The biographical drama film is said to signify Indo-Bangladeshi relations, as described by delegations of both the countries.
Anurag Thakur, India’s Minister of Information and Broadcasting and Youth and Sports Affairs had attended the trailer launch event. While Thakur headed the Indian delegation, his Bangladeshi counterpart, Hassan Mehmud, led the Bangladeshi delegation that also comprised actors Arifin Shuvoo and Nusrat Imrose Tisha.
The film also marks the centenary celebration of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father of Bangladesh.
Born in 1920, Rahman was a Bangladeshi political leader and the pioneer behind the independence of erstwhile East Pakistan. He is popularly referred to as Bangabandhu or ‘the friend of Bengal’ and Jatir Jonok or ‘father of the nation’.
Benegal threw light on Rahman, and said, “Sheikh Mujib was an extraordinary person. He was a person, who seemed like he had a background that was very middle-class; a simple man with very simple tastes, and a very simple life. But, he had a burning ambition that eventually created a nation.”
Rahman assumed office as the first Prime Minister of the newly-formed Bangladesh, in 1971. He helped bring liberation to Bangladesh and, as Mehmood put it, “transformed an unarmed nation into an armed one.”
However, on August 15, 1975, Rahman, along with most of his family, was assassinated. Sheikh Hasina, the current Prime Minister of Bangladesh, and Rahman’s daughter, survived the assassination since she was at West Germany, along with sister Sheikh Rehana. Actor Nusraat Faria will be essaying the role of Hasina in the film.
The National Award-winning filmmaker was not present at the event but addressed the launch through a video message. Benegal said that he was unable to attend the event as he was working on finishing the project.
He added that the film should be completed, by the end of this year.
Benegal called Mujib: The Making of a Nation first of its kind, between the countries. He noted that it is “a conglomeration of Bangladeshi actors and Indian technicians.”
The co-production features Shuvoo, Imrose Tisha, and Faria in prominent roles.
Shuvoo, who will be seen essaying the titular character of Rahman, said, “Imagine a human being lived for 55 years, and in those 55 years, he spent 11 years in jail. So, in 44 years, a person from a village came to the city and became the father of the nation.”
Shuvoo described Rahman’s formidable nature as the ‘liberator of erstwhile East-Pakistan’, and shared that the leader’s youngest son, Sheikh Russel, used to refer to the prison – an on-and-off settlement for Rahman – as “Abba’s house.”
“Just imagine how a father would feel. He (Rahman) could not be at the wedding of his children, including Sheikh Haseena’s. I would want you to imagine how you would feel if in one night your whole family gets killed,” he added.
Shuvoo further threw light on being casted as Rahman, in the film.
The actor, who is predominantly known for appearing in commercial films in Bangladesh, was as sceptical of his own casting as Benegal’s staff, who had disapproved of the actor due to his physique. Shuvoo had just shot for a cop film in Bangladesh, when he had met Benegal for the film.
But Benegal’s only reply was, “He is the one.”
Shuvoo also reflected on Benegal’s suggestion of ‘conceiving the soul’ instead of getting the physical, external aspect right, to prepare for the character. He shared that he took the advice and after the first scene was shot, Benegal had come up to him and said, “Arifin, I don’t know if you have gone to the spirit, or the spirit has come to you. Stay there.”
The film, according to Shuvoo, not only portrays Rahman’s able leadership, but also the ‘family man’ that he was.
The Memorandum of Undertaking for the production of the film was signed in January 2020, between India’s National Film Development Corporation and the Bangladesh Film Development Corporation.
Mujib: The Making of a Nation has been under progress for the last two years. It was initially supposed to go on floors in March 2020 but was delayed, owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The film finally went on floors in January 2021. It was shot at Mumbai’s Film City, partially, while the other half of it was shot in Bangladesh.
Thakur added that the film comes at a time when countries continue to face challenges from neighbouring nations, and noted that the co-production is an example of maintaining good ties with one’s neighbours.
“I thought this was the best time to release the trailer, to show the strength of friendship between Bangladesh and India. It is not only India’s progress, but it also talks about our relations with our neighbours, and how we compliment each other’s work,” Thakur said.
Hassan Mehmood also reflected similar sentiments, and said, “The joint production of this movie is the demonstration of the strength and depth of the bond between Bangladesh and India.”
“In 1971, not only did India open its borders, but people in India opened their minds as well,” he added.
Atul Tiwari and Shama Zaidi have written the film’s screenplay, while Shantanu Moitra has composed music for the film.