When celebrated ad maker Amitabh Reza Chowdhury declared his interest to make a movie, fans were intrigued to see what he would come up with. Amitabh’s TVC’s had always been something special, standing out from the mainstream. Would his movie be the same? ‘Aynabaji’, starring Chanchal Chowdhury, has not disappointed. Everything from its cinematography to its story has been a breath of fresh air.

Aynabaji is the story of a mysterious young man whose job is to serve prison sentences for other people | Photo courtesy: Aynabaji.com

Aynabaji tells the story of Ayna (Chanchal Chowdhury), a mysterious young man whose job is to serve prison sentences for other people. Ayna is incredibly good at mimicking peoples’ personalities and mannerisms. That skill, paired with a good makeover, makes him a perfect clone for anyone. Ayna has been doing this for years and has gained a unique reputation in the underworld. Something that allows Ayna to do is that he has no connections with anyone, no family or friends of note and so it doesn’t matter if he vanishes for months or years at a time to serve these jail sentences.

That all changes when Ayna falls in love. He starts to regret the double life he is leading and wishes to clean up his act. At the same time, he is drawn into something even darker.

As you can gather by now, the premise is something that’s never been seen before in Bangladeshi cinema. The intricate storyline is further boosted by my favourite aspect of the movie, the cinematography. The camera work is absolutely brilliant and it really brings Dhaka to life. For a city as massive and storied as our capital, Dhaka has never gotten the limelight it deserved on camera. The majestically large city sprawling with life in its every crevice shines bright on the camera work. To me, personally, it felt like the camera work repeatedly highlight just how big Dhaka is and just how small and alone we all are within it. You may interpret it differently, of course.

The acting was also well done. You have probably already heard rave reviews about Chanchal Chowdhury’s performance in this movie and it was well deserved. Ayna is both mysterious and warm at the same time, which is quite the feat to pull off. Chanchal blends in with the scenery of Puran Dhaka, where Ayna lives, and really does execute what the movie asks of him.

The film builds you up for a mind-blowing ending like all good thrillers, but perhaps falls a little short with a less than stellar climax. | Photo courtesy: Aynabaji.com

At this point though, I feel it’s important to mention some things I felt could have been done better.

The movie has a very well-orchestrated build up and it gets you waiting for a strong, mind-blowing ending as all good thrillers do. The ending, I felt, was somewhat weak compared to the rest of the movie. The psychological twists that had so far been quite deep become somewhat shallow towards the end. But perhaps that’s just me.

Also, even though the movie is not a ‘mainstream’ Bangladeshi movie by any means, Amitabh Reza Chowdhury has consciously made the choice to keep certain ‘mainstream’ and ‘commercial’ elements alive, which I felt was a completely business oriented decision on his part. It is his movie, of course, and he can choose to do whatever he wants but this probably gets in the way of making Aynabaji something more than what it ultimately became.

In conclusion, Aynabaji is an exciting new chapter in Bangladeshi cinema and will hopefully inspire a new wave of movies in the coming years. Its use of camera work to paint Dhaka in a new way, its unique storytelling and overall excellent execution make it one of the highlights of the year.

by Rayaan Ibtesham Chowdhury