Talkie is a popular version of movie having synchronised sound. It talks and plays recorded sound with bioscope invented at the end of the nineteenth century as a speechless visual medium. Talkie came out as an outcome of a series of inventions that include photographic image (1816) by Nicephore Niepce, negative (1830) by Fox Talbot, photography (1837) by L Daguerre, celluloid film (1846) by William Freeze Greene and motion film developed in 1890. Initially motion film or movie was silent.
In undivided Bengal, silent film was first screened in Calcutta in 1896. The pioneer of this ‘maiden film-show’ was a foreigner, Stephens by name, who along with a theatre group visited Dhaka during 1896-97 and organised similar film-show here. Encouraged by Stephens, hira lal sen of Manikganj took the initiative to organise film-show on commercial basis in the country in 1898. At that time, one kind of obsolete bioscope known as peep show was very popular in both rural and urban areas. The viewers looked through the eye-hole of a box and enjoyed the pictures serially rolled on a screen inside it and the melodious brief offered by the operator.
Later, bioscope was modified by inclusion of speech and given the name as talkie. The first full-fledged audio-visual film of the subcontinent 'The Melody of Love' was produced in 1928. Dhaka's first feature film 'Mukh O Mukhosh' by Abdul Jabber Khan was released in 1956.
In addition to the mainstream feature films, the documentaries were, in fact, screened as talkie. This mobile film-show, talkie earned wide recognition with the release of two documentaries - Salamat (1945) and In Our Midst (1948). Making such documentaries became easier with the establishment of the Department of Films (1953) and the Films Development Corporation (1957) by the government. The Department of Public Relations was asked to screen documentaries for publicity of the development activities undertaken by the government. The job is now performed by the Department of Mass Communications through its regional information offices. Moreover, some other governmental and non-governmental organisations dealing with family planning, health, agriculture, livestock, fisheries, forestry, etc use talkie for awareness development and increasing peoples' participation in development activities and programmes.
Talkie had been put in use for publicity, in which complex issues were illustrated in simple and attractive form and thus the illiterate and relatively less enlightened people were motivated towards desirable changes. It has a fervent appeal to the people deprived of access to modern media like cinema and television.
The District Information office is provided with a mobile film unit that comprises generator, projector, cinema-van and a film-operator. To organise talkie-show regularly, the film-unit moves from one place to another following a monthly schedule, which is also distributed, to different offices and union councils of the district for ensuring proper publicity as well as security. Specialists and experienced persons sometimes deliver speeches on the subject matter of the talkie that usually covers development activities, national days or events or news-stories of national importance. Through this the entertaining medium establishes a two-way direct communication and becomes educative to satisfy many queries of the common people.
Despite revolutionary changes in the electronic media, talkie is still a technologically backward medium. The operator moves with a huge burden of projector, generator, folded screen and 16 mm films. Frequent collapse of the show due to technical setback is a serious problem. Sometimes the themes of the documentaries create political debate leading to misunderstanding and chaos among the viewers. Moreover, as the number of female viewers is increasing day by day, their security is also a matter of concern.
Most documentaries are based on a single idea like nutrition, afforestation or pisciculture. A viewer gets bored to watch such monotonous films. Despite limitations, as communication and development become synonymous nowadays, top priority is being attached to the dissemination of information to ensure the upliftment of the poverty-stricken masses and the century old talkie, along with other regular media, is continuing to carry on this important task at grassroots level. [M Saifullah]