Kingdom of clay subjects

Bangladeshi movies often pick stories centered on urban scenarios thus marginalising life tales of a large population living in rural areas. Kingdom of Clay Subject (2016) tells the tale of a rural Bangladeshi society and its struggle. Underneath the story, there are burning issues like child marriage, dowry as well as eternal mother-son relationship, childhood friendship. Mahfuz Mizan reviews the film on the context of our society.
Clay-559x323‘AFTER we die, our soul is what’s going to be judged, not our body. What we treasure in our heart is everything!’ These were the powerful lines from the movie ‘Matir Projar Deshe’. This movie is known as Kingdom of Clay Subjects in English, a film by Bijon Imtiaz. These lines speak volumes of what the movie actually is about, the story is so simple and innocent yet it has deep underlying themes about the Bangladeshi society along with complex stories which unfold as we go deeper into the movie to tell us a tale of kindness and compassion.

The film which took five long years in making due to several issues including financial problems and death of protagonist’s father during the production. Yet, the movie was completed and after winning ‘Best Film’ award in the Chicago South Asian Film Festival, it had finally arrived in Dhaka theatres. The main cast includes heavyweights such as Jayanta Chattopadhyay, Rokeya Prachy and Kachi Khondoker. The cinematographers Andrew Wesman and Ramshreyas Rao brought out the seamless beauty of rural Bangladesh with its picturesque green fields, the countryside and warm sunshine in the afternoon that surrounded it. The cinematography was aesthetically pleasing which went well with the music and the storyline which was free flowing yet intriguing.

1200x1006-ChicagoThe choice of cast was appropriate as well. The performance of Mahmudur Rahman Anindo who played Jamal on screen was commendable. A ten-year old performing so naturally was a treat to watch, the look on his face even when he was silent at crucial moments, his stares, told a lot of things unknowingly which presented a different mood to the whole movie experience. Chinmoyee Gupta played Jamal’s mother portraying the image of a young single mother perfectly; her expressions and her posture always represented a woman who was trying to do everything for a better life with her son. She was at times serious and at times laughed with her son sharing small moments of happiness, which I feel also shows the character’s innocence is intact and not lost even though the reality of life haunts her. The other seasoned actors who performed with grace apart from these two, namely Rokeya Prachi played the mother of Jamal’s friend Lokkhi. Prachi’s character really struck a chord when wedding off her young daughter to a much more older man and had to explain the concept of the first night with her newlywed husband was really a powerful scene to witness. The dialogues, although well written, sometimes sounded offbeat but the last dialogues in the climax of the movie made up for it. Specifically the way the character Razzak Huzur’s dialogue was executed and the soft speeches that emerged from all these impatient characters all around gave out a different vibe altogether.

The main story revolves around a ten-year old boy Jamal and his single mother who works as a housemaid in a rural village in Bangladesh. The movie starts with Jamal and his best friend Lokkhi (Sheuli Akhter) as they play together all day and plan to visit the village fair, however everything changes for Jamal as she gets married off at an early age and Jamal struggles to recover from his loneliness. The tale, however, later transcends from a simple story about two children into a bigger, more complex story of life in the rural areas, the unknotting of the fabrics of our society and the several challenges one might face from certain social class.

The unfolding of the story and each of its turning points, revealing the character’s personality in the movie must be experienced by the audience themselves or else the movie can be spoiled. Hence, I believe this is the movie’s strong point as well as its weakness. Apart from this the movie did not specify about the timeline of the story, this didn’t bother me but yet it was in the back of my mind all the time. However, the film had a clear narrative and it also had different elements which I believe was positive, it broke the stereotype of portraying religious characters in a bad light in Bangladeshi cinemas. Razzak Huzur, one of the characters in the film, was an Islamic religious priest who was progressive and had an open mind.

The movie dealt with issues such as dowry, child marriage, right to education, child labour among others and not once did it seem like any form of public service announcement rather these issues were spread throughout the story. I personally thought the issue the movie covered most was how vulnerable women and children are in this society and how they are treated. I feel that the message had to be put across and thank to the filmmaker for working with an issue which was the need of the hour.

Mahfuz Mizan is a student of University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh.

 

 

 

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