Mujib: The Making of a Nation★★★★☆4/5Director:Shyam BenegalCast:Ariffin Shuvoo Nusrat Imroz Tisha Nusraat Faria Mazhar
Indians are aware of the historic 1971 war with Pakistan that resulted in the formation of Bangladesh and ended the decades-long struggle of the Bengalis. However, not many know about the Urdu-Bengali conflict and the tyrannical subjugation of a people despite their superior numerical strength. Veteran director Shyam Benegal’s ‘Mujib: The Making of a Nation’ delves into all of this by narrating the tale of a leader who identified himself with the Bangla cause.
The Indian-Bangladeshi co-produced biographical film depicts different aspects of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s (Ariffin Shuvoo) life from his wife Renu’s (Nusrat Imroz Tisha) perspective. The audience gets a glimpse into Mujib’s boyhood, his early steps in politics and his political growth under the tutelage of Huseyn Suhrawardy (Tauquir Ahmed). The film’s main focus is on the innumerable tussles between what was then called West Pakistan and its eastern counterpart on socio-political issues and the question of the national language.
It further portrays the formulation of a six-point programme demanding greater autonomy for the East and the eventual liberation war against Pakistan—fought jointly by the Mukti Bahini and the Indian army. The narration concludes with the post-independence period and the coup of August 15, 1975 when he and his family were assassinated.
The director’s mastery over his craft is apparent in the very first scene where an aerial shot and a timely song capture the mood of a relieved Mujib, travelling by air to his newly liberated homeland. The makers deserve credit for infusing life into well-known historical facts, making it a compelling watch. The film is also praiseworthy for portraying Mujib’s secular credentials and its objective depiction of facts — disputed areas such as the death of Suhrawardy and the final tragedy are portrayed without any hint of propaganda.
However, with a running time of 178 minutes, the film runs the risk of boring the average non-Bangladeshi audience. The Mukti Bahini, which played a pivotal role in the liberation struggle, deserves more screen presence. The narrative could have been more critical, especially when it comes to the post-1971 period when Mujib made questionable decisions such as changing the constitution and imposing a single-party system.
Ariffin is extraordinary in his portrayal of Mujib and brings dignity and composure to his character. Nusrat Tisha impresses as the heroine while Tauquir Ahmed’s striking resemblance to Suhrawardy is impossible to miss. Shantanu Moitra’s music provides the narrative with the necessary impetus at critical junctures.
Cut-off box – Hindi Bengali (Theatres) Director:Cast:A Rating: 4/5
(Published 27 October 2023, 21:16 IST)