Reliving, archiving the thrill of Bangladesh’s 1971 liberation war

New Delhi, April 14 (IANS) The names of Debdulal Bandyopadhyay and Nilima Sanyal may not ring a bell with today’s generation, but they were hugely popular in India and the then East Pakistan during 1971 with thousands tuning in to listen to them on AIR for the latest developments in the runup to the war of liberation that led to birth of Bangladesh.

As the news updates on AIR are a part of Bangladesh’s treasured history, Dhaka has requested New Delhi for the tapes of the newsreaders whose every syllable was heard with rapt attention during the nine-month war in which India played a crucial role.

“Akashvani (AIR) played a major role in the liberation war. The names of Debdulal Bandyopadhyay and Nilima Sanyal were familiar and popular in every Bangla household. I have requested if AIR has the records of their news reading, they should give us copies. We will preserve them in digitized format in our archives as a tribute,” Bangladesh Information and Broadcasting Minister Hasanul Haq Inu told IANS in an interview here.

The archival records of AIR would show “how India stood by Bangladesh during the war”, said Inu, who has discussed the issue with his Indian counterpart Manish Tewari and with Jawhar Sircar, chief of national broadcaster Prasar Bharti.

“The records would show how Indira Gandhi spoke in the Lok Sabha in favour of Bangladesh, how she spoke to Russia and other countries.. All those who spoke in favour of Bangladesh, sang songs, gave slogans, we want their contribution in digitized format for our archives,” said Inu.

Another proposal to etch in memory the liberation war is a major film or a television series, in which the role played by Indira Gandhi and Bangladesh’s mentor, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, would be brought to life as well as that of others, said Inu, who was here on a visit.

“One crore people (from then East Pakistan) took refuge in India.. how India looked after them, the role of the Mukti Bahini (Liberation Army)., the role of women, the role of Indian soldiers.. One mega feature film or a serial on the liberation war, not just for Bangladesh but for the whole of India. This would help show the contribution of even a soldier from Kerala or Kashmir to the war,” said Inu.

Both sides have agreed to consider a joint collaboration for producing the film, he said.

“A panel of experts from both countries will need to research on the subject. We will need cooperation of different government departments of both countries,” he added.

The proposal from Inu, who heads the Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal which is part of the Sheikh Hasina-led government, comes at a time when Bangladesh is honouring those who majorly contributed to the war of independence. The Shahbag movement also epitomises the strong sentiment of Bangla nationalism among the people.

Taking Bengali cohesion another step forward, Inu has proposed tapping the market of “35 crore” Bengalis in the world though Bangla films.

“There are 35 crore Bangalis – 16 crore in Bangladesh, 10 crore in West Bengal and the rest scattered in Tripura, Bihar and other states and across the world. We would target the Bangla audience through films on entertainment, cultural and social issues,” he said.

Filmmakers should tap this huge market, in the way of Marathi and Hindi films, with films of happiness and sadness, he added.

State-owned television channels in both countries – Doordarshan and Bangladesh TV also known as BTV – are also to ink an MoU to telecast each others content. A documentary television serial on Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore is being worked on by both countries.

India has already made 13 episodes, while Bangladesh is making six episodes, which would be ready in June.

According to Inu, India has requested that the documentaries be simultaneously telecast on DD and BTV.

While Indian TV serials, especially the saas-bahu soaps, are very popular in Bangladesh, the high downlinking fees charged by India is keeping away Bangladesh telecasters from showing them on their channels.

Inu has suggested that SAARC countries be allowed special concession in downlinking fees which would lower the costs.

(Ranjana Narayan can be contacted at [email protected]

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