Welcome to 'Uncensored with Rafi Hossain'.
Thank you for inviting me. This is my first time here, and the name 'uncensored' feels a bit intimidating. I hope I don't end up making seriously offensive blunders! (laughs)
Why do you think artists in our country are so defensive while choosing their words?
I think artists are not outspoken because people in general are not comfortable to speak up. For example, if a girl protests against harassment in the streets she is simply asked to shut up and leave instead of receiving support from the people.
But this needs to change.
Of course. This is why I try to be as outspoken as possible. Maybe this way others will also step up to raise their voice against the loss in the system.
Was it difficult for you to rise to your stature fighting against this “system loss” that you are talking about?
It definitely was. First of all, I had no godfather in the industry. Coming from the peripheries of Khulna, I was a loner with no umbrella over my head. But I have always been honest and down to earth. I maintain a no-compromise attitude when it comes to my performance. At times, I faced difficulties adopting certain roles. I sought advice from senior artists and groomed myself, step by step. During the Lux Channel i Superstar contest, our mentor Shampriti Apu would often get annoyed by me because I would practice the same drill over and over again, until I got it flawlessly covered. I believe this very approach has helped me greatly in my career.
Do you have idols?
I do not believe in idolizing. Artists are supposed to construct their own identity. I would never be able to deliver that captivating stare of Shubarna Mustafa, even if I tried a thousand times! But I am a big fan of her. I also love the acting of Joya Ahsan, Shampa Reza, Shabnoor and Moushumi. But Shubarna Mustafa would always be the first name on the list.
You have done a good number of films. Have you ever considered the idea of making big-screen appearances more regular?
Big screen exposure is a dream for most actors. But I feel that TV sets are a more comfortable place than film sets because the bonding between the TV cast and crew are stronger. We enjoy a lot while shooting for dramas or serials. But the crew seems very distant and reserved in movie sets. Perhaps this is not the only reason. I have taken my shots in cinema to see the acceptance and feedback from the public.
I also did a typical item song, which was a long-cherished desire. Regardless of all the controversies it generated, I enjoyed pursuing my dream. So I am a follower of my own heart and I go where it takes me. For now, doing TV serials is just enough.
Our TV channels are going through a downward phase with the audience cold-shouldering the mainstream serials and dramas. How do you see this?
In the early days, we used to eagerly wait for serials like Aaj Robibar. We would want to know if there was Bipasha Hayat or Tauquir Ahmed on TV. Unfortunately, the scenario has changed. It is not that we are not seeing quality works at all. But when a director is confined to a certain budget, a list of certain actors and a challenging time limit, a lot of art value inevitably gets compromised. Then comes the nuisance of endless advertisements. You cannot bombard the audience with never ending commercial streaks, as long as they have the remote control in their hand. They will move on to another channel, perhaps foreign, where they can find what they are looking for – uninterrupted entertainment.
But why do you think this is happening?
Time has changed the approach of our artists and directors. There was a time when casts took 10 to 15 days to shoot a single drama. There used to be a budget of taka 15 to 20 lakh for each drama. Artists would rehearse for days before shooting. And now the directors are working with a very limited budget. They are working under pressure to execute everything within a very short time. As a result, the ultimate product is losing its value. Deprived of sufficient rewards, we, the actors are not delivering up to our caliber. Directors like Animesh Aich, Sumon Anwar, Giyas Uddin Selim, Nurul Alam Atiq and Mezbaur Rahman have still managed to come up with exquisite contents going beyond tight budgets, even sometimes through self-funding. But not everyone is capable of breaking the shackles.
How do you think we can overcome these challenges?
We have become too commercial. But in spite of all the problems, we are now seeing good projects, like Aynabazi Original Series or Osthir Shomoye Shostir Golpo. I think the channels should monitor their contents more strictly. Introducing premium features for better contents might be a good option.
Okay. Now tell us about your love life?
(Laughs) I think THAT one thing must be kept censored! At least for now, since it is very personal. And nothing is guaranteed to last forever. It will be foolish of me if I say anything at this stage.
Do you plan to get married anytime soon?
No, I do not. In fact, I do not want to get married at all. Or do I? (Laughs). It's so confusing! Actually, I am so deeply in love with acting right now, everything else seems secondary.
How about a life partner from the media industry?
The problem with the media people is that they mostly lack understanding. So it is really hard for me to find a perfect match here.
So the person you are dating right now is not from the media?
Mm... He is! (Laughs). Actually working together successfully for some time creates a positive bonding between artists. I am glad that I found that chemistry through my love for the profession.
What about your previous relationship?
I was really serious about that. But as I said earlier, it takes ample time for a relationship to flourish. Maybe I was rushing things; maybe the other person thought we needed more time. Perhaps I was rather immature at that time. He is married now, and I am happy for him. But his charm is hard to forget.
Do you think celebrities are often misunderstood?
Absolutely, yes. We act of being in love on screen, hugging and crying and expressing all the human emotions to the best of our abilities. But this backfires by making our actual emotions look fake. We are told, “Enough with your drama” when we try to express our feelings. Even when we post something emotional on social media, people mock us with mean replies. The common people have the luxury to go have coffee with friends and unburden their hearts. But we do not. Most people think acting is easy, you just need to stand in front of the camera and everything will happen by magic. This perception of us having such shallow emotions is very disappointing. It is true that sometimes the celebrities also add to these negative perceptions with their actions. We often forget that we are role models for many. We represent our country, and such naivety is totally unacceptable.
Tell us about your upcoming movies.
I have been offered many contracts since Jalaler Golpo was released. But in my first mainstream appearance, I played a parallel role alongside another heroine. As a result, I kept getting similar kind of role offers afterwards, which I was not interested in. So my mainstream film career has not expanded that much yet.
Many of our actors are doing well in Kolkata now. Did you receive any offer from the other side of the border?
I received one recently, but I rejected it because I did not like the character. Actually, I have not been able to build a network in the Kolkata film industry yet. It is my own flaw that I cannot maintain good communication which is required to gain better exposure. I stayed in Kolkata for more than a year until a TV serial shooting was complete. I could easily build a strong network if I tried. And I had a road accident the day I was returning to Dhaka, which resulted in severe injuries. Since then, the idea of going back to Kolkata rather freaks me out a little bit. I am yet to overcome that trauma.
Among the contemporaries, whose work do you admire most?
I love the acting of Momo Apu and Orsha Apu. Shabnam Faria is also a good actor. Among the males, I would name Zovan and Siam.
Do you have a crush on any of the male co-actors?
(Laughs) When I was a kid, I had a crush on Tony Dias. Then I had a huge crush on Zitu Ahsan. I also admire the acting of Arefin Shuvo a lot. Sadly, I never worked as a co-artist with any of them.
Directors that you want to work with?
I would like to work with Animesh Aich, Shihab Shahin, Shumon Anwar, Gias Uddin Selim, Nurul Alam Atiq, Mezbaur Rahman Sumon and Amitabh Reza. Shayoki and Gautam Kairi are good directors as well.
Message for the readers?
I would like to request the readers to see us as normal human beings. We also have emotions and it hurts when we are teased with mean comments. Be it a public place or a shooting spot, we also want privacy and peace of mind. We entertain you with our best efforts. In return, you could be respectful; not judgmental.
Written by Tasbir Iftekhar