Cut-Pieces

Cut-Pieces: Celluloid Obscenity and Popular Cinema in Bangladesh

LOTTE HOEK
Copyright Date: 2014
DOI: 10.7312/hoek16288
Pages: 272
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/hoek16288
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  • Book Info
    Cut-Pieces
    Book Description:

    Imagine watching an action film in a small-town cinema hall in Bangladesh, and in between the gun battles and fistfights a short pornographic clip appears. This is known as a cut-piece, a strip of locally made celluloid pornography surreptitiously spliced into the reels of action films in Bangladesh. Exploring the shadowy world of these clips and their place in South Asian film culture, Lotte Hoek builds a rare, detailed portrait of the production, consumption, and cinematic pleasures of stray celluloid.

    Hoek's innovative ethnography plots the making and reception ofMintu the Murderer(2005,pseud.), a popular, Bangladeshi B-quality action movie and fascinating embodiment of the cut-piece phenomenon. She begins with the early scriptwriting phase and concludes with multiple screenings in remote Bangladeshi cinema halls, following the cut-pieces as they appear and disappear from the film, destabilizing its form, generating controversy, and titillating audiences. Hoek's work shines an unusual light on Bangladesh's state-owned film industry and popular practices of the obscene. She also reframes conceptual approaches to South Asian cinema and film culture, drawing on media anthropology to decode the cultural contradictions of Bangladesh since the 1990s.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53515-1
    Subjects: Film Studies, Anthropology, Sociology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. NOTE ON TRANSLITERATION, TRANSLATION, AND PSEUDONYMS
    (pp. IX-X)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. XI-XIII)
  5. INTRODUCTION: BEFORE MINTU THE MURDERER
    (pp. 1-31)

    In 2005 a Bangladeshi action film I callMintu the Murdererwas written, shot, censored, and released.¹ As the movie traveled through small towns in remote districts of the country, a hot rumor spread: the action film contained pornographic scenes featuring Bangladeshi actresses. The film became enveloped by speculations about its “obscenity.” Ticket sales soared across towns in the districts of Rongpur, Khulna, Jessore, and Sylhet. Before long, police officers and journalists were on its trail, hungry for the illegal scenes. By the end of 2005 the film was taken out of circulation and banned by the Bangladesh Film Censor...

  6. 1 WRITING GAPS: THE SCRIPT OF MINTU THE MURDERER
    (pp. 33-57)

    One morning in February 2005, I anxiously waited for a man whom I had never met. I had been asked to find the Abul Hotel, a run down little place in Malibagh, next to a vacant lot where timber had formerly been sold. As I arrived, I gave the ubiquitous “missed call,” letting the receiving mobile phone ring only once before hanging up. He now knew that I had arrived. Although I wouldn’t recognize him, he would most definitely spot the single white woman lingering on the foot-path. I looked around to decipher which man among the crowd walked toward...

  7. 2 A HANDHELD CAMERA TWISTED RAPIDLY: THE TECHNOLOGY OF MINTU THE MURDERER
    (pp. 59-89)

    He lay on his back in the middle of the street. A crowd of villagers had gathered along the thoroughfare of the small settlement in the rural hinterland of Dhaka and watched him lying there. Underneath him a blanket shielded him from the worst dust and rocks. Two lorries came thundering past, narrowly missing his outstretched body. A blue jeep approached, carrying a number of men brandishing hockey sticks and large blades. As the jeep neared, the man arched his back and lifted the heavy equipment in his hands. His head to the floor and his eye to the viewfinder,...

  8. 3 ACTRESS/CHARACTER: THE HEROINES OF MINTU THE MURDERER
    (pp. 91-127)

    Shavana refused to wear such a short dress. Nervously, an assistant director pleaded with her. Ignoring his entreaties, Shavana sat down in front of the big mirror dominating the small makeup room. A young makeup artist dabbed the sides of her cheeks with additional powder. The assistant director tried again. “It will look great on the screen,” he said. “No it won’t,” she exclaimed. “It has less fabric than a miniskirt!” Through the mirror she could see the whole room, all eyes focused on her. At the back sat her mother. Shavana asked her what other dresses she had brought....

  9. 4 CUTTING AND SPLICING: THE EDITOR AND CENSOR OF MINTU THE MURDERER
    (pp. 129-155)

    Montage is the alchemy of cinema. It transforms separate shots into fluid, naturalized movements of time and space. The cutting and splicing of celluloid allows disconnected shots to be strung into narrative. The film editor wields the scissors to make meaningful cinema.Mintu the Murdererwas graced by two sets of such cutting and splicing visionaries: its editing team, which operated under the regulatory powers of the Bangladesh Film Development Corporation, and the members of the Bangladesh Film Censor Board. Both organizations cut up the shots forMintu the Murdererto make meaningful cinema. Montage here is a form of...

  10. 5 NOISE: THE PUBLIC SPHERE OF MINTU THE MURDERER
    (pp. 157-181)

    “Shadnaz divorced!” screamed the headline (Tarokalok2005:15). The article divulged the details of the actress’s divorce, offering up an elaborate description of her courtship and her husband’s subsequent misconduct and infidelities. It was one among many articles in the print media to indulge in extravagant accounts of the moral depravity in the film industry and its immeasurable obscenities. Moral panics lend themselves particularly well to the orchestration of such dissonant voices and noises, each rebounding from another, echoing and twisting outrage, distaste, or exhilaration. In Bangladeshi newspapers and magazines the contours of cinematic obscenity were lamented, exaggerated, and offered up...

  11. 6 UNSTABLE CELLULOID: THE EXHIBITION OF MINTU THE MURDERER
    (pp. 183-213)

    We arrived in Feni in the fading light of day. Theazaansignaled the breaking of what would be the last fast of that ramadan. I had decided to await the opening morning ofMintu the Murdererin this small southeastern town. The film was not to be released in Dhaka, only in provincial capitals. In the quietiftarhour my companion, Jewel, and I explored the small town by rickshaw. We traveled along the two crosscutting roads that defined the Feni urban grid. Along one of them, Station Road, the town’s three cinema halls were clustered. At the top...

  12. CONCLUSION: AFTER MINTU THE MURDERER
    (pp. 215-220)

    Mintu the Murdererwas banned on December 11, 2005, six weeks after its initial release. Upon inspection, the members of the Bangladesh Film Censor Board found uncertified material among its reels. The producer of the film appealed the Censor Board’s decision in court. He eventually managed to obtain a stay order for the film. In the spring of 2006Mintu the Murdererwas rereleased for a second run. Playing to packed houses in small-town cinema halls, the film realized a solid profit. A VCD copy ofMintu the Murderersold in Dhaka reached me in Amsterdam months later and revealed...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 221-226)
  14. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 227-244)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 245-252)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 253-254)