Shadman Muhtasim Chowdhury
An epic novel with Bangladesh at the forefront
Author Arif Anwar was back at DLF-18 and in Bangladesh for the first time since the release of his debut fiction ‘The Storm’. The book takes the reader on a journey, through various timelines: World War II, the partition of Bengal, 70’s cyclone in Bhola and the early 2000s with characters of each era interconnected to each other. Throughout the session, the author emphasized on the challenges faced by writers of color in the West, the importance of adding history to fiction, the characters and several other aspects.
‘While writing the novel, I always got the sense that my characters were in the same universe. Despite their differences in timeline, they were somehow interconnected, but I wasn’t sure how. Then one day I went for a walk in the park and it all came together. Finally I was able to connect the characters,” Arif said. He stressed on the fact that due to being completely new in the literary world, he had to face a lot of rejections. “I have had almost 50 rejections. Most of them would say things like, ‘Oh it’s not for my list’ or ‘I really liked your book, but my list is already full,” he added.
Near the end of the session, the writer narrated few lines from his book and highlighted the fact that to be a good writer, it is important to be a good reader.
We need to be a fighter: Manisha Koirala
Nandita Das was back again at day two of DLF and this time she was accompanied by fellow Bollywood actor Manisha Koirala in the panel. The session was titled ‘Breaking Bad’ and was moderated by Sadaf Saaz, director of DLF-18. The session emphasized on the influence of the entertainment industry in determining how women are depicted and defined. Both Manisha and Nandita discussed the choices they made personally and professionally and how they challenge the perceptions which hold women back.
Manisha talked on how she wanted to reach out to various kinds of cinema, the joy of acting in a movie and keeping the balance between art and commercial films. Nandita said, “I never had the ambition of being an actor at all. I was a theater activist. By chance I met Dipa Mehta and was told of a movie if I would be interested in. I agreed as I considered homosexuality a powerful subject and that’s how I began my acting career.”
On a question about not giving the survivors of #metoo movement their due diligence, Manisha said, “I totally condemn it. There should be a proper investigation and the person found guilty should be punished. I am a woman and I have been working in that industry for 30 years. I have never portrayed myself as a victim, even with cancer. It’s high time we stopped playing the poor me card. When a young girl is being raised, there is a lot of pouncing on that goes in the streets, in the household, in trains and at workplaces. I know about so many stories just by being a woman. We need to be really strong, we need to be fighters.”
‘Last and the First Men’ by Tilda Swinton
After having a good time at last year’s Lit Fest, Oscar-winning actress Tilda Swinton is back again at this year’s fest. She read the first two chapters from British author Olaf Stapledon’s book ‘The Last and the First Men’. A movie of the same name has been directed by Swedish director and her close friend Jóhann Jóhannsson who passed away recently. Paying homage to her friend, Tilda proceeded to read from the book.
“Since my last visit, Dhaka has taken a special place in my heart and so I decided to come back at this year’s DLF-18.” Following the reading, she proceeded to display a video made and directed by herself and her longtime partner Sandro Kopp showing her gratitude towards filmmaking and especially towards dogs!
A new take on comedy
Moderated by columnist Fariha Panni with the up and coming performer Raba Khan, ‘Women and Wit’ was a different take on comedy and comedians in Bangladesh. Most of us have grown up watching male comedians likes of Bhanu, Hanif Sanket and Tele Samad who entertained us at the top of their wits. Women comedians have been rare. On the other hand, whenever a girl tried to become funny, she has referred to as being crazy or weird or simply ‘pagli’. The session touched through these various issues faced by women is our society and whenever they tried to use their wit.
When asked about the comedy industry in Bangladesh, Raba replied, “There is no industry. Sometime I joke with my father saying, my career is going down. ‘My Career’, it’s funny though because nobody thinks I have a career. I have a profession. I make money, maybe. People don’t know that. They think I make my videos as a hobby. What they don’t know is I have scripts, I write emails, I do work to create an industry for us comedians that has been missing.”
For making Snapchat and Facebook videos about the notorious Gulshan-Banani aunties, Raba had a lot of fans in the audiences, many of whom expressed their gratitude and delight for entertaining them. As one lady put forward, “I am one of those aunties you talk about. It’s always good to speak the truth. You make us laugh, which gives us strength in times of our need. You have no idea what laughter and smile does for a human being, especially for a woman.”
On the question of facing huge criticism and backlash recently, she said, “If you don’t like what I am doing, just simply block me. You have that option. But keep it in mind that even if you do so, I might appear in your timeline in one way or the other, maybe as an advertisement or even as a mutual friend. You never know!”

The writer works with Bangladesh Post