Dallywood – The Film Industry in Bangladesh

Although no documentation exists to confirm it, it has been said that the film industry in Bangladesh was started by a touring theater company owned by John Stevens. He apparently visited Bangladesh between the years 1896 and 1897 to show the first motion pictures in the country. But more likely the firm industry in Bangladesh began with the opening of the Bredford Bioscope Company that started showing films on 24 April 1898. Between 1913 and 1914 a permanent cinema called the Picture House was opened – and after that there was no stopping the film industry in Bangladesh and the creation of Dhallywood.

Dhallywood, also known as Dallywood, is located in the film capital of Bangladesh, Dhaka. It is here that ninety percent of all Bangladesh movies are made and where the Bangladeshi film industry has grown to such an extent that it produces approximately a hundred movies annually. Interestingly, before Bangladesh gained its independence from India on 16 December 1979 most Bengali films were made in Calcutta and East Pakistan. However, after 1979 the film industry in Bangladesh started gaining momentum and was releasing almost fifty movies per year. In the 1990’s the number of movies slowly started to increase to almost ninety.

Recently, the Bangladesh film industry has started suffering its own economic woes as audiences turn to home entertainment, satellite feeds and international movies. This decrease in local support for the Dhallywood films is said to be due to tasteless movies that are of vulgar content and are filled with excessive violence. The fight against these movies has led to strikes in the past to show their disapproval of the so-called “celluloid smut”. Actors and actresses are also demanding that humiliating and unacceptable scenes in the movies should be cut, and many refuse to act in these films, causing heated debates and fights between directors and the Bangladeshi stars. Although the battle against questionable production movie makers is ongoing, there have been a few movies that have caught the eye of the international film industry and received nominations.

Directors such as Tanvir Mokammel, Zahir Raihan and Mumayun Ahmed have received great acclaim for their outstanding directing abilities. Films such as “Matir Moina”, directed by Tareque Masud, received an Academy Award Nomination for Best Foreign Language Film in the year 2003; followed by the Humayan Ahmed film “Shyamol Chaya” in 2006 and in 2007, “Nirontor” by Abu Sayeed was nominated.

Many film societies have been created over the last few years that strive to enhance the quality of Bangladeshi films and the entire Bangladesh film industry. They work towards educating movie makers on the latest technologies, helping writers improve their scripts and trying to gain respect for the film industry in Bangladesh.