Just as the celebrated Urdu poet Rumi once said, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I'll meet you there.” Maybe after centuries, another poet and creative genius from a faraway land provided us with a similar feeling.
Only this time it was ‘beyond caste and religion’. How Lalon questioned through his songs and at the same time gifted us a way of salvation is nothing but admirable.
As the 131st death anniversary of the great man is being observed, FE takes a look into some films that tried to capture the essence of Fakir Lalon Shah’s works, life, and aura. Combining Bangladesh and India’s directors’ efforts.
Lalon Fakir (1972)
During the immediate post-war period, a Bangladeshi and Bangla language film was made by Syed Hasan Imam to present Lalon as a person and also an artist.
Uzzal, Kabori, Anwar Hossain acted in this film. Kabori received the ‘Bachsas Award’ for her acting brilliance. This Award is recognised as the first Bangladeshi Award which was introduced right after the liberation war.
This was the first cinema about Lalon, but before that, theatrical dramas were made. Borrowing from those plays, the director took his inspiration for this film. Askar Ibne Shaikh was the playwright and also the script-writer for it.
Though two copies of this film are preserved in the Bangladesh Film Archive, this film is not available online. A video song of the film is found on youtube titled- ‘Okul Doriyae Bhase Tori Tolmol.’
Lalon Fakir (1987)
With having the same name as the previous film, this one is from the other side of Bangla or as we may call it ‘Opar Bangla.’ Directed and dialogues written by Shakti Chatterjee, story generated by Manmatha Roy- this drama film named ‘Lalon Fakir’ emphasised the transition of Lalon shah between different religions and places. It picturised how he started his life as a Hindu and then with the turn of unexpected events, lived with a Muslim family for a long time.
Achin Pakhi (1996)
Always taking interest in Lalon Shah’s creations, in the year 1996, Bangladeshi filmmaker Tanbhir Mokammel directed this documentary film based on Lalon Shah’s life.
He called this a journey to find the story of Lalon and his Achin Pakhi (The Unknown Bird) that makes its entrance in the song ‘Khanchar Bhetor Achin Pakhi Kemne Ashe Jay.’ While this song is played in the background, the strings of ektara playing beautifully in the opening shot of this film hold its melody.
This one-hour film includes traditional Putulnach scenes (Puppet dance) from the district of Nadiya and through this medium, the whole story of Lalon’s Life is told. Relation between a river and Baul people has been also shown in this film.
It does not only reflect Lalon himself, but also the whole Baul community and their lifestyle. The atmosphere of Rural Bangladesh is directly connected to Bauls as they roam around the village streets.
After his documentary film, Tanbhir Mokammel also made a feature film on Lalon, keeping his name itself as the title of the film. This film got released in 2004. It was rewarded 29th National Film Award in the best director’s category.
Veteran actors like Raisul Islam Asad, Shomi Kaiser, Azad Abul Kalam, Ramendu Majumdar, and Wahida Mollick Jolly acted in this film. Raisul Islam Asad played the character of Lalon Shah beautifully. And the most authentic part is that the music of this film was mostly done by the Baul artists of Lalon Akhra.
While telling a story about Lalon, what can be more genuine than keeping his followers tagged along? The director surely realised and represented the genuineness in his both films.
Moner Manush (2010)
This film mostly focused on the philosophical lanes of Lalon Shah’s mind and how mysteriously yet transparently he represented his wisdom and thoughts. With this attractive contradiction, Lalon’s persona comes out with efficient acting and expressing skill of Prasenjit Chatterjee.
Paoli Dam, another skilful actress of the Indian Bangla film industry, played her role quite expressively. Their chemistry on the scene succeeded to bring out the mystic vibe of Fakir Lalon Shah’s life story.
Gautam Ghose directed this film and brought out a taste of uniqueness while showing the vulnerabilities of Lalon. He took an adaptation of a novel ‘Moner Manush’ written by Sunil Gangopadhyay. This film stands more than a biopic of Lalon and takes us back into some unexplored memory lanes.
Andho Nirangam (2010)
This title was borrowed from a song by Lalon Shah. ‘Chitta Mondotomo Andho Nirangam’- these are the people who apparently have decided to walk in Baul life and yet are not sure about the decision.
The person who is standing far away from the road, Lalon called them ‘Nirangam’ (Deviated) and they somehow seemed ‘Andho’ (Blind) to his conscience.
This film was directed by Bangladeshi director Hasibur Reza Kallol in the year 2010. The director achieved Telecine Award and Bangladesh Cultural Reporters’ Association Award.
Filmmakers explore things and persons differently and find out different story angles. Not too many films have been made about or on Lalon Shah, but these films will always be the footprints for future filmmakers to bring new ones.