The Daily Star Spelling Bee is on air for the third time this year. A key person behind the scenes is Hassan Abidur Reja Jewel, director of the show. He is well-known as a talented artiste of the 1990s, but more importantly, he is now known for shows “Bolte Chai”, “Music Café” and “Shorashori” for ETV -- and many more, which he directed. He spoke to The Daily Star about his conception of the show, challenges and behind-the-scene stories.
How did you become the Spelling Bee director?
Jewel: I was working as Head of Programme at Massranga TV before Spelling Bee, but quit for severe health reasons and was still recuperating. In 2012, Schumonn Patwary approached me with the project to see if I was interested. I had doubts, not because I had not done a project of this scale before, but because I had not done anything since my recovery. After a few meetings with Champs21.com, I was hooked to the concept.
Once I started, the challenge of making a reality TV show was just what I needed to wake up, get back to my passion and regain full confidence in myself.
How did you approach the making of Spelling Bee?
Jewel: If you look at International Spelling Bee productions, the shows are very lackluster. They can afford to be! The show has established its value to the educational sector and audiences are used to the lack of glam. However, Spelling Bee was to be a very new concept in Bangladesh and still is. The biggest challenge was to turn an international concept and a technical show into a visually appealing show for our audience. I had great help in this aspect from Awal Reza, who is Spelling Bee's co-Director, and MN Islam Nayeem, my partner and COO at Greenbee Communications.
What difficulties have you face while shooting Spelling Bee?
Jewel: Producing reality shows is itself a challenge; it's tougher than working with seasoned actors. Working with children is even further difficult. It involves several issues. Kids get physically exhausted during the tiring shooting, they get very nervous and want their parents near them; there are dietary restrictions and so on. We make sure the participants are taken care of the same way I would want my child to be treated. I am very proud to say Spelling Bee team always closes a season with healthy participants.
Do you have any favourite speller?
Jewel: About favourites, I will share a behind-the-scene secret. While shooting episodes, a fierce competition goes behind the camera as well. Every team member has a favourite participant and they all root for their own favourites. It is a very common scene that the team members hold their breath and pray softly while their favourite participant is up for their next word.
Our cameraperson Gollam Mostofa and Masum, our director of photography, always keep track of their favourites' scores wherever they are on the set or however busy they are during the shooting.
What do you most treasure from the show?
Jewel: Oh, so many things! Being a director brings its own satisfaction but I am also a singer. Although I have not explored that arena much in recent years, during shooting parents always come up to me and speak of their favourite songs of mine. Plus, working with kids is always a satisfying and humbling experience.