In conversation with Arifin Shuvo and Nusrat Faria, the two heartthrobs of the Bangladesh film industry who went beyond the border and won international accolades, thus raising the bar for their peers
What have you been working on recently? Tell us about your new projects.
Shuvo: Right now I am working on a film called “Mission Extreme” and before that, I worked in “Dhaka Attack”. Mission Extreme is a production from the same team behind Dhaka Attack. It is not exactly a sequel but it’s based on the same platform. So, the theme of the movie is going to be quite similar, a cop thriller.
Nusrat: For the last 45 days, I was in Kolkata, working on my upcoming film called “Bibaho Obhijaan”. It is solely a Kolkata project as opposed to an Indo-Bangla or a Bangladeshi film. I have just finished working on the film, before which I did “Shahenshah”.
In “Bibaho Obhijaan”, Abhijeet Ankush has been cast and in “Shahenshah” I am starring opposite Shakib Khan. I will be starting another film immediately after Eid with director Diponkor Dipon, famous for directing Dhaka Attack. This is my schedule so far. I might start working on another movie from July but still awaiting official confirmation for that.
Also, this month, I have endorsed eight commercials.
How did you prepare for your new movies?
Shuvo: Dhaka Attack is about a bomb squad. On the other hand, Mission Extreme is about urban counter-terrorism. The plot revolves around a CRT (Crisis Response Team) which was created for such moments of crisis. This team is led by my character. Mission Extreme required a physical transformation including my weight and look. For this, I have had to maintain a special diet and also went through an intensive training for two months.
Nusrat: It was slightly difficult for me to prepare for an introverted character considering I am so open and friendly. Then again, when an actor plays a role, she morphs herself into that character. It is definitely very challenging but that’s our job. In front of the camera, the trick is not to be ourselves.
Did you find the physical training difficult?
I would say it’s difficult in the context of our country. We are not used to any type of physical transformation. That is why we do not have the support system for such an undertaking. For example, in case of athletes and bodybuilders, usually, they spend half an hour on average on the stage. Preparing for this half an hour is extremely daunting, they stop taking water a day before the performance to ensure their muscles remain tight.
The duration of my body shot was for two days, I had to drop my water level a day prior. While filming, most people had no idea that I am dehydrated. It was very challenging to shoot in the jungle with the temperature approaching 40 degrees. It was sad to realize most people had no idea what I was going through.
Bangladeshi actors often complain about the lack of diversity in roles they get to play, do you believe that’s changing with time?
Shuvo: There is, but the pace is very slow. It really doesn’t depend on the artists. We enhance the roles that we are asked to play. The responsibility of manufacturing a character lies with the director and producers.
Nusrat: Yes of course, everything is changing with time. It also depends on the choices you make. Till now, I have done 10 films and each of them is unique and they were very satisfying to work in. I feel very proud of my choices. It also depends on our priority. If one prefers quantity more than quality, then the entire experience might be different. I am very content with the quality of the films I work in.
In Shahenshah, I was playing the role of a semi-modern girl from a rural environment. In Bibaho Obhijaan I am playing someone who is very much into politics. She is from Jadavpur University which is a completely different atmosphere. In one film, my role is very girly and in another, I am a tomboy. I love the change of characters in the two movies, it allows me to play with the lines of the two dimensions.
Do you have a message for the directors and producers of Bangladesh?
Shuvo: Of course! Most of the youth of our country are drawn to movies like Avengers and The Matrix. Therefore, its high time that we come out of traditional plots like revenge and love stories which are fundamentally the same. There must be innovation in presentation for example, how the story is narrated, the acting pattern, costumes, music and the way it is edited, it has to be done by the people who are making the movie.
Nusrat: I think we should do more women-centric films. Some directors are stepping up to it now. Its time we focus on women’s empowerment in our movies. All around our region, similar movies are being successful so there is no reason why it won’t be as popular in our country. It will also bring forth some much-required positive social changes. If a positive role motivates even one girl in our society, it is worth making an entire movie.
You have also been working in Tollywood. How has the experience been so far?
Shuvo: The language is the same and because we live in a digital age, borders only exist in maps. Audience nowadays wants a mixed experience. International shows have more and more characters from mixed backgrounds and they are being very well received. People want to see characters from different countries, they don’t like homogenous characters anymore. In fact, we live in a more mixed society right now so that is more accurate representation anyway.
My first movie “Ahare” is about a chef from Dhaka who found himself living in Kolkata. He fell in love with an older woman who is a home cook. So, the story is about food and a love story that recognizes but overcomes social, national and religious barriers. They liked my work and offered me another movie.
Nusrat: I have done many commercials across India. For me, it is very normal because I debuted in a Kolkata film. Everybody is very friendly and it very convenient to work here