Shopner Desh, is the first in a series of British Bangladeshi big screen projects by South Shields film company Bangla Dreams.
|The Dream Team|
BBC Roots spoke to producer Lalon Amin to find out more about this exciting venture which mixes tough urban drama with Bollywood action:
“Bangla Dreams came about as we realised there was a huge demand for performing arts for ethnic minorities living in South Shields; so we decided to set up a drama group.
“The first week we started the group, about 50 people turned up; so it was obvious there was a need.”
The drama group quickly developed into a fledgling production company with ambitions to venture into film, and Shopner Desh was born. I asked Lalon what Shopner Desh meant:
“Shopner Desh is all about dreams. Shopner Desh means Dreamland.
|Director: Steve Sibley|
“People have a lot of dreams, especially when they first come to this country, some people dream of a good education or a nice life - whilst other people just think about money, and don’t integrate fully with society nor consider other cultures.”
Shopner Desh identifies the problems some young Asians have in this country, the culture clashes that they have with their parents and community and how some people compromise or rebel against their culture.
Rebels with a Cause
Lalon adds: ”I wrote the feature film script along with director Steve Sibley, and Tarek Uddin, whose idea the film was.
“The cast are all from South Shields; young people from the Bangladeshi community, as well as some of the older generation, members of the Arabic community and the white community.
“Fortunately, everyone has given their time voluntarily, which is great, as it’s not just one person’s project.”
Shopner Desh is primarily based in South Shields, with great use of some of the towns best known landmarks, such as the Marsden Rock, the sea front, Ocean Road and the Al-Azhar Mosque; one of the oldest mosques in the region.
Lalon is keen to point out; Shopner Desh is not an experimental short. It’s a feature film with a rather impressive budget for a first time venture. I asked him who funded it:
“Funding was got from the Key Fund, Youth Inclusion Programme and the Drugs Action Team. The budget is approx £31,000.
|Russell, Moni and Badria on the set|
“As far as distribution, we intend to exploit all opportunities. We’re hoping that Shopner Desh will be in every Bangladeshi household throughout the region!
"We’ve already had some interest from London, as people have heard about us. The sky’s the limit!”
Shopner Desh is, very much, a family affair. The 40 strong cast includes Lalon’s brothers Moni and Shah in leading roles, as well as nieces and nephews.
The film storyline centres on the main character, Biplob, a young man in his early twenties. Shah Amin, who plays Biplob, spoke about his role:
“Biplob goes ‘off the rails’. He forgets about his Bangladeshi culture, the Islamic culture, his family and gets into the drug culture as a way of making quick money.
“He also gets in with an old friend called Faz, who’s a bad influence.”
Russel Choudhury, who plays Faz, says: “Faz is also British Asian. He has no family, and gets by selling drugs and petty crime. He’s a bit of a bad boy. Faz and Biplob decide to live together and deal drugs for a living.”
Before Shopner Desh, Shah told me neither he nor Russell had ever acted: “Being new to acting, we were able to portray our characters in a very natural way with plenty of improvisation. We all had a say in the development of the characters and the script. We also did research, and watched other films for ideas.”
Shopner Desh is a fictional account of real life dilemmas faced by many young people in the north east.
The film also shows that young Asians face the same challenges and issues as other young people; cultural and generation clashes, peer and family pressures, unemployment and poverty. It also tells of friendships, family and personal relationships. I asked Lalon if the film had a message:
|"We’re hoping that Shopner Desh will be in every Bangladeshi household throughout the region!"|
|Lalon Amin |
“Shopner Desh attempts to get across a few messages; you should never forget your culture or identity, which I feel, as a British Asian, is very important.
“The also film focuses on the local drug culture.” He adds.
“Amongst older people, drugs are a taboo subject. They’ve never really tried to tackle the problem as a community. Individually, some people do try, but because it’s taboo, people try to hide it; they think it’s shameful. What Shopner Desh is trying to say is that drugs are not just one person’s problem.
The only way we can tackle drugs is to educate the community. We can educate parents about the symptoms and affects of drugs.”
I have to admit, I was totally blown away by the professional, raw ambition of Lalon and the cast and crew of Shopner Desh.
|On location with Shopner Desh|
Many young people living across the region are unfairly vilified as feckless and unmotivated. Bangla Dreams have grasped one of the many opportunities and initiatives designed to help young people, with great results. I asked Lalon, what happens next:
“I hope Shopner Desh is the first of many productions by Bangla Dreams. The Bangladeshi community has not really had a voice in the north east. This is a stepping stone, and people will be able to see what we’re capable of.”