Extraction makes us sad and angry: Can we produce any better?

Action scenes are great but it is not the only element that makes a movie successful. Most people would keep Extraction at the very bottom of their watchlist during normal times. However, it managed to be a streaming blockbuster produced by Netflix. Is it really such a massive feature film?

This super action movie earned from the ire of Bangladeshi viewers as it featured Dhaka and its culture in a way that is completely unknown to us. Much of the success of the movie can be credited to the global lockdown as the world is embracing Covid-19.

In an Instagram post, Chris Hemsworth gave a massive thank you to everyone who checked out Extraction and made it the number one film on the planet. He said it is going to be Netflix’s biggest feature film of all time. He also added that he might jump into making a sequel.

So, a sequel is coming, perhaps in a Covid-19 free world.

Netflix undoubtedly left its competitors far behind by releasing Extraction at a time when no movies are being released elsewhere. Except for China and some Scandinavian countries, the cinema halls are closed for an indefinite period.

Therefore, the only option left is to remain glued to the television screen.   

Almost one month after its release, Extraction ranked among the ten most-watched movies on Netflix. As said earlier, this success can be credited to the negative criticism by the Bangladeshi viewers which attracted more viewers – even those who do not watch movies that much during normal times.

There is no doubt that casting a superstar like Chris Hemsworth contributed much to its success. This created a lot of hype even before the movie was released.

He plays the role of Thor, the son of All-Father Odin and the protector of Asgard, in the Marvel Universe. He can accomplish anything even those Odin does not dare. Sadly, he was killed in Dhaka by a mere kid named Farhad (Suraj Rikame). Thor came here to extract Ovi Mahajan Jr. (Rudhraksh Jaiswal) kidnapped by Amir Asif (Priyanshu Painyuli) – a terrorist and drug lord based in Dhaka.  

The weakest part of the movie is that it has no plot. The movie doesn’t give any clue as to what is exactly the reason for the enmity between the two drug lords – Amir Asif of Dhaka and Ovi Mahajan Sr. of Mumbai.

Ovi told his lieutenant Saju that Amir kidnapped his son to humiliate him. But why he would do that was nowhere to be found. The movie thus goes on without a plot with plenty of actions and killings of army, police and elite force personnel.

In a bid to have an emotional impact on the viewers, the movie made some very weak attempts at visualizing a father-son affectionate relationship. This is very rare for action movies.

Rake is a black-market mercenary, a soldier of fortune who only fights for personal profit. Devastated inside, Rake remembers his only son who died of lymphoma at four and does everything to save Ovi.

Extraction was considered to be Dhaka’s entry into Hollywood. The movie was even named ‘Dhaka’ and was supposed to be shot here. It never happened but that did not stop the Bangladeshi viewers from imagining Dhaka in a Hollywood movie.

However, it turned out to be a nightmare for them to see such an uncouth representation of Dhaka where its people listen to 90s Hindi songs all day long. Mumbai is shiny and organised while Dhaka is dirty.

Mumbai don stays behind bars while the Dhaka don leads a lavish life having the police and army under his command.

Besides, Bangladeshi Bangla was completely butchered through the West Bengal accent. The police, RAB and the army were presented as extremely corrupt forces like the ones in Pablo Escobar’s Columbia or El Chapo’s Mexico.

Another big frustrating aspect of Extraction is its extensive representation of Dhaka children as drug lord Amir’s lieutenants. This went too far when we see hundreds of members of trained forces failed to kill Rake but Farhad succeeded.

This was done in an attempt to make him the true heir of Amir as we later see Nik Khan (Golshifteh Farahani) avenges Rake’s death.

Extraction has certainly dampened the image of Dhaka. It gives a completely wrong impression of the city, its people and culture. Dhaka is Dhaka – as we see it every day and a movie cannot change the facts.

There are movies by even more famous directors than Sam Hargrave that portrayed Bangladesh in a negative light. Steven Spielberg’s ‘Munich (2005)’ is one such movie where Steve (Daniel Craig) says “There is enough here to feed Bangladesh” referring to 1970’s poverty.

The only way to better brand Dhaka or Bangladesh in Hollywood is by producing quality movies that truly represent its culture.

At this moment we may not have talented directors compared to Hollywood but what we lack most is a conducive environment for the cinema industry to grow.

We had our golden days in the 70s and 80s. From there, we drove backwards, apart from for few exceptions like Humayun Ahmed’s ‘Aguner Poroshmoni’ Tauquir Ahmed’s ‘Joyjatra’ and Amitabh Reza’s ‘Aynabaji’.

One can only imagine the global success if these movies were produced in Hollywood. All these movies had two out of three wow factors – an excellent plot and talented director. What it did not have was modern technology.

What would happen if Extraction was produced in Bangladesh?

It would be certainly labelled as an obscene and anti-state cinema by the Film Censor Board, some section would rally against it and file a defamation case asking for compensation.

We know the fate of Mostofa Sarwar Farooki’s ‘Saturday Afternoon’ inspired by the Holey Artisan attack. The movie exposed the phoney ideology of religious terrorism. It is yet to get censor board’s nod.

Besides, a legal notice has also been served to halt its release. These trends draw a grim picture of how we are destroying our cinema industry.

With sixteen crore population, we have quite a large market for this industry. For that, our directors need the freedom to showcase the good, the bad and the ugly side through their lens.

This was first published in the Business Standard on 28 May. Click here to read on the site.

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