Aynabaji: Mirror, mirror, on the wall…

Shahriar Feroze
Thursday, November 10th, 2016


It’s the one hot potato which has brought our movie making industry at the fore after sometime – Aynabaji. In fact, this reviewer would give full credit to the audience for promoting it off the beaten track. So viral had become the gossip surrounding it that as soon as I landed in Dhaka, the next day I hit the Cineplex and was not disappointed.


The film portraying a failed actor Sharafat Karim Ayna (Chanchal Chowdhury) gifted with natural talents for acting is a man of versatile character, capable of morphing manually into anyone he wants. It’s the story about how he chooses to employ this rare talent to save criminals from going behind the bars by faking their identity and attendance in court. Besides, it’s also the story of a grief stricken crime reporter’s agony to fail expose an imposter actor topped with lively glimpses about the dark side of our metropolitan city.


However, lucky twice – for saving a culprit businessman and a mentally imbalanced youth, Ayna’s stock-in-trade was running smooth until a senior crime reporter (Partha Barua) bumped into him. Though manages to function by evading him but flowing events eludes Ayna to fall in love with the new girl within his neighbourhood (Masuma Rahman Nabila). Nevertheless, bitten by moral scruples he decides to change and disconnects himself by throwing the SIM card in the midst of Buriganga. Plans to leave for Sylhet with his new found love in search of a new beginning but fate interrupts with a different plan designed for him.


It’s the same old truth – once landed in the underground, it’s painstaking to break free.


Kidnapped by an accused politician’s hooligans early next morning he was once again offered into the trade of faking. This time a corrupt politician accused for murder.


The hesitant actor first refuses and seeing no option left decides to deliver the illicit proxy once more but the court verdict this time doesn’t allow him unconditional release and instead gives a death sentence by hanging. The criminal politician – cum – apparent big brother disappears into oblivion, Ayna’s agent gets murdered and the noose to be squeezed around his neck is only a matter of time now.


During the final days Ayna is visited by both the crime reporter and the girl he loves but repeatedly rejects their plea to surrender before the court. As luck would have it, he risks one last identity gamble with the lookalike bearded jail sentry he befriends and tricks his way out by fooling the jail authority.


Ayna’s story – carefully weaved with suspense, pure ‘Dhakkaiya’ humour, dark techniques to avoid the legal world and a crime reporter’s endless chase to uncover an imposter makes the movie pleasing. Well in tuned with today’s Dhaka.


A few impractical errors in the making could have been easily avoided, for instance – the exchange of the actual criminal with Ayna from the police van and a private car, understandably, should never had happened out in the open in broad daylight.


Those apart, hat’s off to the film maker Amitav Reza Chowdhury’s laudable direction. Drone usage in local cinematography is also getting more popular these days. The aerial shots of Dhaka got me a break despite knowing how ugly the city is fast changing for real. Particularly, the charm of the old Dhaka is though gone except a few remnants, but the carefully selected locations still echoes the ‘Dhaka that was’.   Still, the blockbuster entirely shot in different parts of Dhaka is likely to draw mush curiosity among the foreign audience. We expect more similar soundtracks from Arnob, Fuad, Habib & the Chirkut Band.


Most significantly, the actors have given their best in a movie which has torn apart the industry stigma of unrealistic and cheap action/romance film making. Chanchal Chowdhury has once again proved real actors runs after careful selection and quality, not quantity and awards.


I have often opined that we should aim more at quality movies with a strong message and Aynabaji has meaningfully symbolised – how crimes are managed and negotiated in real life. From a more journalistic point of view, the movie should have pulled the trigger among the various editors in charge of serving the Bangladesh media industry. The million dollar question here is – what is more important? Keeping the job or doing it better with a sense of professional and social responsibility?


Not only the movie bagged the international award at Seattle but was also screened at the Cannes. The success of Aynabaji sends a strong signal; our movie industry is changing for the better while being more realism oriented and its craftsmanship is upgrading too. The macho guest appearance of Arefin Shuvo should have been more professional following the less ‘dhamaka sentiment’.


On the topic of Aynabaji success, It’s rather confusing why so many of us measure a movie to ‘whether it has been nominated for the Oscar or not’. This argument too, has come up as many created a storm in the tea cup here at Dhaka, but aren’t there a myriad of movies without awards or international recognitions that we are fond of? Drawing huge positive reviews the movie is showing promise of all stakeholders in the industry, but needs a reminder – the industry hasn’t proved consistent on making good movies. The gap in their production and release timeframes hints that we still produce too few good movies per year.


Remember that old saying – a wide screen just makes a bad movie twice as bad but, Aynabaji’s case it became twice as good. As i walked out the Cineplex, a teenager was mocking at a friend by saying ‘Aynabaji bondho kor ‘. The name too, got inside our lingo. That was the unofficial success.


The reviewer is a freelance journalist

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