A clever twist on a hoary tale is but one of the reasons to see “On the Wings of Dreams,” a genuine charmer from newcomer Golam Rabbany Biplob. Another reason is the captivating Rokeya Prachy (“The Clay Bird”) as the wife of an unschooled villager who thinks he’s discovered a fortune in a pair of secondhand trousers. Simply told with sensitivity and respect for character, the pic has occasional problems integrating tone, but Biplob, founder of the Intl. Film Festival Bangladesh, is a new Bengali talent on the rise. Smaller fests will have a crowd-pleaser on their hands.
Family man Fazlu (singer Mahmuduzzaman Babu) hawks tiger balm with the help of young son Ratan (Ratan). A successful day means he can buy extras for the kids, including a slightly used pair of pants. That evening, when mom (Prachy) goes to wash them, she discovers a wad of high-denomination bank notes, but the illiterate couple haven’t a clue where they’re from.
Fazlu consults the only local man he trusts, village bigwig Siraj (Fazlur Rahman Babu). The latter agrees to help — for a percentage, of course — but the only place that offers currency exchange is in Dhaka, a city even more distant mentally than in miles. They decide to photocopy one bill and give it to a relative who’s headed to the city — which is when auds are clued in that the notes are obsolete currency from Zaire and thus worthless.
Meanwhile, Fazlu’s wife dreams of using the money to get treatment for crippled daughter Asma (Shoma), and Fazlu becomes susceptible to the flirtations of Siraj’s gold-digging sister-in-law Rehana (Shamima Islam Tusti). This once peaceful family is fracturing at the seams, and communication being what it is in rural Bangladesh, it’s taking weeks for them to learn how much money they have coming to them.
At its best when dealing with simple family dynamics, the pic portrays Fazlu’s home life with warmth and ease. Confrontations are more problematic (not to mention melodramatic), and helmer Biplob has difficulty pitching them at the right level. He uses a gentle tone in showing up the foibles and hypocrisies of his characters, and his criticisms of society in general are undisguised.
Though Mahmuduzzaman Babu has the most screen time, it’s Prachy who lingers in the memory. With her big doe-like eyes and graceful aura, her anguish at the destruction of the family unit is what’s most affecting.
Lensing is consistently attractive, boasting accomplished camerawork and judiciously lit night scenes.