Tora-san screened in Bengali!

Machiko Yamamura (Information and Cultural Section, Embassy of Japan in Bangladesh)

The Japan Foundation provides high quality Japanese broadcast contents primarily to countries and regions where commercial broadcast of them would be difficult through its Japanese TV Broadcasting Abroad program. As part of the program, the Bengali version of Tora-san's Sunrise and Sunset was broadcast on a Bangladeshi TV channel with the cooperation of the Embassy of Japan in Bangladesh in September 2016. Due to the popularity of the film, it was later screened at the Bangladesh National Museum. Machiko Yamamura, a Second Secretary of the Embassy who was in charge of the screening, has written a report on the sequence of events leading up to the screening and the reaction of the local populace.

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Left: Entrance to the Bangladesh National Museum, the venue of the screening Right: Inside the venue

The film Tora-san's Sunrise and Sunset, the 17th in the Tora-san (or Otoko wa Tsurai yo, which means "It's tough being a man" in Japanese) series, was screened at the Bangladesh National Museum in Dhaka, Bangladesh on January 6, 2017. Approximately 500 audience members came to the venue in early January to see the movie, which was highly popular among Japanese people, and reacted to it with laughter and tears, just like the old days when Tora-san movies were screened for New Year holidays in Japan.

In Bangladesh, many families live close to their extended families, though there are some families consisting only of couples and their children. Thus it is common to see these extended families helping each other and sometimes arguing in their daily lives. Furthermore, my predecessors and other staff members at the Embassy who have worked hard to introduce the film dubbed in Bengali for the past several years thought that Bangladeshi people would enjoy the character of Tora-san, because they have a similar strong compassion and humanity.

Prior to the Museum screening, the same Tora-san's Sunrise and Sunset, dubbed in Bengali, was broadcast on the NTV (International Television Channel Ltd., a Bangladeshi commercial broadcasting company), on September 29, 2016, with the cooperation of the Japan Foundation. Due to the great popularity of the TV broadcast, we decided to screen the film again at the National Museum, a venue frequented by many visitors, primarily families, so that more people could enjoy Tora-san.

After the initial TV broadcast, I heard comments to the effect that the film had been very well received among the staff at the TV station, and acquaintances who had viewed the broadcast told me they found it entertaining. Backing up those comments, the venue was filled with laughter during the Museum screening in reaction to the scene of the fuss at the mugwort-and-rice dumpling shop "Toraya." Other strong reactions occurred during the scene where the geisha Botan got into trouble with her customer who did not return the money she had lent, probably because the amount of money was quite large. These reactions assured me that the audience understood the character of Tora-san and this pleased me a lot. The majority of people in Bangladesh are Muslims who have no custom of consuming alcohol, so I was somewhat concerned over the drinking scenes in the movie, but these did not seem to cause any notable problems with the audience.

I received numerous comments after the screening, such as "I liked Tora-san because he is very honest and caring. I really enjoyed it," "this film really gives one a sense of what life is," and "I would love to see another similar Japanese film in the future." Museum staff also praised the film as a wonderful work of art, and quickly requested to screen the film again. Accordingly, we are planning on continuing the screenings. There are also plans to broadcast the 27th and 38th episodes in the series, Tora-san's Many Splendored Love and Tora-san Goes to North respectively, on TV, dubbed in Bengali, and I look forward to even more viewers being able to experience the appeals of the Tora-san character and experience Japanese culture through him.

As a staff member on the project, I am most pleased that Bangladeshi people were able to accept the character of Tora-san, and I am relieved that I was able to bring the efforts of my predecessors to fruition. I would also like to express my deep gratitude for the invaluable support of Shochiku Co., Ltd., the copyright holder of the film, as well as the Bangladesh National Museum and NTV. Thank you all for your support!

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Numerous attendees filling out the questionnaire with their comments after the screening

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