Last year, photographer Sarker Protick stumbled onto the set of a film in Dhaka, the Bangladeshi city where he has lived his whole life. He was instantly drawn by the cheesy, technicolor backdrops, the energetic crews, and the grandiose stories of love and betrayal. He started going to similar sets as much as he could, taking photos for a series called Love Me Or Kill Me, which provides a rare look into Dhallywood, a film industry that is little known outside Bangladesh.
Dhallywood is Bangladesh’s answer to Bollywood. Films have been made in Bangladesh since the early 20th century, but in the 1990s, the golden era of Dhallywood, the industry produced about 100 movies each year, and hundreds of theaters opened in Bangladesh. Over the past 15 years, the Bangladeshi film industry has been in decline, as the country has imported more films from India to draw in viewers. Indian films, more than 1,500 of which are produced each year, are better funded, and despite protests from Dhallywood, the movies that Protick photographs are becoming a relic of the past.
The decline of Dhallywood is one of the reasons Protick feels compelled to document this eccentric industry. Protick says that he sees a reflection of his culture within the films, which are generally very low budget and meant for mass consumption. “There’s always a class struggle in between families. You see a boy falling in love with a girl and she is very rich and he isn’t,” he tells Co.Design. “The evil always gets defeated. That’s what people want to see, that’s what people feel good about.”
The melodrama plays out in Protick’s photos: a hand appears holding a gun from behind a wall; a woman wearing an outrageous, glittering outfit stands alone in a plume of smoke; three men lie on the ground covered in (obviously) fake blood.
Protick’s previous two photography projects tackled personal subject matters–his family and the Ganges river. He wanted to keep the same tone in Love Me Or Kill Me. Though the Dhallywood sets are often crowded and chaotic, Protick’s photos are oddly serene, capturing just one element of this lurid world at a time. Somehow that makes them feel much more human than the high-budget sets of a Hollywood film.
Love Me Or Kill Me is still in progress, and Protick plans to continue shooting photos and eventually release a book.