Standing on the shoulders of giants

Enayetullah Khan
Saturday, August 19th, 2017

Tareque Masud (left) and Mishuk Munier. Photo: Facebook Tareque Masud Memorial


The loss the country in general, and its cultural arena in particular, suffered this past week is potentially irreparable, because giants such as Tareque Masud and Ashfaque Munier (or Mishuk, as he was fondly known to everyone) don’t come along often. They were the sort of partnership that a nation stumbles upon maybe once in a generation, and for a country like ours, burdened as it is with a variety of factors that act to undermine human endeavour, the intervals are even greater. Indeed, as we have seen, four decades of independence has yielded only one truly world-class partnership in the field of the moving image, and now we have managed to lose both halves of it at once.


The Fipresci for Maatir Moyna at Cannes confirmed this, if one needed such confirmation, but for those who knew them personally, as I did, merely their presence was enough to confirm that you were not in normal company. The canvas on which their thoughts and ideas and ambitions played out was bigger, to accommodate a vision that was not confined within the limits of the society they lived in. Tareque dwelled extensively on the past, the present and the future of the film industry in Bangladesh, finding in Catherine the most perfect partner with whom to wage his battles in their own unique manner. The last few occasions that I spent with them were spent talking about the possibility of digitally archiving the endangered output from the 1950s, Sixties and Seventies of the film industry in what was first East Pakistan and then the formative years of Bangladesh. He drew his wealth of knowledge that allowed him to talk through the night on folk culture through endless travels throughout the length and breadth of the country, his thirst never satiated by the ocean he found. He made films taking his own sweet time perhaps, but that is why they always had the stamp of authenticity in them. What made him so special was that he was one of those true artists, who you can tell from their work because nothing in them ever feels contrived.


In Mishuk, Tareque found (or rather they found each other) a talent who could do justice to his grand vision. Quite comfortably the most assured hand to operate a camera in independent Bangladesh, he found his calling in journalism, and made his name working with organisations such as the BBC and National Geographic. I still remember his phone call from Canada to me, in the latter half of 2010, to inform me that he was coming home to take charge over at ATN News. Having known him since he was 7 or 8, I knew there could be no better man at the helm for the country’s first 24-hour news channel. He has already contributed so much to the field of journalism in Bangladesh, having moulded “with his own two hands” some of the leading lights in the broadcast media today. The outpouring of grief we have witnessed at his demise is not one bit misplaced. If anything, as his loss takes its toll, the grief is still to come. A son of the martyred intellectual Munier Chowdhury, who lived in the same lane as we did in the Sixties, he was a patriot at heart, but he never wore it on his sleeve.


I would rather not get into the circumstances of their death, the tragic state of our communications network, and whose fault it was or wasn’t. It was only a matter of time before one of these daily events on our roads and highways took away the sort of life that draws the attention of the whole nation towards the problem. Having worked in the news industry over four decades, I have seen first hand how our indifference towards daily reports of trucks falling into ditches and buses colliding has grown, till assuming a disconcerting numbness. Dhaka Courier has still tried to keep the issue at the forefront of the news agenda, and the topic has graced our cover twice in recent times, most recently our issue dated May 20, 2011. Everyone knows what the problems are. They are immense, but they are hardly intractable. We know what can be done to turn the situation around. There now seems to be the kind of atmosphere being built finally, that may result in the authorities being forced to take the steps necessary to turn things around. Let’s hope the deaths of Tareque and Mishuk, so unfortunate, so untimely, so needless, are at least not useless as well.


It is the least the country can do for two of the few giants who graced it, and by doing so vindicated it.


Enayetullah Khan is Editor in Chief, United News of Bangladesh (UNB) and Dhaka Courier.

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