Saturday, June 22, 2024

Patriotism personified

To refer to them as patriots would be an oversimplification of their identities. Yet patriots they have been, of the most passionate kind, expressing love for the country through their artistic endeavours.
The partnership of Tareque and Catherine Masud as filmmakers and life partners has always been the subject of admiration and perhaps a little envy too. While Tareque began to realise his dream of depicting the spirit of the Liberation War, a war he was witness to, his wife Catherine joined hands to produce Muktir Gaan, a documentary on the cultural activists who travelled around the country inspiring people with their songs of the motherland. This was just the beginning of the duo’s journey of rediscovering the Muktijuddho through Lear Levin’s rare footage of the war as well as their own extensive research. Perhaps it was during that journey that Catherine, already fluent in Bengali, decided to adopt her husband’s country as her own, becoming effortlessly immersed in trying to tell the untold stories of the liberation movement through the one thing that both she and her husband were obsessed with–making films.
After Muktir Gaan, the duo made two more documentaries–Muktir Katha and Narir Katha. The idea was to bring out the stories of valour, endurance and of course extreme love for one’s motherland from the voices of unrecognised heroes. They included ordinary people with extraordinary courage–Bengalis and other ethnic groups and most importantly, the women who fought, endured and survived the most tragic and painful moments in the country’s history.
What made these films so important was that the couple took the project further by making sure people all over the country got to see them. The response was overwhelming with many in the audience weeping with emotion. The couple, who could barely control their own emotions, realised they had started something that went beyond personal accomplishment.
Tareque and Catherine’s later project Matir Moina was of course a more personal project. Being largely biographical, it revealed Tareque’s unusual childhood, growing up in a madrasa and being exposed to all kinds of dualities–religious superstition along with rational theological debates, intense patriotism and insidious opportunism. Despite the initial ban on the film, the excitement the couple experienced when it started winning prestigious awards internationally including the FIPRESCI International Critic’s Prize in Cannes Film Festival 2002, could not be dampened. The film was also the official Oscar submission from Bangladesh. The couple had helped to get international recognition for their country through their film, no small achievement for any filmmaker.
Other feature films they made together include Ontorjatra, a film about finding one’s roots after leaving one’s homeland for many years and Runway, about the moving tale about Bangladeshi migrant workers.
Their work leaves no doubt of their deep commitment to their work and most importantly, their country and its people.
The duo’s latest project was Kagojer Phool (The Paper Flower). They had been planning to make the film since the release of Matir Moina in 2002. Based on a story on the partition of 1947, Kagojer Phool was to be a prequel to Matir Moina.
It was for choosing location for this film that they went to Saljana village of Shibalaya upazila in Manikganj yesterday. Death parted them when their microbus collided with a bus on Dhaka-Aricha highway.
As we mourn the death of Tareque Masud, a vibrant, eloquent and charismatic personality and talented artiste, we can only pray that his bereft partner Catherine, fighting for her life in a city hospital, will survive to raise their only child.
That rare partnership that bound two lives so intricately is no more. Their endeavours to bring out the complexities and beauty of Bangladesh, however, will remain immortalised in their films.

-With The Daily Star input

 

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