Dreaming Big | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 22, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, July 22, 2016

Star People

Dreaming Big

Talking to Mahboob Rahman

It takes a lot to be a popular business person in the country, especially if one is remembered as an individual who not only is a successful businessman, but also someone who promotes entertainment, hospitality, traveling, outdoor sports and fitness like surfing and running. Mahboob Rahman, the Managing Director of ShowMotion Limited (Star Cineplex), is one such individual who not only possesses all the features mentioned above, but is also greatly involved with the social service activities in his home town and village, in Chittagong.

Growing up in Chittagong at Nandan Kanon by the foothill of DC Hill, Mahboob Rahman spent most of his childhood with his maternal grand parents who lived in a beautiful one storied house with gardens and many pets. A picturesque image of Chittagong from the 70s and 80s, Rahman speaks of discovering the city with friends, knowing and learning about people and simply having fun within a zone that felt safe and homely.

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A student of the famous Bawa School in Chittagong from Nursery till grade 5, Mahboob moved to Saint Placid's High, a Christian Missionary School at Patharghata from where he completed his Matriculation. Eventually, he left for Texas where he finished high school. "I graduated High School in 1989 and moved to Connecticut and studied one year at Enfield College then returned back to Texas and enrolled in the Computer Science Department at the University of Texas at Arlington," he says. "I always found southern people to be more hospitable and friendly just like us Chittagonians!" Rahman graduated with Interdisciplinary Studies in Computer Science and Management Information Systems from UT Arlington in 1994.

"My passion was to paint and draw since very young and I had won the first prize in PTA art competition in Texas in 1988, where all the high schools in Texas competed," says Rahman.  "My photo came in the Dallas Morning News.  That was the first ever prize or recognition I won."

While at University of Texas at Arlington (UTA), Mahboob Rahman was elected as the President of the International Student Organization (ISO) representing over 2,500 International Students.

It was back in 2004 when Mahboob Rahman established the first multiplex cinema in Bangladesh. "It certainly was a risk!" he says. "Especially when most of the single screen halls were closing down and going to the cinema was seen as an indecent act. But I thought that if it works in Texas and Delhi, why would it not work here? If we can provide safe, comfortable and top-quality facilities to the audience, they will definitely appreciate it."

Even though the company was almost at the verge of bankruptcy in the first two years, today, the Star Cineplex, located in Panthapoth at the Bashundhara shopping complex is one of the most visited cinemas for quality movies – from Hollywood, Europe, Middle East and Bangladesh.

Also the owner of the popular hotel Sayeman in Cox's Bazaar, Mahboob Rahman has excelled in the field of hospitality as well. "Our family has been doing business in the hotel industry since 1964 with hotel Sayeman and we have seen the changes in Cox's Bazar tourism over the last half a century," he says. "With better infrastructures in roads and air communication Cox's Bazar is not anymore a seasonal tourist destination as it used to be. With the new plan of international airport and rail communication, tourists will be visiting the beach-city all year long." Recently, Sayeman Beach Resort won the traveller's best choice award by Trip Advisor.

Mahboob Rahman started the first cinema in the ballroom of Sayeman and plans to start a three-screen digital multiplex theatre in Cox's Bazar adjacent to the Beach Resort within a year's time. "The tourists do not have any other activity after dark in Cox's Bazar besides going out to eat. So far we have a very good response from the tourists coming to watch the films."

In addition, a three-screen digital multiplex in Dhaka will be built at the newly built Shimanto Square in Dhanmondi by May 2017, he adds. "We are currently in discussion with landowners in Chittagong to set up a four-screen multiplex under lease. We are also considering expanding in Sylhet and Khulna gradually.  My goal is to set up at least a 100 digital screens in Bangladesh in the next five years."

Passionate about outdoor sports, Mahboob Rahman is also known for promoting the sport of surfing in Cox's Bazaar and also running. "I started training for a Marathon in 2013 and completed my first marathon as the first Bangladeshi in the Stockholm marathon finishing 42Km.  The year after I ran one of the hardest and challenging marathons in the world in Sourth Africa's Entabani, Kruger National Park called the Big Five Marathon.  The treacherous trek involved running steep hills up to 1000 meters and 20cm deep sand through Lion country where open predators like Lions and Cheetahs roamed.  I was the first and only one from Bangladesh to participate and complete the race."

With a family who has been involved in politics and social services for a very long time, Mahboob feels that everyone can make positive changes. "You would have to believe in yourself, so that you can make positive changes around you," he says. "If necessary, change yourself for the better -- a small price to pay."

Rahman's family has been involved in many social works in Mirsarai, Chittaong, especially in the education sector. "My late grandfather, Sayedur Rahman, who was an MLA and a businessmen during 1940s and 50s has donated lands and built structures for numerous schools in Mirsarai," he says. "Nizamupur College and Mohajonhat Forzlur Rahman College are two notable contributions during his time. My grandmother who was not able to read or write also established a girl's school in Mirsarai called Panjubunnesa Girlsh High School.  My father, Engr. Mosharraf Hossain, has also established schools, clinics etc and expanded existing schools and colleges built by the family. I believe that this is an obligation and responsibility that our generation needs to shoulder and do as much as possible for the society."

Rahman has kept up with the family tradition and visits Mirsarai during weekends and holidays. "One of the most successful and rewarding social programmes I took is to hand out free waterproof school bags for children who cannot afford to buy bags," he says.  "The free text books that they get from the government get ruined by monsoon rain and dust. I started giving school bags last year and my plan is to donate more than five thousand bags throughout Mirsarai."

"I see lot of talented and energetic youths in Bangladesh.  Some of them are so creative and have so much potential that they alone can make huge positive changes in our society," believes Mahboob Rahman. "Youths need to learn to dream big and they need a lot of encouragement with positive energy. For this they need to be nurtured with good entertainment, recreation and of course quality education.  Due to lack of entertainment, recreation and positive guidance our youths are either becoming drug abusers or worse -- become victim of radicalisation. The country is moving forward but we are losing our potential workforces, our youths to dangerous drugs such as yaba or radicalism.  We need to build huge campaigns and awareness programmes targeting our youths against drug abuse and terrorism from every ward, union, Upazila in Bangladesh. We cannot ignore this anymore." 

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