1. What inspired you to become a director?
I was a painting student, earning my Bachelors of Fine Arts degree from Charukola. While drawing, I would often think, wouldn't it be nice if this was moving? That's what sparked my first thoughts of becoming a director for television productions. I started with 'Jantrik Foring Ek', about a young man possessed by quantum physics, the story was born out of my own love for quantum physics. Unlike others who spend years assisting an established director, I raised the money myself, and approached actors and convinced them to work with me, an unknown director. But, sadly, this production was not aired until years later (was later aired in RTV), since channels then thought the story was too complicated. I think of my creations as visual poetry, I am an art director at heart. Unlike others who bring a story to life through visuals, I dream visuals first and then write stories that play in to those visualizations. I only direct stories which I've written myself. The only exception to this was my sister, for the drama 'Himshitol Refridgerator'.
2. So your first production didn't come to light right away. Which did?
That would be 'Shostika kije Oshshoshti'. But there's a back story to this. I was discovered by Afzal Hossain through a mutual friend, Monirul Islam Masum, who showed him a story I wrote called the Third Eye. After reading this, Afzal Hossain sought me out, he said that I am 'absurd,' and he meant it in a good way. He proposed to produce if I wanted to make anything for television. And I made 'Shostika kije Oshshoshti'. Afzal Hossain produced many of my stories, and I am grateful that he shared my vision for surrealistic arts. After a few years, in 2010, I launched my own house - Red October and since then I have been producing my own work, although I am currently more engaged in making TVCs and Reality shows (Lux-Channel i superstar in 2012, and Pond's Age Miracle in 2013).
3. Why the shift away from making fiction for television?
At heart, I am a poet and a writer, as I said; I see my productions as visual poems. Since the subjects (metaphysical, surrealist) I deal with are complicated,
I cannot tell the story I want to portray if advertisements keep getting in the way. Don't get me wrong, I'm not against advertisements, they are the lifeblood of a television network, but they have to be managed. Their slots and placements cannot break the viewer's attention in a way that they forget the story that had engaged them. Look at almost any Indian channel, for example Zee Bangla, they will manage their ads in a way that does not completely take the viewer's attention away.
4. What is your favourite production of all time?
That would be 21 Grams (2003). Afzal bhai gave me movie and said he found similarity between this and my work. He was right.
5. Who have you enjoyed working with the most?
I must say I have enjoyed working with Aupee the most, her interest in literature and art made it easy to work with her as we spoke the same language in this regard. 'Je Jibon Foringer' and 'Chaya Feri' are two of the most memorable productions with her. She could capture the most fitting expressions. For instance, in one scene, the lead character presents a bird from his pocket to her as a gift, and the minute it leaves his hand, the bird turns into a hundred birds. This was a close shot, where the expressions are even more crucial, and she gave the perfect one. It is an amazing feeling when an actor can deliver the exact expression which a director has in mind, and that's what Aupee can do.
6. You have known Aupee Karim personally, as more than an actor. What are your thoughts about her?
It was always easy to talk to Aupee about art, literature and architecture. Our interactions were always lively. I think our relationship was built on the fact that we could always communicate very easily; we were likeminded in particular about these subject, but not about everything.
7. In your opinion, what is the most important thing missing from the overall media today?
What's missing is sophistication. Yes, we as a people are poor in general. But, I do not believe there is any connection between a man's economic condition and his level of sophistication. I mean look at great literary figures that we will never forget, look at Lalon Shah – he was poor, but he was sophisticated. If you read Fyodor Dostoyevsky's books, such as Crime and Punishment (1866), you'll read about really poor protagonists, but they are so sophisticated that you will never feel pity for them. You know they will come out winning. And that's life – people with talent do not deserve our pity. But then, look at the heroes in our media - they are designed in a way so that we feel pity for them. As if our basic beauty is embedded in poverty. What is missing is sophistication to break preconceived notions. We as a people have embraced poverty into our hearts, we are not only poor in resources, but in our heads, psychologically.
8. Television directors are seen to try their hand at making movies. Do you think television direction is a starting point to get to movies?
What would be your word of advice for newcomers?
This is the reality, but this has to change if the film industry is to stand on its own. Unfortunately, the required learning opportunities do not exist for directors, so one must work in television to learn the tools and tricks of the trade. But unless people specialize in their own trade and stop switching back and forth, they cannot grow to be able to see the kind of vision needed to make good films. About giving advice to newcomers, I would say you must have enough common sense to be a successful director. Without knowledge, without literature, without being well read, you cannot be a good director. You must first know what is 'good'. And you have to be passionate. Without a real passion for making films, you will not survive how this profession will test you. It will not work. You have to completely dedicate yourself to it for the long run. You need to cultivate a strong sense of art direction, and music as well. It's your show to carry and without knowledge of these facets, you will lose control of the final output.
9. What saddens you?
I play the piano, and I learn from Willia, a talented Russian piano player. One day I asked her, “You play so well, why don't you compose?” With 40 years of piano playing under her belt (she has been playing since she was 5), she said, “Where my talent ends, Mozart and Beethoven begins – why would I compose?” I realized neither should I, because I will never be a world class piano player either. This saddens me.
10. Where do you see yourself ten years from now?
I don't want to see myself that far into the future! The beauty and taste of my life rides on its unpredictable nature. As Percy Bysshe Shelley said, “I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!” Once you realize the value of these words, you don't bother planning that far ahead into the future.
Interviewed by Zakir Mushtaque