Matir moina (The Clay Bird) (2002)




Director:     Tareque Masud. 

Starring:     Nurul Islam Bablu (Anu), Russell Farazi (Rokon), Jayanto Chattopadhyay (Kazi), Rokeya Prachy (Ayesha), Soaeb Islam (Milon), Lameesa R. Reemjheem (Asma), Moin Ahmed (Ibrahim), Md. Moslemuddin (Headmaster), Abdul Karim (Halim Mia), Shah Akam Dewan (Boatman), Golam Mahmud (Shaheen), Pradip Mittra Mithun (Uttam), Auyon Chowdhury (3rd Friend), Masud Ali Khan (Khan Bahadur), Manjila Begum (Female Singer- Night Concert).

set in 1971, India intervenes on the side of the Bangladeshis against Pakistan, whose forces surrendered and Bangla Desh ("Country of Bangla") was established



Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

"Until 1971, Bangladesh was the Eastern wing of the greater Islamic state of Pakistan.  This story takes place during the late 1960's, when a democratic movement for general elections was gaining strength in the struggle against military rule.  The subsequent cancellation of the election results and the declaration of martial law by the Pakistan Army led to civil war and the eventual independence of Bangladesh."

Down by the river a teacher shows a student how to brush his teeth.  Students study in school.  The boy Anu is one of the students.  AT his village home, his mother prepares food for the family and his little sister Asma helps her mother.  Anu's father asks his wife for some tea.  Mother asks father for some medicine for Asma who has got the fever again.  Dad says mom shouldn't let Asma play outside so much, but mother answers back that since he sent Anu to madrasa, Asma has had no one to play with.  (A madrasa is a building or group of buildings used for teaching Islamic theology and religious law.  It  typically includes a mosque.)

Anu has his hair cut by a barber.  The barber tells him that for new students, he only cuts their hair once.  Anu will have to cut his own hair from now on. 

In class the teacher asks Anu if he is the new student and he says yes.  The teacher says that Anu is not a proper Islamic name.  His proper name is Anwar. Anwar tells his teacher his father's name is Kazi Mazharul Islam.  So the teacher says the son's new name is Kazi Muhammad Anwarul Islam. 

The boys go to lunch.  A friend tells him that at first Anu will feel bad at the school, but he'll get used to it.  The friend's name is Muhammad Rokonuddin Khan or Rokon for short.  After lunch the boys play out on the lawn.  Some of the students tease him about not knowing the routines of the school. 

Flashback.  Races are held on the river between long boats propelled by canoe paddles.  There is music too.  Anu's father asks the mother why did she let Anu go with Milon to the races?  Dad doesn't like his own brother Milon because he is "Hindu rubbish".  Milon likes to take Anu different places.  When Anu comes home with some candy, Dad takes it from him and throws it outside.  He says he will send his son to madrasa. 

The school area becomes a sleeping place at night.  Someone puts a fish in Rokon's bed roll.  All the kids laugh at the joke because they know how much Rokon hates fish.  Anu asks Rokon why the kids tease him so much, but he doesn't answer. 

Protestors with signs shout:  "Down with Military Dictatorship!"; "Free Political Prisoners!"; and "We want autonomy!"

Anu's father is going on pilgrimage and will return on Saturday.  He says goodbye to Milon before going.  A woman comes over at night and urges Anu's mother to go with her to the concert tonight in the village.  She says if her husband finds that she went, he will be very angry with her.  But she does wind up going and bringing Asma with her.  The singer sings of a clay bird in a cage who wants to fly free. 

Three young men come looking for Milon.  Milon tell them to sit down.  Two of the men are Uttam and Shaheen.  They bring a newspaper with the news that martial law has been declared.  Dictator Ayub Khan steps down.  The constitution has been suspended.  Gen. Yahya is Pakistan's new head of state.  The governor is forced to resign and Yahya promises elections within a year.  They wonder if Yahya will just become another dictator. 

Anwar does well in school, but Rokon has problems.  The teacher make Rokon wash his robe.  Anwar says he is going home for the Eid festival.  Rokon will be staying at the school.  Anwar takes a boat home. 

Khan Bahadur comes to visit Anwar's father.  He says the protestors were cut down to size by the issuing of martial law. 

Anu arrives home and his mother and sister are very happy to see him.  He gives his sister a pretty blue clay bird, but warns her not to let father see it or he will get mad.  Anu talks with his Uncle Milon until it gets dark. 

After the festival is over, Anu is back in school.  Rokon receives a bad report from school.  After school Rokon takes Anu to see his secret hideaway.  The hideaway is in some old ruins behind the madrasa.  Rokon has collected different things and put them on the walls as decoration.  He says his special friend comes here, but only he can see him. 

At home Anu's mother says Asma is getting worse.  The medicine her husband gave her didn't help.  She wants to take Asma to a doctor, but dad says no, she will get better.  He tells his wife to have faith in Allah.  Milon went to the doctor, described Asma's symptoms, got some medicine and now gives it to his sister-in-law for Asma.  Before she can hide the medicine, her husband takes it from her.   He tells her this antibiotic will destroy all the treatment he has used for Asma.  He says he found a "special" medicine for Asma. 

Milon comes to get Anu at the school.  He tells Anu that Asma is very ill.  Anu starts the journey home with Milon.  The man with the boat taxi tells them the bad news that the mother tried to save Asma, but luck was not on her side.  Asma has passed away.  Anu cries.  The taxi owner says that Anu must be strong for the sake of his mother.  He says he remembers when his mother first came to the village as a bride of fourteen years of age.  His father Kazi was much different then.  He dressed like an Englishman.  But then he became very religious.  He says everything got worse then.  His mother even had to wear a veil at home.  He adds that Kazi has mellowed somewhat since then. 

They arrive at home.  Dad is there to greet Anu.  He hugs his son. Anu goes in and hugs his mother.  He cries. 

Anu is back at school again. He calls out for Rokon, but he's not there.  So Anu goes to the secret hideaway.  He finds Rokon and tells him that his sister is no more.  Anu asks Rokon what happens to the dead?  Rokon says they turn into birds.   Rokon says he doesn't feel so well.  He has a strange noise in his ears and he couldn't sleep last night.  The noise has been getting louder and louder with time.  In class Rokon holds his hands over his ears. 

Ibrahim, a teacher, tells assistant Halim Miah that Islam was brought to India thanks to the Sufis.  It did not come by the sword or through politics.  Halim is afraid that if Pakistan splits, Islam will be weakened, but Ibrahim disagrees. 

Three of the school boys follow "nutty boy" (that is, Rokon) to his secret hideaway.  They start throwing rocks into his place and laughing.  Rokon's ears still bother him.  He starts going crazy.  One of the school teachers says he is overheated and that they should pour water on hi s head and put him in the storeroom. They do that.  Ibrahim has some medicine for him because he consulted a doctor.  Anu goes with him to give Rokon some food, but Anu finds his friend in a very poor state of health. 

Anu's father talks with his wife saying if she remains frozen by grief so, she will surely have a mental breakdown.  He advises her to go to her brother's place for a few days.  She says if she goes, she's going for a long, long time.  Kazi knows that she no longer cares for him, but he asks her if he too might have some pain?  She says:  "Those who hurt others may have their own pain too."

Anu tells Ibrahim that Rokon is worse and he is out of medicine.  Ibrahim gives him the prescription and sends Anu to the pharmacist.  He also gives him some money and tells Anu to be careful.  The town isn't safe anymore. 

Milon listens to Radio Pakistan.  In Faridpur-2, the Awami league candidate is ahead of the Muslim league candidate by a margin of 5,200 votes.  Karim comes over to tell Kazi that his wife is much worse.  He wants some more medicine.  But Kazi tells him that he has given up dispensing medicine for others.  He tells him to go to the doctor in town.  Karim says he doesn't have the money to pay a doctor.  So Kazi gives him some money for the doctor.

The teachers and students take Rokon down to the river.  They have him walk into the river.  Rokon will have to immerse himself 101 times into the river.  This will force the evil spirit to flee his body.  They bring him out of the water before even hitting 20 dunks. 

Milon is going to see his friend Uttam.  He says to his boat captain Karim that they should have known that the Pakistan army would never concede power to the Bengalis. 

Anu goes to see Rokon.  He says he's leaving and wants Rokon to go with him.   Rokon says no.  Anu goes alone after giving Rokon a gift.  On the boat a man is telling the story of March 26.  Around 11 p.m., the 25th, there was massive gunfire and tanks came out into the streets.  They attacked the police barracks then went to the university area.  His listeners ask the man how did he escape?  He says they briefly lifted the curfew and they fled across the river to Jinjira.  A woman says there were thousands of refugees.  The army shot at them randomly.  

Milon and Anu's mother talks about the times when they played together as children.  Milon talks about the fight for freedom.  The army is killing everyone, he says.  He wants to go there and resist this.  This makes his sister-in-law sad because she feels that they are all leaving her with nowhere for her to go.

Men talk about the army coming to Kumargonj any day now.  They have already reached Faridpur.  Kazi says the army is coming to bring peace and to protect Islam.  Some students got guns from a raid on the police armory and now they have taken up defensive positions on the bridge.  And they say Kazi's brother is one of them.  Kazi says the elders should talk the students out of their plan.  Kazi goes home.  His wife says she has heard that the army is already in Kumargonj and that everyone is leaving.  Kazi does not seem very concerned about it.  Gun shots are heard.  Anu comes running home saying the army is coming and burning houses.  The villagers start fleeing.  Everyone's hiding in the jungle.  Kazi is going to stay behind and watch the house, while everyone else flees.

In the morning the villagers start back to the village.  Karim says there was a big fight at the bridge.  Anu and his mother return to their house.  Their house has been burned.  They find Anu's father still alive.  The wife says:  "Look around you.  Your Muslim brothers have burned your sacred cloister to the ground."  Anu says let's go repeatedly.  An old woman comes by and says the army is out and about and shooting people at random and burning everything.  And all of those who fought at the bridge are dead.  Anu's mom tells Anu to come with her.  Dad is staying behind again.  He looks shell-shocked and can't believe what happened to his home.  Anu and his mother leave. 


Good movie.  It helps to know a bit about the history, which one can find below.  This is the only movie about Bangladesh I have found in many years of studying historical films.  As soon as I read the name of the country involved, I purchased the DVD.  But of course, this history is also part of the history of Pakistan itself.  You never see any fighting or killing in the film itself, but there are plenty of references about the march of the Pakistani army into East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).  Reading the history, you realize that the situation was much worse than indicated in the movie.  There was a genocide of 3 million people in the future Bangladesh.  Even without the battles, the history is still there in the movie providing the background of the thoughts and actions of the people in the film. 

Kazi Muhammad Anwarul Islam is the character made to look pretty much like a fool.  He killed his daughter by refusing to let his wife take her to a doctor because of his strong religious beliefs.  And he was terribly politically naive.  He could not conceive that Islamic brothers could kill other Muslims.  He learned the hard way, through the school of hard knocks, that his beliefs were too idealistic and romantic.  He got his house burned down, was thrown into a state of being shell-shocked and was probably killed by the next encounter with the West Pakistan army. 

The story of the struggle for independence by the future Bangladesh is told in a round-about way, but it is told in the movie. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 


Historical Background:

1947  -- creation of Pakistan.  Frictions develop quickly between East and West Pakistan, separated by more than 1,000 miles of Indian territory. East Pakistanis feel dominated by the West Pakistan-dominated central government. Linguistic, cultural, and ethnic differences contribute to the divide between East and  West Pakistan.

1948  --  Mohammad Ali Jinnah dies.  Khwaja Nazimuddin becomes the Governor General of Pakistan.  Nurul Amin is appointed the Chief Minister of East Bengal.

1948  --  The Language Movement begins in East Bengal.  Bengalis strongly resist attempts to impose Urdu as the sole official language of Pakistan.  East Pakistan students and intellectuals demanded that Bengali (Bangla) be made one of the state languages.

1950  --  abolition of the Zamindari system in East Bengal.

1952  --  the Bengali Language Movement reaches its climax in a demonstration at which several demonstrators were killed by police. A key leader of the movement was Tamaddun Majlish headed by Professor Abul Kashem.  The movement turned into a mass movement.  It accomplished its goal when Bengali was adopted as one of the state languages of Pakistan.

1954  -- end of Nurul Amin's rule as Chief Minister of East Bengal. 

1954  --  first election for East Bengal Provincial Assembly The Awami Muslim League, Krishak-Sramik Party and Nezam-e-Islam formed the United Front and the United Front won big.  The ruling Muslim League got only nine seats. The United Front gets the opportunity to form the provincial government.

1954 (29 May to 2 June)  --  the central government dismisses the United Front government.  The Governor's rule is imposed in the province.

1956  --  a constitution is adopted.  Pakistan is an "Islamic republic within the Commonwealth".

1958  -- the military intervenes in the government.

1958-1969  --  Muhammad Ayub Khan serves as President of Pakistan in these years.  

1958-1962  --  the government imposes martial law between these years.

1965  --  Yahya Khan energetically reorganizes the Pakistan Army in 1965

1969-1971  --  the government imposes martial law again between these years.  The president of Pakistan at the time is Yahya Khan.  In World War II he had joined the British army.  He fought in Iraq, Italy and north Africa. 

1970-17 elections  --  the Awami League wins all the East Pakistan seats of the Pakistan's National Assembly.  West Pakistan opens talks with the East on constitutional questions about the division of power between the central government and the provinces.  The talks were not successful.

1971 (March 1)  --  Pakistani President Yahya Khan indefinitely postpones the pending National Assembly session, precipitating massive civil disobedience in East Pakistan.

1971 (March 2)  --  a group of students, led by A S M Abdur Rob, student leader & VP of DUCSU (Dhaka University Central Students Union) raises the new (proposed) flag of Bangla under the direction of Swadhin Bangla.

1971 (March 3)  --  student leader Sahjahan Siraj reads the Sadhinotar Ishtehar (Declaration of independence) at Paltan Maidan in front of Bangabandhu Shaikh Mujib along with student and public gathering.

1971 (March 7)  --  an historic public gathering in Paltan Maidan to hear the guideline for the revolution and independence from Shaikh Mujib, the frontier leader of movement that time. He influences the mob to prepare for a separation war.

1971 (March 25)  --  there is a military crackdown by the Pakistan army. Bengali Army Major Zia-Ur-Rahman captured Kalurghat Radio Station in Chittagong and read the declaration of independence of Bangladesh.  Yahya Khan orders a crack down on the political agitation in East Pakistan with a massive campaign of genocide named "Operation Searchlight".   It targeted Muslims, Hindus, Bengali intellectuals, students and political activists. "3 million people in the east Pakistan were killed in the next few months along with another 400,000 women who were raped."

1971 (March 27)  --  Major Zia reads the declaration of independence on behalf of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.  He says:  "I, Major Zia-ur-Rahman, hereby declare the independence of Bangladesh, on behalf of our great national leader Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman".

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman becomes the head of the state.  Tajuddin Ahmed is the prime minister.

A military arm is established.   M. A. G. Osmani becomes the Chief. The land sketched into 11 sectors under 11 sector commanders. There were three special forces named Z Force, S Force and K Force. Fighting grows between the Pakistan Army and the Bengali  Mukti Bahini ("freedom fighters"). 

1971 (December 16)  --  India intervenes on the side of the Bangladeshis. Pakistani forces surrender.

1971 (December 17)  --  Bangla Desh ("Country of Bangla") is established.

1971 (December 20)  --  to forestall further unrest,  Yahya Khan surrenders to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, age 43, the ambitious leader of West Pakistan's powerful People's Party. Yahya Khan is put under house arrest.

1972 (January 11)  --  the new country changes its name to Bangladesh and becomes a parliamentary democracy under a constitution.

1972 (March 19)  --  Bangladesh signs a friendship treaty with India.

1980  --  Yahya Khan dies. 



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