After a series of short films, Bangladeshi director Tareque Masud's handsome, music-filled debut feature is also a milestone for his country's cinema: It's the first Bangladeshi film to receive a wide international release. While not exactly autobiographical, Masud's script is based on incidents from his own youth. Like his young hero, Anu (Nurul Islam Bablu), much of Masud's boyhood was also spent at a madrasa, an Islamic religious school usually attended by orphaned boys or the male children of poor families. Anu's authoritarian and deeply religious father, Kazi (Jayanto Chattopadhyay), worries about his son's exposure to non-Islamic influences — mostly introduced by Kazi's far more secular and politically active younger brother, Milon (Soaeb Islam) — so he sends Anu away to live and study at a madrasa. Anu is picked on by the other kids, but he doesn't get it half as bad as his only friend Rokon (Russell Farazi), an imaginative loner whom the others boys consider strange. Back at home, Anu's mother, Ayesha (Rokeya Prachy), waits on her husband hand and foot while Anu's lonely baby sister, Asma (Lameesa R. Reemjheem), waits for her brother to come home. Anu returns for the annual Eid holiday, and shortly after he returns Asma falls ill with fever. Kazi, who only believes in homeopathic medicine and dispenses remedies to the other villagers, staunchly refuses to allow Ayesha to send for a doctor. His strict orthodoxy has tragic results. The title Masud has chosen for his film is taken from a song sung during a concert which Ayesha, in a bold demonstration of independence, attends while her husband is away on pilgrimage. "The Clay Bird's Lament" describes a bird which is infused with longing, but has not been given wings strong enough to fly. It's a perfect title for a film that deals so passionately with freedom — spiritual and political — and coming of age, not just of Anu, but an entire nation. The action is set in the late 1960s, shortly before a brutal military crackdown, civil war and genocide would eventually result in the formation of Bangladesh out of eastern Pakistan. The film draws careful parallels between orthodoxies and in his own quiet way, Masud, a devout Muslim, level his critique at repressive political regimes and religious doctrines, and those who dangerously confuse one with the other.
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- Released: 2002
- Rating: NR
- Review: After a series of short films, Bangladeshi director Tareque Masud's handsome, music-filled debut feature is also a milestone for his country's cinema: It's the first Bangladeshi film to receive a wide international release. While not exactly autobiographic… (more)