Dr Azmeri Haque Badhon won the 2nd runner-up title at Lux Channel i Superstar 2006, before making her way into acting. She is also a non-practicing dentist.
The celebrated Bangladeshi artiste will be playing the role of Muskan Zuberi in acclaimed Indian director Srijit Mukherji's first Hoichoi original series, "Robindronath Ekhane Kawkhono Khete Aashenni", based on Mohammad Nazim Uddin's Bangladeshi thriller novel of the same name. Other cast members include Anjan Dutt (Kharaj Khasnobis), Rahul Bose (Nirupam Chanda), Anirban Bhattacharya (Ator Ali) and Anirban Chakrabarti (OC Tapas Sikder).
This series is among Hoichoi's slate of 25 new originals, for their fourth year. In a recent video interview with The Daily Star, titled A & E Talk with Elita, Badhon shared her experience of working on the project and more.
Initially, Srijit Mukherji wanted to shoot this thriller adaptation in Bangladesh, with an entirely Bangladeshi cast. The director has said that he always wanted to cast Badhon in the role of Muskan Zuberi. "I received a few Whatsapp messages from Srijit Mukherji at the beginning of the pandemic. He wanted to speak to me about the role. I was in self-isolation at the time, and I genuinely thought I was hallucinating!" explained Badhon. "I didn't believe it. I even ignored his texts, until producer Shahriar Shakil got me in contact with him."
Badhon read the novel right after speaking to Srijit Mukherji, and even started rehearsing scenes from the script. "Srijit Mukherji recorded the dialogues of my co-artistes and sent me the recordings through Whatsapp, so that I could rehearse," she added.
However, the director's plans of working on the series with Bangladeshi actors were interrupted by the pandemic. As a result, he decided to move forward with the series in India, with an Indian cast. At the time, he wanted to cast Paoli Dam in the role, but that did not work out due to scheduling conflicts. Eventually, Srijit Mukherji went back to his first choice — Badhon.
With the assistance and cooperation of the High Commissions of Bangladesh and India, Badhon went to Kolkata in December 2020, to begin working on the project. The cast and crew are shooting with all the precautions, including Covid-19 testing, when needed.
"I am thankful to the author Mohammad Nazim Uddin for creating a wonderful, multifaceted character like Muskan Zuberi — every actor waits for a role like this," shared Badhon. "I am completely fascinated by her."
Badhon has been visiting the sets, even on days where she does not have any scenes to shoot, just to watch the others at work. "All the actors in the series are brilliant. Besides, working with the likes of Srijit Mukherji, Rahul Bose and Anirban Bhattacharya is the experience of a lifetime," she said. "Rahul Bose is incredibly humble. As a co-actor, he made me feel really comfortable on the sets. I don't have any direct scenes with Anjan Dutt, but there is a point in the climax of the story, where audiences will get to see me in the same frame as him, alongside all the other characters, which is exhilarating!"
Badhon also took up singing for the project, since the character of Muskan Zuberi, an ardent admirer of Rabindranath Tagore, is a good singer. "I am not a very musical person," shares Badhon. "But I learned singing for this role, right from the basics, for three months. Starting from Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, I learned to play a few, easy songs on the harmonium. I may not be good at singing still, but I wanted to get the body language and the essence of the character right. I will be lip syncing to another singer's voice in the series."
Moreover, Badhon is thankful to Hoichoi for giving her a platform to explore her skills. "Our industry has plenty of talented and eager individuals who want to do good work, but we lack the production and the technical support," she said. "To that end, I appreciate Hoichoi's commitment to supporting young, promising artistes."
In 2018, Badhon received the complete guardianship and general custody of her only daughter, after a hard-fought legal battle. She spoke about that day in her life, in an emotional moment during the interview. "It was raining heavily on the day of the final verdict, and I felt that Mother Nature was celebrating with me," shared a tearful Badhon.
She further said, "Sadly, women and girls in our society hardly get the opportunity to learn how to speak up for their rights. When girls who have gone through difficulties in their lives, come up to me and say that I give them the courage and confidence to fight for their rights, I feel an immense sense of accomplishment." She further added that motherhood gave her the strength to fight against all odds and stand firm on her beliefs.
On the work front, Badhon also wrapped up director Abdullah Mohammad Saad's forthcoming project. She described working with him as one of her biggest learning experiences.