October 18, 2004


Nobody thought this would happen although there were some warning calls. In a country where cinema viewer ship hangs below 20% of the population cinema is not a big industry. About 300 cinemas across the country have closed down with the Bangladesh film industry shrinking to half in terms of investment and revenue in the last three years (source). This has caused thousands of job losses and more to go.

The number of cinema-goers in the capital declined to 250,000 a week from 900,000 half a decade ago. Some cinemas manage to exist by screening low quality imported films and local films interspersed with porn film footage. Many cinemas run only for one or two days a week. Even then, these barely sell half their seats. The decline in urban viewer ship is due to low quality scripts, poor performance, outdated technical facilities, vulgarism and copycat movies. The copying chain is as follows : - Hollywood -- > Bollywood -- > Dhaliwood (as they call Dhaka movie industry). In the recent decade Bengali cinema are being targeted only for low educated audiences like day-laborer, Rickshaw pullers, village farmers etc. With vulgar titles and sexy posters these movies attract those people with a view to give them some cheap entertainment. Did you ever wonder why the Bengali Cinema actresses keep on gaining their weight? On public demand. For the poor a fatty figure represents wealth and prosperity; something they earn to become. So they prefer a fatty figure rather than a slim one. These cinemas contain some vulgar dances and acts, which are just short of some porn act. Surprisingly the rightwing Islamic parties are silent against the spread of such vulgarism in films. The village cinema viewer ship is increasing because of the attraction of the vulgarism.

The only respite for the more cultured audiences are some short films and a few good quality cinemas (because of lack of investment contemplating poor return –it’s a vicious cycle), which fail to attract many to the cinema Theatres.

Despite many efforts like government grants for good quality films, the trend of the cinema industry is towards commercial vulgarism, which are making urban people turn their back on cinema theatres. For them the Cable TV and rented CDs are better sources of entertainment. The video piracy is in its heights in Bangladesh and you can buy a pirated DVD of a current Hollywood or Bollywood blockbuster with only $1.5. The cable TV channels screen these pirated movies whole day. These are also a reason of the downfall of the industry. I see no hope for this industry in recent times.


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