Review: ‘Hawa’ (2022), starring Chanchal Chowdhury, Nazifa Tushi and Sariful Razz

September 6, 2022

by Carla Hay

Nazifa Tushi in “Hawa” (Photo courtesy of Jaaz Multimedia)

“Hawa” (2022)

Directed by Mejbaur Rahman Sumon

Bengali with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in the Bay of Bengal near Bangladesh, the horror film “Hawa” has a cast of characters from Bangladesh representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: After a mysterious woman gets caught in a net from a fishing boat, she is pulled aboard, and strange things start to happen to the fishermen on the boat.

Culture Audience: “Hawa” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching slow-paced horror movies that save the best scenes for the last third of the movie.

Pictured clockwise, from bottom left: Rizvi Rizu, Shohel Mondol, Sariful Razz, Bablu Bose, Nasir Uddin Khan, Mahmud Alam, Chanchal Chowdhury and Sumon Anowar in “Hawa” (Photo courtesy of Jaaz Multimedia)

The “slow burn” horror movie “Hawa” doesn’t get to its most terrifying moments until the last third of the film, but the long buildup to this terror is worth the wait. “Hawa” has a lot to say about gender dynamics when there’s only one woman in an isolated place with men. The movie takes its time in showing the increasing tension between the all-male team on a fishing boat (they are all fishermen for a living) and the mysterious young woman who literally gets ensnared in one of their nets.

Directed by Mejbaur Rahman Sumon, “Hawa” (which means “the wind” in Bengali) takes place entirely in a remote part of the Bay of Bengal, where the closest nation is Bangladesh. Sumon co-wrote the movie’s screenplay with DurSukorno Shahed Dhiman and Jaheen Faruque Ameen. (“Hawa” was filmed on St. Martin’s Island in the Bay of Bengal.) The movie’s central setting is a mid-sized fishing boat whose below-deck area is equipped with a furnace room, a storage area and some sleeping quarters.

During the fateful trip that’s depicted in this movie, there are eight members of the fishing team, including their captain, who are all men. Except for one brief scene in the movie, when another boat appears, the people on this fishing boat are isolated. It’s mentioned at one point that women aren’t allowed on these fishing trips.

The gender composition in this trip changes one night when they find a young woman caught in one of their nets. At first, she appears to be dead, but she’s actually unconscious. When the woman is brought on board and regains consciousness, she remains mute until a pivotal part of the story.

“Hawa” looks like a movie that could take place in an undetermined decade in the late 20th century or early 21st century. There is no mention of technology, such as the Internet or cell phones, to make contact with people. If the boat has a radio, it’s not seen or used.

About halfway through the movie, it’s revealed that the mystery woman’s name is Gulti (played by Nazifa Tushi). It’s also eventually revealed why Gulti was found in this part of bay that is so far from land and from other boats. Because she does not speak when she is first discovered, and she has no identification, the men decide that they will drop her off at the nearest town when their fishing trip is completed.

In the meantime, the fishermen decide that Gulti will have to do some work on the boat, in order to earn her place. Some of the men on the boat misinterpret Gulti’s silence for weakness. Two of the men try to sexually assault her on separate occasions. Gulti is able to fight them off, but her attackers hold grudges.

The first attempted rape happens when the boat’s domineering, middle-aged and arrogant captain Chaan Manjhi (played by Chanchal Chowdhury) tries to lure Gulti to go with him below deck to the furnace room to have a sexual encounter. He licks his lips lasciviously at her to make it known what his intentions are. As he tries to physically lead Gulti down to the furnace room, she pushes him away.

An enraged Chaan gets physically aggressive with Gulti. He calls her a “fucking whore” and tries to force her into the furnace room. Gulti is able to defend herself by taking a machete and getting Chaan to back off of her during their physical altercation on the deck. He’s so startled, he falls backward into the water and has to be rescued by members of his crew.

For the rest of the trip, Chaan tries to make Gulti as miserable as possible. He’s verbally abusive to her, and he orders her around like a slave. When she brings Chaan a drink, he says that serving him a drink isn’t “real work,” and she has to earn her place on the boat by doing work that’s a lot more physically demanding.

The second time that Gulti is almost raped, the attack comes from a middle-aged crew member named Eja (played by Sumon Anowar), who tries to physically subdue Gulti at the beginning of this sexual assault. Eja’s assault, which is even more prolonged than Chaan’s, involves Eja hitting Gulti, trying to remove her clothes, and grabbing Gulti to try to get her to do what he wants. Gulti successfully defends herself by eventually kicking Eja in the crotch, and he stops attacking her.

Not everyone on the boat wants to hurt Gulti. Most of the men don’t bother her and don’t interact with her much. But there’s one crew member in particular who goes out of his way to be kind to Gulti. He’s a young man named Ibrahim (played by Sariful Razz), nicknamed Iba, and he’s the boat’s friendly mechanic.

Iba is attracted to Gulti, and the feeling appears to be mutual. Iba is also the first person whom Gulti talks to on the boat. Iba and Gulti meet for secret late-night talks in the water. During one of their first conversations, she drops hints that she could be a mermaid.

The biggest flaw of “Hawa” is this 130-minute movie has some unnecessary scenes that drag down the pace of the movie. The first half of the movie is kind of a tedious slog that shows the men on the boat going through various power struggles and disagreements about the work that needs to be done. Early on in the movie, someone tries to steal fish for himself and quickly gets reprimanded for it by Chaan, who rules the boat like a dictator.

The other men on the boat are supporting characters whose personalities don’t leave much of an impression until the last third of the movie. Twin brothers Parkes (played by Rizvi Rizu) and Urkes (played by Shohel Mondol), who are in their 20s, are very close and look like they have a co-dependent relationship. The other crew members, whose ages range from 30s to 40s, are Nagu (played by Nasir Uddin Khan), Mora (played by Mahmud Alam) and Foni (palyed by Mahmud Alam), who have varying degrees of loyalty to Chaan.

“Hawa” has cinematography by Kamrul Hasan Khoshru and Tanveer Ahmed Shovon that effectively immerses viewers into the moods for the daytime and nighttime scenes. During the day, the fishing team is focused on work, but their isolation is still evident, because the boat is usually shown as the only one in the immediate area. At night, the atmosphere becomes more menacing and foreboding for anyone on board the ship.

What’s less realistic choices are in the makeup, costume design and hairstyle for Gulti, who appears in many scenes with perfectly applied makeup, her clothing well-styled, and her hair neatly combed or put up in a bun. Considering that she was found unconscious in the water while tangled in a net, it’s highly unlikely that she would have any makeup or beauty supplies with her, or that there would be any makeup on the boat. Gulti’s dress (the only outfit she has in the movie) sometimes also looks a little too neatly styled, when it should look more worn and tattered, considering everything that she goes through in the movie.

There’s a supernatural aspect to the story that could explain Gulti’s well-kept appearance, so viewers might have to suspend some disbelief when they see Gulti looking like a model on this very unglamorous and dirty boat. The men don’t seem to notice how Gulti manages to look picture-perfect in this rough environment. The men that do notice her physical appearance look at her from the angle of her sex appeal.

The troublemaking members of this fishing team feel more freedom to cause mischief and mayhem at night. And even though Chaan is the captain of the boat, even he can be vulnerable to anyone who has a reason to dislike him. He’s not only cruel to Gulti, but he’s also mean-spirited to members of the crew.

Viewers need patience to sit through the often-tedious first half of “Hawa” before the story gets a lot more interesting. Even though “Hawa” definitely needed tighter editing, the last third of the movie proves that it’s a memorable and suspenseful thriller. And the movie’s last image is haunting and very effective.

Jaaz Multimedia released “Hawa” in select U.S. cinemas on September 2, 2022. The movie was released in Bangladesh on July 29, 2022.

Review: ‘Paap Punyo,’ starring Chanchal Chowdhury, Siam Ahmed, Shahnaz Sumi, Farzana Chumki and Afsana Mimi

June 1, 2022

by Carla Hay

Chanchal Chowdhury and Farzana Chumki in “Paap Punyo” (Photo courtesy of Impress Telefilm)

“Paap Punyo”

Directed by Giasuddin Selim

Bengali with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place primarily in Bangladesh, the dramatic film “Paap Punyo” has a cast of characters from Bangladesh representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A prominent local chairman finds out secrets and lies connected to his family after he falls under suspicion of murder.

Culture Audience: “Paap Punyo” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching slow-paced dramas with big plot holes.

Shahnaz Sumi and Siam Ahmed in “Paap Punyo” (Photo courtesy of Impress Telefilm)

“Paap Punyo” squanders a potentially good drama with a badly structured plot and sloppy editing. The movie erratically shifts from a long-distance love affair to a family melodrama to a murder mystery with a horrible and abrupt ending. There are major issues in the story that are completely ignored in the plot, such as the reveal of an incestuous relationship, but no one talks about it being incest. It’s absolutely horrendous.

Directed by Giasuddin Selim, “Paap Punyo” (which means “sin and virtue” in Bengali) centers on protagonist Khorshed Alam (played by Chanchal Chowdhury), who is a well-respected political chairman somewhere in Bangladesh. Khorshed and his loyal wife Rabeya (played by Farzana Chumki) have a daughter named Shathi (played by Shahnaz Sumi), who is in her late teens or early 20s. Shathi lives with her parents and doesn’t have any immediate goals in her life except to get married.

Shathi finds a potential husband when she falls in love with Alamin (played by Siam Ahmed), the son of a single mother named Parul (played by Afsana Mimi), who happens to be the housekeeper for Khorshed, Rabeya and Shathi. Alamin and Shathi begin dating each other, although he doesn’t seem to want to be as committed to the relationship as she is. It’s implied (not explicitly shown) that Shathi and Alamin have also become lovers.

Alamin’s mother Parul is the first one to find out that Alamin and Shathi have been sleeping together. Parul immediately blames Shathi and tries to shame her for having sex with Alamin. Parul is also angry at Alamin for this sexual relationship, and she hits him with a stick. Shathi’s mother Rabeya also finds out about this love affair and doesn’t approve, not only because Rabeya thinks Shathi could get a reputation for being promiscuous but also because of the social class differences between Shathi and Alamin.

At any rate, Parul and Rabeya both agree that they disapprove of this relationship. When both mothers talk about it, Parul assures Rabeya that she can end the romance by sending Alamin away. And sure enough, with his mother Parul’s encouragement, Alamin decides he’s going to move to another country.

Alamin tells Khorshed that he wants to move away so that he can “get rich.” Alamin’s father, who is described in the movie as a “vagabond,” was not involved in raising Alamin and is presumed to be dead. Alamin looks up to Khorshed and considers him to be almost like a mentor.

Not everyone is happy about Alamin moving out of the country. Shathi is devastated, of course. Alamin’s plan is to eventually live somewhere in western Europe. Until then, he’s ended up in Istanbul. Alamin and Shathi haven’t really broken up, but their relationship is somewhat on pause while they are such a long distance apart.

When Alamin arrives safely in Istanbul, he doesn’t tell his mother Parul or his girlfriend Shathi. Instead, the first person Alamin tells is Khorshed. It’s an example of how Alamin cares more about what Khorshed thinks than he cares about what the women in life in his life think. Parul and Shathi have to hear from Khorshed, not Alamin himself, that Alamin had a safe trip to Istanbul.

A large chunk of “Paap Punyo” has scenes of Shathi moping around because she misses Alamin. Eventually, Parul and Shathi end up putting aside their differences, and they bond over their shared feelings of melancholy because Alamin is living so far away from them. Alamin keeps in touch, but Shathi worries that he might meet someone new and end his relationship with Shathi. An early scene in the movie shows that Shathi can be jealous and insecure because she argued with Alamin when she found out that he was flirtatiously talking to another young woman.

Meanwhile, Khorshed and Rabeya are having issues in their marriage. Khorshed seems to be having problems sleeping, but he won’t tell Rabeya what is bothering him. She senses that he’s hiding something from her, so this puts a further strain in their marriage. Khorshed is also troubled by how unhappy Shathi is because of Alamin’s absence, but he doesn’t try to interfere in this long-distance romance.

Rabeya is still a little mistrustful of Alamin because she doesn’t approve of her daughter possibly marrying their housekeeper’s son. Rabeya also suspects that Alamin and Shathi’s sexual relationship came about because Alamin manipulated Shathi into it, even though the movie shows on multiple occasions that Shathi is a willing partner. For now, Rabeya doesn’t seem to mind that Alamin is living in another country.

“Paap Punyo” then abruptly shifts to a murder mystery when Khorshed is accused of killing an acquaintance named Ratan over a debt. The circumstantial evidence against Khorshed makes him a likely suspect, because the murdered body was found in a trunk that was most recently owned by Khorshed. He also has no alibi during the time that Ratan was believed to be murdered.

The rest of the movie is a melodramatic slog, as Khorshed is put in jail and vehemently declares that he’s innocent. During his time in jail to await his trial, Khorshed gets some shocking news, which takes the movie down a path of stupidity from which there is no return. “Paap Punyo” also has some other nonsensical and manipulative plot twists crammed in the last third of the movie.

One of the more ludicrous aspects of the story is when Khorshed is given an opportunity to be let out on bail, which would make it easier for him to work on his case with his attorney. Instead, Khorshed rips up the paperwork that he would need to sign to get out on bail. But then, soon afterward, Khorshed is shown out of jail and hanging out with Alamin, as if Khorshed doesn’t have a care in the world, with no explanation for this sudden turn of events.

None of the acting in this movie is notable. In fact, some of the performances are downright cringeworthy in how the cast members over-act. The last third of “Paap Punyo” is a muddled mess that completely wrecks any hope that the film would be an intriguing drama. “Paap Punyo” (which does not have a credited screenwriter) seems like the type of movie that was rushed out on a deadline, with the filmmakers not really caring that the entire story is poorly conceived with too many underdeveloped characters and an ending that leaves a lot of questions unanswered.

Impress Telefilm released “Paap Punyo” in select U.S. cinemas on May 20, 2022.

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