Growing up in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Sarker Protick would look forward to Friday afternoons, when, on the national television channel, he could count on the screening of a Dhallywood film. Full of epic romances and cartoonish violence, the movies made by the country’s film industry were exercises in extremes, made quickly and with small budgets to appeal to the widest possible audience. For the young Protick, they offered a glimpse into a fantastical world.
“They show what people want to see; it’s good winning over evil. It’s very social. And it also projects the fantasy for the working class people, helps them to dream on,” he said via email.
In his series, “Love Me or Kill Me,” Protick captures that duality, with photos of splattered blood, guns, and beautiful heroines on film sets at the Bangladesh Film Development Corporation. With their supersaturated color and gauzy lights, they accentuate the most surreal elements of the industry, and even capture a bit of the humor in the kitsch.
Though Dhallywood had long been part of Protick’s life, the project came about unintentionally: “The first time I was there, I was completely blown away by the atmosphere and the energy of the place. It was crazy. I didn’t have a plan to make a story on this topic but just a photograph for another series that I was working on. But after being there I was determined to work on this topic,” he said.
Protick became such a fixture on sets that he was eventually asked to play a small part as a journalist in the film Warning. Generally, he said, his time at the BFDC made him appreciate how “hardworking, passionate and spirited people are behind the scenes.”
Lately, Protick said, Dhallywood has lost some of its audience to Bollywood and Hollywood, which have bigger budgets and better production values. Still, the industry continues on, making magic for the audiences that remain enraptured by its special mix of gore and glamour.
“They usually have very little budget and are paid little, so the industry has many limitations. But they are doing it on and on with utmost love of this way of life. I have total respect for that.”