The stories are nothing new

There's a lack of versatility in stories in newspapers, drama, cinema, everywhereProthom Alo illustration

The stories are nothing new. It's the same old stories we hear again and again, in conversations, in the newspapers. Readers are particular drawn to two types of stories, politics and crime. Politics is more or less at a standstill in the country. There are elections, but the results are "predetermined". The candidates are more concerned about the officials of the administration than the voters. The parliament is dull. Outside of that, the words being spewed out by the two opposing sides have been repeated time and again. There are no new stories in politics. Crime is where it is all happening.

It is not that the crimes are very innovative or new. These are more or less all the same. Other than a few exceptions here and there, the media hardly has the ability to dig into the crimes behind the crimes. The journalists can, they have that capacity, but they are not given the leeway to do so. Whether it is the owners or other vested interest quarters, no one wants such investigations. And then, of course, there are the laws and restrictions from the government.


The biggest crime in the country is capital flight. Wealth is built up through hard labour of the people, but those who labour and create the wealth, are deprived of the benefits. That is the norm. This is the norm that has been carried down the ages. The scams and the identities of the money launderers are hair-raising. But none of this is revealed.

Another crime is loan default. The banks do not generate their own money, the money is deposited there by the people. But the wealthy ones filch the money overseas with the help of the banks. Had they invested the money in the production sector, that would have at least been of some benefit. But they do not do so. Most of the money is siphoned out of the country through invisible means.

In the meantime, circumstances are not at all conducive for the news media. There are innumerable newspapers in number, but not many of them attract readers. The reason behind this is that the stories they publish are vague, not delving deep into the truth. And all the news is of the same type, nothing new.

Meanwhile, the so-called social media now stands as a competitor before the newspapers. You get the news there at the click of a finger. And it is also rife with rumours. Many of the rumours are unprintable by newspapers. And the people tend to believe that there is always some extent of truth behind the rumours. Social media offers all sorts of responses and comments too. These are not only provocative at times, but very often angry reactions too, reactions that the newspapers cannot publish.

The lack of versatility in stories has afflicted plays and films too. After the country's independence, Dhaka's group theatre movement had flourished. It seem like a wave of resurgence had swept across the theatre scene. But that did not go far. The main reason is the lack of plays. Not just good drama, but any drama at all became rare. What will the playwrights write about? They have no stories. The things they see around them are hardly grist for plays.

However, there are stories within stories. Stories, after all, are about people's feelings, emotions and experiences. One needs a philosophical bent of mind to look into that. Philosophical mindsets are not of an individual, but require environment and circumstances to emerge. That is not there. That is why the superficial stories can be seen, not the actual ones.

Back in the day, plays were performed in various localities. That no longer happens. There are community centres in many areas where plays can be staged, but there is no initiative. The reason is that people have become extremely isolated nowadays. There is a lack of interest in doing anything as a community. The rise of capitalism is certainly to blame. Capitalism distances people from each other. It does not allow them to congregate. Everyone seeks their own profit. Those who stand to gain are only those who cheat others.

In the past, at least books would promote the adage of "strength in unity", even if it was not visible in the community. But now that is nowhere to be seen or heard, even in books. "All for one and one for all" seems a laughable axiom now. Reality is quite the opposite.

The pitiful state of cinema is also due to the weakness of the stories. Arguments, skirmishes, hooliganism, hue and cry, tears and so on are used in an attempt to fill this vacuum

Television had been a platform for plays. Now there are many channels and many plays. But it's the same problem -- there are no stories. The story of a play needs conflict. There is conflict everywhere in life now, but the basic cause of those conflicts is economy and politics. Those are not taken into consideration. And so the actual stories do not come to the fore and the dramas are uninteresting.

The dramas are filled with narratives of money, fraud, fights and clashes. The reasons behind all this must be smirking. Then again, television channels are fuelled by advertisements. Sometimes it seems the dramas are just an excuse to advertise a product.

The pitiful state of cinema is also due to the weakness of the stories. Arguments, skirmishes, hooliganism, hue and cry, tears and so on are used in an attempt to fill this vacuum.

* Serajul Islam Choudhury is emeritus professor, Dhaka University.  

* This column appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ayesha Kabir

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