Film debates aftermath of Indo-Bangla water dispute

Kolkata: The decades-old debate between India and Bangladesh over sharing of river water has come alive on the silver screen in a Bangladeshi film.

Directed by Syed Ohiduzzaman Diamond, `Antardhan` (The Disappearance), on the drying of downstream Padma river, was screened here at the Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF) yesterday and will be released at theatres in Bangladesh later this month.

Shot in real locations at Alatoli, 600 km from Dhaka and close to the Indian border where the Ganges enters Bangladesh as Padma, the film is about the disappearance of water from the bed of the mighty river which now resembles a desert with large stretches of sand all over.

Neither a blade of grass nor a drop of water can be spotted in the barren land which was once home to different variety of fish.

Using symbolism to make his point, Syed who has won the Bangladesh National Film Award as best director tells a morbid tale of how a fisherman`s family is driven to abject poverty as a result of drying of the river, once notorious for its destructive nature.

The fisherman`s thirteen-year-old daughter `Nodi` is friends with his neighbourhood boy `Aakash` who comes from a well to do family.

While playing on the river bed, they start fighting over a dyke built to regulate waterflow into two small puddles. Their quarrels, although childish, are allegorical enough to remind viewers about the old controversy surrounding the Farakka barrage project. The puddles act as motif in the film.

`Antardhan` opens with a warning that since the world is suffering from an acute water crisis the next World War might be caused by water disputes.

It comes across as an attempt to show a heart-wrenching personal story in the backdrop of international politics.

"It also warns what will happen in India if China increases or decreases the water supply of Brahmaputra by constructing large dams. India lives downstream of that river just the way we live downstream of Padma river, which is a distributary of the Ganges," Syed told PTI after the screening at Nandan theatre.

Born and brought up along the banks of Padma, the three-film-old director said he wrote the story to give a first-hand account on the aftermath of the death of a river.

"If you go there you will find many real life cases as portrayed in my story. Whatever I wanted to say I have said symbolically. It is for the people to understand its implications," said Syed known for his works on marginalised population.