Dilara Zaman's acting career took off before the Bangladesh's Independence, establishing her as one of the veterans of the film industry in the '60s. Aside from appearing in a plethora of films and TV plays over the years, the versatile artiste has also been in the teaching profession for over 26 years. Dilara Zaman's acting origins lie in theatre. She performed on stage while still a student. Since then, her career has never slowed, and she remains active today even at the age of 75. In a recent conversation with The Daily Star, the Ekushey Padak-awarded actress reflects on her career, and more.
What has motivated you to stay the course on the acting scene?
Dilara Zaman: I wouldn't have, if I did not enjoy it so much. Acting is a passion, and was never a means to an end. These days, I take on acting projects to fight the loneliness I feel since my husband and companion of 50 years passed away four years ago. My two daughters stay in the US and I live here alone. Acting has become my loyal companion.
You are lovingly recognised for playing many on-screen mothers over generations, and actors off set fondly refer to you as “Ma”. How does this feel?
Dilara Zaman: We are a family, and it gives me great pleasure to be addressed as “Ma”. Even those that serve me tea in between takes address me as their mother. I consider all the younger actors and actresses my children, and there are those even younger that call me “Dadi” or “Nani”. Not everyone is blessed to have so many loving people around them, and I consider myself most fortunate.
Which maternal role in particular proved most popular with the audience?
Dilara Zaman: In the play “Oyomoye”, I played Mirza's mother. This in particular proved vastly popular and people still bring it up today.
What do you miss most from your long career in the industry?
Dilara Zaman: What I miss most are the co-artistes and dear friends I worked with at the start of my career. Many have departed for the next life.
What were the challenges you faced when you began acting?
Dilara Zaman: It was much more difficult than what newcomers face today. I was born in a conservative family, but my parents were liberal and encouraged me to pursue acting. I began acting on stage in my college days, and then moved onto other mediums while in university. My mentor was noted playwright Nurul Momen sir, because of whom I was able to come this far.
There was a time when TV plays were aired live. How did you tackle that?
Dilara Zaman: Just like preparing for exams, we had to memorise our lines, and take up exact positions on set. There was no room for mistakes. TV plays were aired at 8pm, and we were on set by 2pm, and would keep rehearsing until show time. I used to work in DIT towers, and it was very difficult to give live performances.
Actors often desire to play a particular kind of role. Was there a particular role you set your heart on?
Dilara Zaman: I have always wanted to portray marginalised women on screen, such as a prostitute, or a 'birangana' from the Liberation War. But my teaching profession hindered me from taking up such roles, as my students and their families may begin seeing me in a negative light. I have always found this unfulfilling.
What roles do actors play in shaping society?
Dilara Zaman: A play's narrative, a character, has the power to change someone's life. Plays and films are the language of a tradition. This makes acting one of the greatest art forms.