangladesh; the actors, actresses and director are Bangladeshi. So, it is an absolute Bangaliana."
Kazi Hayat's debut movie was "The Father." It was released in 1979. Since then he has continued making films. Before that he had worked as an assistant director with filmmakers Mamtaz Ali and Alamgir Kabir for four years. He mentioned that the 1990s were the golden age of his career. At that time he had delivered many hit movies like "Tezi," "Loot Taraz," "Ammazaan," and "Deshpremik" – starred in by the late Manna.
Remembering those days, Hayat said, "That was a really wonderful time in my life. Producers thronged to my house. Sometimes, it became very difficult for me to choose which producer's film I would do. Sometimes I had to refuse the offers of some of the producers due to a lack of time. It also happened that I took advance money from a producer for a film, but later had to return it. However, those days are now gone. Our film industry is going through a very hard time."
Most of Hayat's films are political and action-based. When asked why he chooses these types of stories, he said, "I want to tell the stories of our country that are known to us. There are lots of stories around us. If we cannot tell these stories through movies, what is the point of making films?"
He gets ideas of stories from daily newspapers and from his observations of surrounding events. "I think the person who observes what is happening in society can tell more stories. "Bir" reflects the society," he said. The major social problems of this time – like eve-teasing, rape, suicide and the characteristics of some political leaders – have been reflected in "Bir," he added.
These social and political issues are the elements of most of Hayat's movies. This is why 26 out of 50 of his films have gotten stuck at the Censor Board. Among those, "Sipahi" and "Deshdrohi" got stuck for a year. He had to obtain censor certificates for the movies after a hard battle.
For this reason, he resents the Censor Board. He said, "The rulers of ancient Greece were called censors. I think there should be no Censor Board in an independent country. In an independent country, the kind of movie I make depends on me. Do I not have self-censorship? Moreover, lots of money is spent for this Censor Board, annually, and there are many allegations against some members of the board. Section 'Ka' of 39 in our constitution has given me freedom. I shall make movies according to that right. One can file a case against me if he/she thinks that the movie is derogatory to someone or can hamper social harmony. The constitution has given us that right. So, then why is the Censor Board necessary? Why has the responsibility of deciding the feelings of all the people of the country been given to the members of the Censor Board?"
Hayat raised another question. He said, "If any movie is a copy of another movie, it can be banned. Now, my question is whether the 10-12 members of the Censor Board watch or have watched all the films of the world. Then how will they identify that a movie is a copy of another? Then who are they to talk about it? There are laws and courts for solving these issues. Or do the Censor Boards have a machine to identify plagiarised films?"
He also talked about the budget of making a film. "It is true that the budgets for making films have increased. A big budget is required to make a movie digitally. However, a producer does not recoup his money by the end of the day, which is unfortunate," he said.
However, Hayat thinks that people are reluctant to go to cinemas as the movies do not meet their expectations. "Nowadays, some directors do not make films according to viewers' choices. They make films spending lots of money for different film festivals. They fail to produce movies for audiences," he said.
He further asked what the point of making films for festivals was if there was no cinema. "There are so many festivals taking place in different parts of the world. But, these movies are not gaining any great achievements from there," Hayat added.
When asked what the film industry of Bangladesh has gained from him, Hayat replied, "I have introduced many new actors. I made Manna a star. I brought Kazi Maruf into the industry. I have contributed to the careers of actors Rajib and Dipjol and music director Ahmed Imtiaz Bulbul. Additionally, I have tried to make patriotic movies like patriotic songs. No other filmmakers have done it."
Hayat also provided some suggestions for how to overcome the crisis in the film industry:
1. Abolish the Censor Board
2. Build cinemas in every district – through a government initiative
3. Put an end to giving incentives
4. See that filmmakers take the initiative to create new artists
Kazi Hayat at a glance
Full name: Kazi Hayat
Date of birth: February 15, 1947
Place of birth: Kashiani, Gopalganj
Child: Kazi Maruf
Profession: Filmmaker, scriptwriter and actor
Number of films directed: 50
Debut film: The Father (1979)
Latest film: Bir (2020)
Awards received: National Film Award – five times – and the Bangladesh Cholochitra Sangbadik Samity (BACHSAS) Award three times