For renowned ad-film maker, Piplu Khan, opting for a docu-drama after years of making commercials was not an easy decision. However, the challenge of portraying the life of Sheikh Hasina, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, was an offer he simply could not refuse. Telling the story of one of the most influential figures in history, Piplu Khan pulled through with the touching film. He talks about the five years that he and his team spent researching, writing and shooting the film. He also sheds light on some of the unique moments that he spent with the Prime Minister, eventually growing a rapport with her. Below is an excerpt of the heart to heart that we had with Piplu Khan on the first episode of 'A&E talk'.
How was the whole 5-year journey?
Piplu Khan: It has been quite an experience. I remember how in the beginning I was absolutely blank and had gone to the Gana Bhaban to meet with the Prime Minister and the producers from CRI. I was asked to just sit with Sheikh Hasina and ask her a few questions. When I was doing that, I noticed that the PM was very comfortable answering our questions and made everything very easy. That's when I told her – can I call you apa? We ad-filmmakers are not a formal lot! She laughed and said yes! Eventually, I read up on whatever I could get my hands on – history, politics, heritage – anything related to Bangladesh. However, it was only after the Holey Artisan incident that I truly felt that somewhere, something had gone wrong with us as a nation. I began to look for more books, read and research more about Bangladesh. At the same time, I had stopped reading the newspapers and watching television.
What was it like, shooting at Dhanmondi 32 with the Prime Minister?
Piplu Khan: Believe it or not, the Prime Minister visited Dhanmondi 32 after 10 years only because of the shoot, and that too after being requested for three years! She usually visits on August 15 and follows some rituals in a particular area downstairs. But for the shooting of the docu-drama, Sheikh Hasina stepped into the corridor after many years, where the portraits and pictures of her family members are displayed. There is one scene in the film where she walks through the corridor and moves towards the camera. When we called for action, she would not come. We waited for a while and were wondering what happened. That's when I went up to her to see if everything was ok. I found her standing shell-shocked, when suddenly she held my arms and said, “This is the exact spot where my brother Russel had walked for the first time, in front of me!” That's when I actually understood why she never visited Dhanmondi 32.
What are some of the moments that you will cherish from this 5-year-journey?
Piplu Khan: The film itself is a treasure-trove of memorable instances. However, I can tell you that here are many memorable instants that are not in the film, but they made me understand the Prime Minister better, as the daughter of Bangabandhu. You see, I am interested in politics and I was fortunate enough to document the life of our Prime Minister. Similarly, there are many other politicians and individuals in our country who have equally marvelous stories and moments to offer – and I think we, as storytellers, should take advantage of this.