The Face of Dipjol
By Arafat Kazi for AlalODulal.org
“Tolowar chalabo ami! Tor Dadima buritar matha kete aaj ami football khelbo. Kothaye? Kothaye Jannat Begum?”
In the movie Dadima, Dipjol’s character’s name is not Dipjol. He recycles names. That’s why there are so many Bishu movies even though there’s no connecting arc. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether the character on screen is called Bishu or Billa Dakat, Phul Miya or Chacchu. He plays only one character. And that’s Monowar Hossain Dipjol.
He’s a super star. He’s a politician. He’s a convicted criminal.
Now granted, it’s Bangladesh. The overlap of that particular Venn diagram contains half of Parliament. And becoming a celebrity is slightly less difficult than catching dengue. But nobody has Dipjol’s swagger, his bravura, his assurance that he is monarch of all he surveys.
Before Dipjol created his iconic monsters, Dhaliwood villains were evil simply because they were evil. Their evil actions were campy. Kidnap a heroine, shoot up the hero. The kind of bad guy a child can write about. Dipjol brought complexity to sin. Bhoyongkor Bishu doesn’t simply pillage and murder—he covets his oldest friend’s girlfriend Shaila, and so he frames the friend for murder. On the night he weds Shaila, she begs him to kill her. Instead, he performs a song (where Shaila is absent):
Jole agun bukete
De agun de nibhaiya de
Laga, laga kerabera
He’s not exactly subtle, but neither was Shakespeare’s Richard III. Watch Dipjol entering the set in “Laga Kerabera” and you’ll see the machismo and charisma he brings into the vilest actions.
There are very few artists in Bangladesh who have universal appeal. Media consumption is split by demographic lines. Dipjol’s demographic is the disenfranchised. If you watched Sarwar Farooki’s Television, then you probably didn’t watch Bostir Rani Suriya at the theater. In fact, if you even have constant access to a television, then you’re probably not among the teeming millions who worship Dipjol.
In interviews, Dipjol has attributes his success to his clever dialogue. “Biral pach hajarta idur jobai diya Hajj korlei hoilo?” But his predecessor as villain king, Jumbo, had plenty snappy lines. (From Raja Johnny: “Toke ami khun kore pute dibo, tarpor tor koborer upore casino khulbo.”) Dipjol’s differentiator is the fact that he, more than anybody else in the history of Bangladeshi cinema, gives his fans a familiar face to hate.
On the one hand, his movies satisfy Samuel Johnson’s demands that drama be “a just representation of human nature.” Dipjol doesn’t hold up a particularly flattering mirror to society. But in its twisted, melodramatic way, it’s accurate. Dadima, for example, is about two powerful women who have personal armies at their disposal. In Gunda Number One, Dipjol plays a police officer who takes bribes, rapes, and murders with glee. In Dui Nagini, he plays a holy man, a pir (among other things), who preys on the religiosity of his victims. In Jinda Lash, Dipjol’s character, Phul Miya, is filthy rich, an utter bastard with no regard for the well-being of other human beings. In “Post Mortem Koira Dimu”, he sings:
Ami hoilam Phul Miya chene amaye shorbojon
Post mortem koira dimu bejar hoile amar mon
It’s hard not to see a connection between Dipjol’s corrupt rich characters and well, almost every rich Bangladeshi who’s famous enough for you to name off the top of your head. Especially when you’re a member of the Dhaliwood public, for whom these people aren’t friends or family.
The irony in Dipjol’s fortune and fame is that he played corrupt thieves to become wealthy. But once wealthy, he played at corruption himself. In November 2008, he was sentenced to a total of 45 years in prison for murder, extortion, gun smuggling, and tax evasion. In April 2009, he was released from prison. At his hearing, he said to the judge: “Police amar cinema dekhe bhabse eigulai shotti. Kintu cinemate ashol ghotona dekhayna. Eigula golpo.”
His life since then has been as eventful as any of his movies. He was arrested and jailed for pistol-whipping a police officer who dared to stop his car for running a red light. He was released again, amidst accusations of hosting orgies in prison. During a hartal, he personally set fire to a bus. He announced that he would stop making movies to fight terrorism, but relented after a few days after, according to him, his mother said the loss to Bangladeshi cinema was too great. (There were numerous processions asking him to come back to the FDC. They all had the exact same vinyl-printed banner with his face on it.)
In his more recent movies, Dipjol does not play a villain anymore. His characters are society’s victims. In Mayer Chokh, he just wants to fix his mother’s eyes. In Rickshawallah, he’s just a poor man trying to fight back against an unjust society. In Kajer Manush, he is a much-maligned servant.
Some people say his newer work isn’t as interesting as his classic villain roles. Others say he isn’t fooling anybody.
dipjol bites a woman to death