As a child when we slept under mosharis (mosquito net) at night, it was scary to think monsters and ghosts could be lurking outside. It can be a very scary thought, and most of us who grew up in Bangladesh can relate to it.
In a recent interview with Sharier Khan, Executive Editor of The Business Standard (TBS), award winning director Nuhash Humayun spoke about the inspirations behind his latest films, including his award-winning 'Moshari' film that had its roots in the director's childhood memories of sleeping inside mosquito nets.
Nuhash has been known to experiment with various genres, his film 'Shatsho Taka' comes to mind which was a comedy. He has also made some music videos, and directed commercials throughout most of his career. However, he has delved into the horror genre as of late.
"If my career was an infant, that child is still figuring out what to do. I like to experiment and I like to take risks. Many filmmakers have been working with psychological thrillers in Bangladesh, and I feel like these ideas aren't quite local. Horror, on the other hand, is in our blood," the filmmaker told TBS in the video interview. "The stories we grew up listening to from the elders in our family, more often than not, were ghost stories. And these were the stories that caught our attention the most."
Nuhash's idea for horror is derived from the views of a child, and his concepts which are inherently local. He believes that all creative people need to hold on to their inner child. Children are inherently creative, and possess a lot of interesting ideas but, as one grows up, they are conditioned to let go of these traits.
"This has happened to me as well," he explained. "I always had an audience in mind whenever I was working on a film. It had become a pattern. I needed to take a step back. So, I revisited the strange ideas that had come to me in my adolescence. I thought to myself, if I tapped into these ideas maybe there is some innocence, or magic, or something different in that. And I think I was right."
"I like to take international ideas and add a Bangladeshi flavour to it. I have had this idea since my childhood. I used to play Bangladeshi superheroes with my friends growing up. So, when you take international genres – like western, sci-fi, horror – and turn them more Bangalee, it results in a strange new experimental concoction," he added.
His horror series 'Pett Kata Shaw' was based on local myths and folklore. Set in a post-apocalyptic Dhaka, 'Moshari' follows the story of two sisters taking refuge from bloodthirsty monsters inside a mosquito net.
Moshari has received a slew of international awards and accolades including the SXSW – Grand Jury Award, (Best Midnight Short), FANTASIA – Gold Award (Best Asian Short), BFI LONDON Official Selection, SHORT SHORTS & ASIA Best Short & Governor of Tokyo Award (Oscar Qualifying), ATLANTA Best Narrative Short (Oscar Qualifying), MELBOURNE Best Short Fiction, SYDNEY Official Selection, BIFAN Jury Award, WOODSTOCK Mark Braunstein Award – Best Narrative Short (Oscar Qualifying), HOLLYSHORTS Best Horror, PALM SPRINGS Official Selection, NASHVILLE Best Graveyard Shift Short, and NEUCHATEL - Audience Award (Best Short).
Nuhash also talked about funding of his projects. Generally, films are funded by local or international sponsors. Filmmakers source local funding either from a sponsor or a television network. But the caveat is that whoever funds the film gets to own the rights to the content. Furthermore, producers and sponsors also sometimes set certain guidelines on what a filmmaker can or cannot do.
Nuhash, however, funded 'Moshari' by using his funds from his own savings and from fundraisers. The idea for the film's story came to him when he was only 14 years old. He wanted complete creative control and to bring his vision to life.
'Moshari' has recently been released for free on Nuhash's Vimeo.
"We did not think 'Moshari' would perform as well as it did. There is a common belief shared by Bangladeshi filmmakers that in order for us to do well overseas, we need to make art films where we highlight the sorrows and struggles. I wanted people to learn from this film and to learn from my experiences. That's why we decided to release it for free."
Nuhash has also recently released an episode of 'BITE SIZE HALLOWEEN', a short film titled 'Foreigners Only' on Hulu, the first ever Bangladeshi content to be featured on an American platform.
"You can get Netflix or Amazon in Bangladesh and India. Hulu is a completely American platform. When they approached me to make something for them, I initially did not know what I was going to make," said Nuhash. "Then I saw they have a programme called 'BITE SIZE HALLOWEEN' where they feature works of different international filmmakers."
'Foreigners Only' was inspired by houses in Dhaka which are only rented out to foreign tenants. It is a psychological thriller that follows the story of a young Bangladeshi man looking for a new home. But everywhere he goes, landlords want foreign tenants. This takes the protagonist into a dark state of mind.
"We explore Bangladesh's state of colonial hangover in the film," explained Nuhash. "We have a very talented local cast for 'Foreigners Only', but we also needed foreign actors for the story. The irony was we ended up putting up a sign that said 'We are looking for a cast, foreigners only.'"
Nuhash still directs commercials, but he is moving more towards filmmaking. His next project, 'Moving Bangladesh', is based on the true story of the Bangladeshi start-up Pathao. It is an international collaboration between Bangladesh, Taiwan and Europe.
"I felt like we don't always tell inspirational stories from Bangladesh, at least the films which are featured internationally. We try to tell sad, depressing, stories. There is an interesting tech revolution that is currently happening in Bangladesh. We are not just known for garments any more. It could be interesting and inspiring to see something like that," the filmmaker said.