Once upon a time in Dacca 2
Recap: we are making a war movie largely set in the occupied Dacca of 1971; the opening chapter — ‘… strike terror in their hearts…’ — is in Major Khaled Mosharraf’s headquarter; the second chapter — রুখতে হবে জাতীয়তাবাদের ফাঁকা বুলি — is set in the heady days of March, focussing on Babul Chowdhury, a young radical teacher of DU.
This post lays out the opening scene, and then discusses the third chapter.
The opening scene
Monsoon evening. Rained earlier. Wet trees. Mud. But now the moon is coming up. Tents. A city of tents. Refugee camps as far as the eye can see. Refugees. Clinic. Food depot. Armed young men. An armed man picks up a flower from the mud. The young man enters Major Khaled’s office.
In the background we hear: হিমালয় থেকে সুন্দরবন, হঠাত বাংলাদেশ…
We begin in Maj Gen Rao Farman Ali’s office — juxtaposition against the makeshift head quarter of the Mukti Bahini commander. Ali is pacing in the room. There are three other uniformed men, and three civilians. Two of the civilians are bearded, but no moustache — one of them is in his 50s, the other is much younger.
Ali thunders: a dozen attack in the past week alone, especially when the foreigners are in town. The dialogue in this chapter is mostly in English/Urdu/Punjabi.
The younger bearded man says, in Bangla-accented Urdu: our men are fighting the traitors everywhere.
One of the uniformed men says in Punjabi: your dogs bite everything, and just pisses people off about Pakistan (this will involve colourful Punjabi invectives).
The older bearded man says, in better Urdu: we only kill the traitors and their collaborators, perhaps if the army officers were as imbued in the spirit of jihad as us, things would have been better.
Ali, in Urdu: If you men stopped bitching about like Bengali shrews, things would be better. (Turning to a uniformed man in the corner and switching to English) This is a job for CUTIA (pronounced কুতিয়া).
As we see this man’s face, we hear the Punjabi officer make another offensive wordplay involving the female canine and Bengalis.
The man is Major Amjad Khan of Pakistan army intelligence’s Clandestine Unit for Tracking Insurgency Activities.
(To be continued)
Credit: The opening scene is inspired by a passage from Jahanara Imam’s একাত্তুরের দিনগুলি where Azam Khan is said to have recited the poem in the Melaghar camps; C-U-T-I-A is from Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children; any resemblance to anyone living or dead is fully intended, with no apologies offered.