The entertainment industry has very little time for romanticism
We all know her, have seen her acting in dramas countless times. She’s studied journalism, entered the world of media and, then, took acting as her raison d’etre.
Tazin Ahmed, the actress known for her charming smile and versatile acting roles, died not too long ago in a city hospital from cardiac arrest.
In life there is only one inevitability and that is death. It may come at any time. Though death before 50 often raises questions, disturbing us for some time.
The demise of an artiste in her early 40s rattled many, but what was more disquieting is the disclosure of her not-so-flattering life facts which were hidden while Tazin was alive.
Obviously, no one wants to bring out their inner turmoil into the public sphere, and, less so, if the person in question is a recognized figure.
So, after her death, the grim reality of the actress’ life began to unfold with one television director lamenting: She was a romantic, not a realist.
But then, are we to believe that if one is driven more by romanticism s/he will, at one point be ostracized by society to end up alone and desolate?
The ideal vs the practical
After Tazin’s death, a plethora of thoughts, some rooted in philosophy, others linked to the practical world, flooded the mind. Oscar Wilde came calling with his famous line: “Ideals are dangerous things, realities are better, they wound but they are better.”
As per reports, Tazin was driven more by romance and wanted to take up acting as her sole profession. Well, looking at many other actors who sustain comfortable lives solely by acting, one cannot see anything wrong with her approach.
Many actors in Bangladesh, at one point in time, were engaged full-time in dramas or the stage. Their payments were not very high though these actors managed to live without major hurdles.
Later, in the early 80s, some of these actors, sensing a void in the advertising industry, launched ad firms, which later brought them financial security, wealth, and recognition. Romanticism blended with reality.
But even those who entered acting in the early part of the millennium also realized the presence of a huge market out there plus the possibility of long-term work with the emergence of private TV channels.
So, why did Tazin have no work in the last few years of her career?
The entertainment business is a selfish mistress
Reading the papers and talking to people involved in the media, I got the feeling that the entertainment industry, TV, cinema, and stage, has stereotyped approaches. They will only chase those who are the “rage” of the time and no one else.
But Tazin was once a celebrated small-screen actor. Yes, that was in the 90s. Possibly, the mistake she made was never to have compromised her acting ideals to opt for a few feature-length movies.
Those who were enterprising enough to take a bite from the relatively big, sometimes ridiculed, movie industry, be it in a ludicrous commercial film or a decent tele-film, expanded their working periphery, while ensuring that they never ran out of work.
When the late Humayun Faridi -- deemed in the 80s as a sort of local Lawrence Olivier -- entered commercial films, there was public outrage. “How can Humayun Faridi act in such rubbish?” -- was a common line that went around all over the country. Educated people lambasted him, calling Humayun a “sell out” to absurdity. Yes, in movies Humayun often acted like a buffoon.
But Humayun was only doing what was the practical thing to do -- ensuring that he never faced financial hardship. In big movies, he was not acting and living his passion, he was acting and earning.
By the way, it’s no different anywhere in the world. Even Helen Mirren took up the role of a gun-toting killer in a comic-book adaptation called Red.
From Timothy Dalton who acted in a farce called Rocketeer to Sir Nigel Hawthorne, playing alongside Stallone in Demolition Man, all stage actors, struck a balance between what they call “rewarding” work and “paid” work.
No one threw Tazin a life-line
After Tazin’s death, her long-time make-up man narrated the deceased actor’s deplorable social and financial state, revealing that she had no work in the end. Reportedly, she was dropped from a mega serial and acting offers were few and far between. Unfortunately, in this rat race existence, there isn’t a social welfare system to look after artistes.
Also, the demand of the time revolves only around a few top names who, by the way, have had massive hits on the big screen with commercial plus highly publicized avant-garde ventures (like Aynabaji, Chorabali, Dhaka Attack, Moner Maajhe Tumi).
These few actors are talented no doubt, and their romanticism is laced with a required dose of realism. After Tazin’s death, a fellow actor made a chilling prophecy: There will be many such deaths in the days to come which will open tales of misery and rejection leading to an abrupt end.
I don’t know how many actually took that line seriously and thought it over. But, in that one sentence, there is a poignant message for all those who harbour the desire to make acting their main source of income: Be a romantic, follow your heart, but also base that romanticism on a little bit of reality.
To end, Oscar Wilde comes to mind yet again, though sounding a bit cynical this time: “It’s better to have a permanent income than to be fascinating.”
Towheed Feroze is a news editor at Bangla Tribune teaching at the University of Dhaka.