In conversation with Nadim Iqbal
Filmmaking is merely not a hobby for Nadim Iqbal rather it is much more than that as the filmmaker-photographer terms it as a ‘breakout’ from all miseries and dullness modern life has to offer. “When I feel depressed, lost or lonely, all I have to do is to take my camera in hand and see the world through the lens, and I feel alive again,” told Iqbal in a warm interview with Shomporko about his films, career and plans.
Before going to the questions and answers, let us know few things about the man with a camera. Nadim Iqbal is a passionate filmmaker and photographer from Toronto, Canada. ‘Mother Tongue’ is his first documentary film through which he has thought provokingly conveyed the message about the importance of mother language to the next generation. The film owned prizes at seven film festivals including Denver Int’l Film Festival and Hollywood International Independent Documentary Award, and holds in total of 42 international recognitions. Iqbal is now busy with last minute work of his second project ‘Bidyabhuban’—which portrays a young man’s mission to enlighten his surroundings. A father of two children, Iqbal lives with his family at Danforth, Toronto.
Shomporko: What is ‘Mother Tongue’ about?
The film is about a renowned poet and also author of many children’s book who risked his life to save his culture, heritage and language. His children and grandchildren have migrated to Canada and his heart breaks when he finds out that his own grandchildren even can’t speak in their mother tongue—Bangla, the language he fought for. This is a common story for many immigrants. We are lost in translation.
Shomporko: Tell us about the backstory of ‘Mother Tongue’
Nadim Iqbal: Actually I made ‘Mother Tongue’ as the final project of Postgraduate Diploma on Documentary and Nonfiction, which I did at the Seneca College. However, the exact idea of came to my mind in April 2016 when I was attending at a film conference at downtown Toronto. There I had to pitch my a film idea and told the guests that I would like to make a film on my mother tongue Bangla, and also asked them if they knew the history of International Mother Language Day. To my greatest shock, there wasn’t a single person in that huge hall who knew about the International Mother Language Day. On that very day, I decided to make the film
Shomporko: When did you do the shooting? What were the challenges you faced?
Nadim Iqbal: I confess that I am not a very organized filmmaker; I just shoot whatever I find interesting and create the film bit by bit on the editing panel. The same happened in the case of ‘Mother Tongue’, which is picturized on eminent poet Asad Chowdhury, who also happens to be my father-in-law. He came to Canada for four months in 2016 and all I wanted to capture every moment of his stay here. I just tried to capture his sadness and frustration and afterwards edited out the film from the pile loads of video clippings.
I am really glad that people really loved ‘Mother Tongue’. I showed the film at Denver Film Festival, Hollywood Independent Docu Film Fest and some other festivals and everywhere it was highly praised.
Shomporko: What about Bidyabhuban?
Nadim Iqbal: I shot Bidyabhuban in 2017 in a remote village in Kachiyakanda, Netrokona in Bangladesh. I couldn’t help visiting the village when I heard about a man named SK Almamun who runs an amazing school ‘Bidyabhuban’ there from a friend of mine. I rushed to the village for one day but ended up staying there for seven days, which spent talking to the man and shooting the school. It was seven days in purity, simplicity and enlightenment in the lap of Mother Nature. Unlike other schools, ‘Bidyabhuban’ is unique as it creates enlightened human beings through education and meditation. The film has already been screened at Seneca College on October 17 and at York University on an earlier date. But I would say that the film has yet to be cent percent completed and currently I am doing last minute post-production of the film before I finally will start sending it to festivals.
I would also to add a few words about SK Almamun, who is an exceptional young man and a born thinker. In 1991, he devoted himself to meditation and he wanted to prepare himself for a unique life and went to the mountains where nothing could distract him from his thoughts. When he eventually returned to his little village Kachiakanda in 2003, he decided to write a book about his spiritual experiences. In 2008, he finished his powerful novel, Nuhuler Monchitro, which describes his philosophical ideologies and beliefs. He also developed an unconditional attachment to the underprivileged children of the village and he felt an urge to do something for them. In 2009, he started a unique educational institution for the underprivileged children of his village where he could practically apply his knowledge. SK Almamun strongly believes that once these children are educated and enlightened from inside, they would have a positive impact on their surroundings and they would spread their knowledge to society, their country and ultimately throughout the world.
Shomporko: Define yourself as a filmmaker
Photography and filmmaking are my passion and way out of miseries. When I am in depressed, gloomy, all I have to do is to pick my camera and look through the lenses and take some snaps. Through the lenses of my camera, even the most ordinary things appear extraordinary to me, and I find new meanings of life and through the process, I become energized and cheerful to face all the difficulties. If I evaluate myself from technical aspects, as I have told before, I am not a very organized filmmaker and I don’t feel any problem about that because I am what I am. And I let my actors to act freely and talk free. I don’t want to impose acting on and want to use their natural discourses in my film.
Shomporko: Have you even thought of making fictions?
Nadim Iqbal: Yes! Off-course! I believe every non-fiction makers wants to make fiction films someday. And I am no exception and in fact I have started working on one, a love story titled ‘Moonstruck,’ and I have already done shooting of the film and released the trailer on YouTube. The story behind
Shomporko: What about other future projects?
Nadim Iqbal: I have decided to make a documentary on senior citizens. I have come across a unique rehabilitation center where elderly individuals receive therapeutic dance classes. I found it very interesting that old people, who might not live long, are dancing, enjoying every more, defying their old age complications. The whole concept is very interesting and hopefully I will start shooting shortly.
Shomporko: Do you have plans to make films in Bangladesh? You know, it’s not very easy to make films there?
Nadim Iqbal: Yes, why not? Bangladesh runs through my veins and I always feel for my country. I have a deep urge to go there and make a feature film on my childhood memories and personal. I want to shoot at the streets where I walked as a young lad, the school I studied, the people I lived within. I have been in Canada since 2013 as permanent resident but my origin is from Bangladesh and my heart lies there. I know the filmdom of Bangladesh is complicated and it will be difficult for me to go just there one day start making a film. But the thing is I don’t want any starts to act in my film; I will cast ordinary actors with good acting skills.
Shomporko: Do you watch Bangladeshi movies? What are your impressions? Nadim Iqbal: I confess that I don’t watch many of contemporary Bangladeshi film though I watch Bangla films especially the classic ones from Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen and others. The films of Satyajit still charms me, thrills me. Anyways, let’s get back to the topic! There are many talented makers and they are developing in good pace; however, the films generally lack proper compositions. A film is a combination of story, picturization, sound and acting and when all the ingredients gets are incorporated in proper proportions, the final product becomes a good film. In my opinion, contemporary Bangladeshi still lack the completeness but I also believe that Bangladeshi films have a great future.