Live from Dhaka took Bangladesh's film fraternity by surprise when it became the first film to be fully featured in the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR), and it went on to the Best Actor and Best Director awards at the Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF). The gritty tale of the struggles and ambitions of lower-middle class Dhaka, portrayed in black and white, is masterfully told by Abdullah Mohammad Saad and the lead actor, Mostafa Monwar. In light of the first Bangladeshi release of the acclaimed film at Star Cineplex, which was taken off the halls yesterday, Mostofa Monwar talks to The Daily Star about Live from Dhaka, his career in acting, and more.
Congratulations on the Bangladeshi release of 'Live from Dhaka'. Tell us about how you feel about this film finally reaching the Bangladeshi audience.
Thank you very much. It feels amazing to have this film appreciated by our own audience, and I would honestly take that over any international award or recognition. Star Cineplex has my gratitude for showcasing Live from Dhaka. However, I do feel that the film should have been showcased for longer, as a lot of people have expressed their desire to watch it over the weekends. We acknowledge that it is an indie and 'niche' film, but more people should have the opportunity to watch Live from Dhaka.
Your performance in Live from Dhaka was heavily praised. How was the journey, from when you started shooting the film, until now?
I would credit my performance to Saad's (director Abdullah Mohammad Saad) brilliance and attention to detail. When he contacted me to work for the film, he told me that he wanted to capture life in Dhaka, and how a lower middle-class man with a slight handicap thought and operated in the city. Dhaka city's relationship with the protagonist was also a focal point in this film, and we tried to highlight that as much as possible. We practiced the pivotal scenes and dialogues before the shooting even started, at any opportunity that we could get. It feels really amazing to see the film doing well, and I consider it my seminal work.
The film is distinctive because it was shot in black and white. Was it a stylistic choice?
While it was Saad's decision to shoot in black and white to better capture the essence of urban Dhaka, the film is a micro-budget one (BDT eight lakh) and the decision does help keep down the production costs!(laughs)The lack of budget often leads to innovation in techniques, as it did in Live from Dhaka.
Your journey in acting has spanned two decades now. What are some of the highlights in it, and how do you want to progress as you move forward?
I started acting formally in 1998, when I joined Prachyanat theatre. After that, I joined North South University, and was heavily involved in the Cine and Drama Club, where I honed my craft. One of the highlights will have to be my first telefilm, Kufa, directed by Animesh Aich, which came out in 2003. Labonno Probha by Nurul Alam Atique, where I played the role of a transgender guard, was a challenging and fulfilling role. Live from Dhaka was the most complete work that I have done until now, and I want to carry on the momentum to be in projects of similar quality.