Bijori Barkatullah has been an actress, singer, dancer and model of Bangladeshi media for over two decades. She started acting with the drama, “Shukher Chharpotro”, directed by her father Mohammad Barkatullah in 1988. Star Showbiz recently caught up with her for an interview.
How long have you been acting and what experiences have you gained on the road?
It's been pretty long. I've been acting seriously since 1993, almost 21 years now, and basically I am a dancer. It has really been a long journey I must say. I have been dancing, singing and acting since my school and college days, and then in 1993 I did a drama on BTV. Before that I have acted in a one hour drama, Shukher Chharpotro. On this journey I have gained a lot of love from the people and I have gotten a lot of awards for my work which has encouraged me to keep on moving forward.
Why did you choose acting as your profession instead of dancing?
In acting you can work more freely as a freelancer. When it comes to dancing, the same thing can't be done because our society is a bit conservative. In Bangladesh, dancing isn't always seen in a good way by the public in general. There are many talented dancers in our country but they don't have many opportunities to show their skills and talents. Dancers can only show their skills on the stage and may be on the television. So there aren't many platforms for dancers to showcase their talents. On the other hand, 5 minutes of dancing takes a lot prior effort with all the costumes, energy, etc. The same amount of effort can put into a drama that would last almost an hour. Then there are matters which involves getting good sponsors, etc. Then we can also see that some girls are not allowed to dance after they get married and there are many other social restrictions. Hence many talented dancers are being discouraged from taking dancing as a profession. Even I faced similar problems after I got married but I have been able to take acting as a profession unlike dancing.
We can see that the number of dancing programs on television has increased. So do you still think that it isn't enough?
No I don't think so. Even now, people can't take dancing as a profession due to the lack of opportunities, very few have been able to do so. I have taken up acting as a profession because I've found a lot of opportunity and I personally found a lot of satisfaction in it.
Since you've turned out to be a successful actress, do you ever think about returning to the dancing scene?
Yes, now I do have the opportunity to dance again. And in Bangladesh they usually use popular faces for the dancing programs, even if the person has been a bit out of practice. Acting has kept me so busy that it's hard to find time to practice dancing. Whenever I have a dancing program I make sure that I have had enough practice, ultimately it turns out to be one or two dancing shows a year. Hence I can't call myself a professional dancer. I am a familiar to the public now but there are many others who are dancing throughout the year. So it is all our responsibility to help them get the limelight. People like me should step back and make room for the hard working full-time dancers. Whenever I get calls for dancing in various programs I try to use full time dancers so that they can get some limelight. In some cases I just get them to dance instead of doing it myself.
There are many actors nowadays. This wasn't the case back when you started. People back then used to act as an extra activity just for fun but now the whole scenario is different. What are your thoughts in this regard?
Firstly, there are lots of new television channels. The number of viewers has decreased as most people have started watching foreign television programs. We have so many channels but the budgets are so low it's not possible to make good quality program with that amount of money. If the production quality is low then obviously people will lose interest in watching them. All the channels are more interested in time rather than quality. Hence quantity increased while quality of the programs decreased. Then on the other hand, the amount of advertisements have increased so much, it's scary. In some cases people forget what they were watching due to the high number of advertisements. Creativity has decreased as well. Producer and creators lack creativity these days. In many cases they are copying other people. Many actors are also becoming a bit commercial. They are taking acting roles in large numbers, more than they can handle. In many cases they are taking fifteen to twenty acting roles in various shows instead of one or two. Sometimes these actors don't read their scripts properly. That is one of the reasons why the quality of acting in our media has decreased. Still, some of these programs and people in the media are surviving despite all the problems. I would call them geniuses, I really appreciate them!
What do you think an actor should do in order to establish themselves in the media?
These days, people in the media are trying to do everything. They would dance, act, sing, etc. They are not very focused. Most of them are happy doing any sort of work, they lack focus on what they really want to do. It is important for a person to be focused, education is also very important. People are not getting much recognition these days because they lack focus and they are not educating themselves. They all want to be polymaths but what they should actually do is find one thing that they are good at and master in it and put full focus on it. People should be selective about their work. On the other hand we can see many actors are worried about their looks. After their programs have been air, the first thing they would ask is whether they look good or not, sadly they don't ask the same questions about their performances.
Would you kindly tell us how you maintain everything at the same time, your personal life and your professional life?
I try to balance everything out but it's very hard. I have to maintain my family, my kids, my work, etc. I give my kids the most priority. I have given a lot of quality time to my kids and family and because of that I had to sacrifice a lot of professional work, but I have no regrets I am very satisfied with everything I have done for my family.
Do you ever want to act in films?
In the past I have gotten offers for films but I let them go. These films were well received and in my opinion the films were good. I won't mention their names. But yes, I really do want to work in films in the future.
Interviewed by Rafi Hossain and narrated by Rayan Quddus