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Refugee review: Hoichoi’s new thriller from Bangladesh is dark and predictable

The six-episode series features Shohel Mondol, Siraj Sharif, Zakia Bari Mamo and Afzal Hossain

  • Shamayita Chakraborty

Last Updated: 04.16 AM, Jun 13, 2022

Refugee review: Hoichoi’s new thriller from Bangladesh is dark and predictable

Story: Hoichoi’s brand-new series Refugee begins with Iqbal (Shohel Mondol) – a drug peddler from Bihari Camp/ Geneva Camp in Bangladesh. His circumstances force him to become an informer of a law enforcement officer Maria (Zakia Bari Mamo). Iqbal’s precarious jobs and his friend Wasim (Siraj Sharif) drive him to a perilous life. Directed by Imtiaz Hossain, the show has the potential to offer a chilling thriller but disappoints because of its predictable storyline and lack of real emotions.

Review: Hoichoi’s new series is about the Urdu-speaking community, whose social status was stripped off after the Liberation War in 1971. The community – mostly from Bihar and often identified as the Stranded Pakistanis – was put into designated minority camps with refugee status. They are also identified as a population who did not support the freedom war and hence treated as a renegade. It took Bangladesh years to finally give them citizenship and voting rights in 2008. Set in 2007, Refugee delves into the discontents of this community. All the six 23-minute-long episodes put light on the wretched conditions of these people, who neither can be a part of mainstream Bangladesh society nor can go to Pakistan. However, what could have been a compelling thriller built in a critical socio-political backdrop has been relegated to a mundane series with a predictable plot.

Every episode begins with a gripping montage and soundtrack. The plot goes like this: Iqbal’s brother is wrongly jailed. In an attempt to free his brother, he turns into an informer of a law enforcement officer Maria. Maria and her team are in search of an international terrorist, Carbon. Iqbal gets the task to track Carbon, who is believed to be in a shelter in the camp. Iqbal gets caught in the crossfire between Maria’s team and Carbon’s men. And his dream of rescuing his brother from the hellish jail fades away.

Refugee has several hit elements, including a political setup dotted with bigotry against the ‘stranded Pakistanis’, violence and gore. What it lacks though is the heart. The systematic bias against the community and bigotry falls flat because of a superficial script. The Urdu-speaking community has little command over the language. The overall histrionics have saved the script to an extent but finally, it all falls apart. While the crisis seems completely devoid of empathy and grief. Not enough care was taken to build Maria’s backstory. The conflict between two friends – Iqbal and Wasim – also suffers from a lack of care. Meanwhile, Zakia Bari Mamo, Shohel as Iqbal and Siraj as Wasim are a treat to watch.

Verdict: Despite the lacunas, Refugee is a one-time-watch for its fast editing that makes the show watchable and contextualisation of a social agenda. The series moves fast. Also, the episodes are not more than 20-23 minutes. The pace is a forte of the film and with a smart presentation, it is definitely a one-time-watch.