Dhallywood - the next Bollywood?

by Guest Blogger Zayed Rizwan

With a population of 164 million, it is perhaps not surprising that Bangladesh has an enormous number of content consumers, and of course, content creators to fill that need. The Bangladeshi Film Industry, known as ‘Dhallywood’, has been a significant player in the international film market since the early 1970s, with globally acclaimed directors such as Fateh Lohani, Zahir Raihan, Khan Ataur Rahman, Amitabh Reza, and Mostafa Sarwar Faruqi leading the way to world class Bangla Language movies.
Dhallywood (Named after Dhaka and Hollywood) hit its stride in the 80s and 90s, with big hits like Beder Meye Josna, Shami Kano Ashami, and Qayamat Theke Qayamat. All the hit movies at that time were social drama or romantic genres. In late 90s however, business declined due to the death of superstars Salman Shah and Sohel Rahman, and as a result, the Bangladeshi Mafia took over the industry. The government pulled out of all kinds of financial incentives, which almost crippled the industry. But Dhallywood recovered slightly with the popularity of the actor Manna, who became a superstar, but then died of a heart attack suddenly in 2008, to the public’s shock. His legacy was sustained by Shakib Khan, who starred in back to back superhits from 2011 to 2016, including King Khan, Hero, Shikari, Love Marriage, Full And Final, and Amar Praner Priya

It was the release of Aynabaaji in 2016, however, that changed the dimension of Dhallywood.
A crime thriller produced by Gousul Alam under the banner ‘Content Matters Production’, proved that Dhallywood is not only about sophomoric love stories, but also about quality film-making. The debut film of director Amitabh Reza Chowdhury, the film starred Chanchal Chowdhury, Masuma Rahman Nabila and Partha Barua. Rafi Hossain of The Daily Star described it as "an instant blockbuster hit". It did a record 91 shows in 10 days - the highest number for any Bangladeshi film - and with an occupancy record of 98.89%, it collected BDT 20.3 million (USD 240,000) in its first eight weeks. Aynabaji received positive reviews from the critics as well as the audience. Zahid Akbar from The Daily Star said "The film provides the viewers with an empathic view to its characters, which is coupled with brilliant storytelling making the audience wanting more." He praised the film for its story, cast, Chanchal Chowdhury's performance, and "impeccable" cinematography, but criticized the film for being too long. The film won six awards at the Bangladeshi National Film awards, was screened at Marché du Film at 69th annual Cannes Film Festival, where it scored well, and had a limited release in theaters in the United States, France, Canada and Australia. 

Other filmmakers soon followed Aynabaaji’s lead, and Dhaka
Attack was massively hyped and attracted the attention of the corporate companies who saw a business advantage in marketing and began investing in Dhallywood. The film critics are predicting a massive upturn in the industry with the forthcoming movies Mission Extreme, Mrittupuri - Kill Zone, Rickshaw Girl, Saturday Afternoon, and Password. Dhallywood has always welcomed co-productions and has successfully co-produced films with India, Iran, Germany, Australia and England (including Agnee 2, Nabab, Saturday Afternoon, Mrittupuri - Kill Zone, Din the Day). As more corporate companies get involved in Dhallywood, the industry is expected to soon reach the heights of Bollywood.

There are 3 major film festivals in Dhallywood: 1) Dhaka International Film Festival (www.dhakafilmfestival.org); 2) Independent and Shorts Festival (isiff-bd.org); and 3) The Children’s Film Festival (https://filmfreeway.com/ICFFBangladesh). The prominent streaming services where Dhallywood movies can be watched are Bongobd (www.bongobd.com) and Bioscopelive (www.bioscopelive.com).

About the author: Zayed Rizwan is a Bangladeshi director who moved to Australia in 2003 to study Film and TV, as there was no proper media education facility available in Bangladesh at that time. After Graduating from Griffith University, Zayed completed his internship with Warner Bros Studios and started working as a freelance director in Music Videos and TVCs. Soon he started to work as an Assistant Director in various TV shows and in 2016 directed his first feature film Mrittupuri - Kill Zone featuring prominent Bangladeshi actors Arifin Shuvoo and Taskin Rahman. In 2018 he directed the successful webseries Aghat -Call for Jihad for an Indian web platform. 

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