A very Deshi thriller
বাংলাদেশে কি প্রাইভেট ডিটেকটিভ বস্তুটার কোন বাস্তব উদাহরণ আছে? একটা লোক ফট্ করে প্রাইভেট ডিটেকটিভ বলে ভিজিটিং কার্ড ছাপিয়ে ফেলতে পারলেও প্র্যাক্টিসের লাইসেন্স পায় কী না সেই বিষয়ক আইনকানুন অস্পষ্ট। রাষ্ট্রের বেতনভুক গোয়েন্দারা যেসব রহস্যের সমাধান করছেন তার খুব বেশী ডিটেলস জনগণ জানতে পারছেন না। সেখানে আমলাতন্ত্র আর চলমান রাজনীতির দৌরাত্ম্য ছাপিয়ে নতুন করে কোন ফেলুদাটেলুদা হালে পানি পাবে না বা পাওয়ানো মুশ্কিল। এই সমস্যাগুলি ফেলুদা-ব্যোমকেশদের আমলে ছিল না এমন না। কিন্তু শরদিন্দু বা সত্যজিত রায়রা সৃষ্টিশীল লেখনীতে সেগুলি ম্যানেজ করেছেন। এখন পরিস্থিতি এমন যে, যেই উড়ে মালি এইসব মুস্কিল আসান করতে যাবেন ঠিকঠাক মতো, তার প্রাণসঙ্কটের সম্ভাবনাও উড়িয়ে দেওয়া যাচ্ছে না।
Over the fold is where I’ve got to so far.
As Sumon Chowdhury says, a Feluda-Byomkesh style ‘civilian detective’ isn’t going to go far in today’s Bangladesh. And I don’t think our policemen make believable heroes. Nor am I particularly interested in creating a military hero serving a security state.
But then again, why do we need a hero? What about anti-heroes, or at least, heroes with dark sides. Well, if the readership is primarily impressionable youth, then clearly we don’t want too much dark stuff (unless you are Philip Pullman). But I am not going to bother with the kids. This is bare-knuckle adult stuff.
James Bond then? No, not quite. We have had Masud Rana for nearly 50 years now. And I don’t want to simply rewrite foreign thrillers in Bangla. But I do want uniformed folks with less-than-unblemished record involved in some gruesome stuff.
I will set my scene in the middle of the last decade, in the second half of the second Khaleda Zia government. That was a time of assassination, jihadi terror and corruption scandals — the stuff of great terror. In this country returns an heiress — let’s call her Fariha Tabassum. Having spent most of her 30 years in England, except for holidays, Dhaka is a foreign city to her. But there is no ‘Wow! Cool!’ moment for her in Banani Rd 11. You see, she has a few secrets to uncover, and avenge a few tragedies — something like the Khuku-Munir case or Salman Shah suicide perhaps. Of course she isn’t satisfied with the official police investigations.
Enter Naeem Mustafa. Naeem is also a foreign-returnee, from across the Atlantic. He is a hard drinking, smooth talking, womanising 40 something who looks 15 years younger, with a string of failed relationships (including two marriages — back stories are important). He was also one of the sharpest FBI agent of the 1990s. But his career came to a practical shutter after 9/11, and he decided to return to Dhaka to make a new life. Think of Ifti Islam or Zafar Iqbal, but in the world of private investigation — that’s our Naeem.
Fariha and Naeem are introduced by Barrister Farah Mehrunnisa, a leading corporate lawyer with political ambition. She is also the connection to our other story line, involving retired and serving military men.
First of this is Col Rumi Khan (ret). I am in two minds about how he should look — 6 ft 2, 120 kg giant with a goatee and bald head (which is what the guy who inspired the character looks like), or an otherwise non-descript man with the coldest and frighteningly piercing eyes one can have (which will go better with the character). Col Rumi is a freedom fighter and witness to many seminal events of the 1970s and 1980s. He was sent overseas by the caretaker administration of Justice Shahabuddin, and forcibly retired by the one of Justice Habibur Rahman. He set up Drishtipat Consultancy with one Shujon Saleh — we don’t really know anything about this character at the moment, I’ll keep his back story as the deus ex machina for tricky situations — in the late 1990s, ostensibly providing security services to rich businessmen or expatriates, but really doing the government’s dirty work. You see, he knows the secrets of both sides, so no one really messes with him.
Rumi is often (but not always) instructed by the government through an unnamed former CSP officer. This guy has served loyally every government from Mujib down to Hasina. In the bureaucratic circle, he is referred to simply as Sir, even by people like Kamal Siddiqui, Akbar Ali Khan or HT Imam. All we see is Col Rumi having cups of tea with Sir, whose desk has a very expensive pen holder or paper weight or such like, with the words video et taceo engraved on it.
In this story, Sir tells Rumi to keep an eye on Naeem’s investigations for Fariha. The truth should come out and the guilty should be punished — but a balance needs to be struck because the whole truth will destroy the country’s fragile political equilibrium as we were hurling down to 1/11.
Rumi is somewhat annoyed because his firm has just received a major contract to supply equipment (formally, informal tasks include provide mercenary services) in the newly formed RAB’s fight against the jihadis. Rumi sees his young self in Major Zafar Salman of RAB, and takes him in as his protege.
So, how do the two story lines meet? I am not sure yet, but it will involve Asif Nasrullah. A university drop out, he tangoed with the Neerus and Bablus and Ovis and Ilyas Alis in the 1980s. Nowadays he describes his work as দিনের বেলায় আরতদাড়ি, রাইতে চোরাকারবারী, সারাদিন পেজগী মারি, which makes him sweet several lakh a week. He is into everything, from daal to dyl. He is also a bit of a Baker bhai meet Amitabh Bachchan in the 1970s movie.
So, that’s our cast. No heroes, or heroines, as such. But plenty of scope to whip up a very Deshi thriller.