Film distributors and cinema owners in Bangladesh have retaliated against popular actor Shakib Khan, who led protests against the screening of Indian movies in the country, by slapping a ban on all the films that he appears in.
Khan was not alone in his protest. Many Bangladeshi film actors, directors and production workers participated in a campaign against Bollywood movies being shown for fear that it will collapse the already crippled local film industry. At the time of the protests, Indian actor Salman Khan’s “Wanted” movie was released for the first time in Bangladesh in 60 cinema theatres.
They ended their protest at the end of January after getting assurance from the government that no more Indian movies would be imported.
Distributors and cinema owners defended their decision to show Bollywood films, saying not enough people see Bengali movies while Indian movies draw a bigger crowd and keep them in business. The decline in Bangladesh’s homegrown film industry has prompted the closure of more than a thousand cinemas in the past decade. At one point, nearly 100 movies were made each year; now there are only 30-40. (Read a Global Voices report for more information)
Bangladesh has had a legal prohibition on Indian films dating back to a brief war between India and Pakistan in 1965, when Bangladesh was part of Pakistan. The government briefly lifted the ban in 2010, caving to the demands of the struggling cinemas. But officials quickly reinstated it following furious protests by local actors and directors, who claimed the Bangladesh film industry was at risk from the imports.
To save the struggling movie industry and bring back audiences to the theatres, the government had again lifted the ban in 2015.
Meanwhile, Shakib Khan, the actor whose were banned in retaliation, wrote on Facebook: To destroy a country the first step you will take is to destroy its culture. By deciding to release Bollywood films in Bangladeshi theatres, a a group of conspirators is planning to destroy the country.
Facebook user Kallol Mustafa thought that by importing Indian movies, the imperialisation of the Hindi language and Indian culture will be enforced: I am not against importing foreign films. I would rather want Bangladeshis to be able to watch quality movies from all over the world. But here the screening of Indian movies are being promoted only for commercial reasons. So the commercial interests will only look for commercial movies to import which will make quick money. In the process the movie industry of the country will lose not being able to compete with big budget Hindi movies and the cultural imperialism will be established.
Wahid Ibne Reza also protested the screening of Indian films: We have our local stories to tell on big screens in the theatres. Nobody should be allowed to take this away from us.
Blogger Himu had a more logical approach to the problem — dubbing them in Bangla: The official languages of Bangladesh are Bangla and English. If any cinema owner wants to earn money with screening foreign films, they should dub the films — that should be the law. Also, this dubbing should be done inside the country — that should be added.
Journalist and blogger Rezaur Rahman Rizvi was in favour of not importing any foreign film. However, blogger Ekush Tapader opined that films from all over the world should be imported: When the copycat producers say that they will stop making films if films from a particular country are screened, I think that’s a boon for the country. I want to watch movies from all countries, of all language.
Facebook user Pritom Ahmed mentioned that some movies made in Bangladesh are copies of Bollywood movie scripts and songs. Bangladesh actors even adopt the family name Khan as their screen name, copying a trend of Bollywood up-and-coming actors who do so to emulate megastars like Salman Khan and Shahrukh Khan: Before banning Indian movies in this country, please stop adding “Khan” as the title of the actor mimicking Bollywood. When you are copying them from head to toe, how can you fight them?
Facebook page Dhallywood Karcha echoed Pritom’s statement: They have immense hatred of Bollywood films and protest against importing them. But why are the majority of their films copies of Indian movies? Why they did not even try to change that? Is this protest happening now because it will expose them? Or they don’t want to invest the time and money into producing unique and quality movies?
Journalist and blogger Mahbub Morshed wrote: You cannot impede the Indian entertainment imperialism by blocking TV channels and cinemas or through the poor performing Film Development Corporation. The days of protecting a bunch of idiots in the name of protecting our own market have come to an end. Lets do something new.