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The spy who annoyed me

  • Published at 12:05 am September 9th, 2019
Masud Rana Super-Spy
Photo: DHAKA TRIBUNE

Masud Rana’s much awaited on-screen revival receives public backlash in primary stages

Bringing the Bangladeshi super-spy to the big screen in the template of James Bond is no easy task. The first Masud Rana film came out in 1975, with Sohel Rana playing the role, in an age when Masud Rana thrillers were woven into the social fabric.

Although adults hardly allowed teenagers to read Rana books, in the end, it became a cat and mouse game between the young and the old to read the books without having the other find out. 

The movie was a hit at the time and won several prizes, but a sequel never came. In the early 90s, Olivia, the female antagonist in the first film, made an effort which soon fizzled out. 

Unfortunately, Masud Rana’s recent reappearance in the cinema world has started off on the wrong foot entirely -- the selection process drew massive backlash due to the misbehaviour that applicants faced at the hands of the judges. 

In fact, as an avid Masud Rana reader from the early 80s, I must say that the selection process for the title role has been mired in flaws. Of course, the biggest defect has been the selection panel and the obnoxious, supercilious behaviour from the judges towards young people who came to try their luck. 

Already, there is a social media campaign protesting the way the judges were seen to treat aspirants, complete with several YouTube videos where people have slated the culture of demeaning others in front of the camera. 

There seem to be too many things wrong with the way this is moving forward, and from the looks of it, the movie may be remembered for all the wrong reasons. 

Why need a fresh face? 

The first question is: why would anyone take a risk with a film nearing Tk 100 crore by casting a brand new face? Even when Sean Connery was shooting the first Bond film, Dr No, he was pretty well known in the film circuit.

A spy thriller is not about killing and destroying; it’s about acting and making the audience believe in a super-spy. As it is, the notion of a Bond-like spy, with all the luxurious accoutrements, has become a little frivolous. And so, an actor playing any such character would have to make up for this through the depth of their acting, by being capable of covering the entire gamut of human emotions -- from undaunted courage to nervousness and other human vulnerabilities. So, the search should primarily be for a person with an acting background.  

It’s natural that many youngsters wished to apply in a moment of excitement but it was not necessary to bring everyone in front of the camera and then humiliate them. 

The basic criteria for selecting Masud Rana should be: A person who is between 35 and 40, possessing acting experience, and an athletic build. 

When Daniel Craig was selected, he was slim but certainly not toned. That came later on, as part of the preparation for the role of Bond. 

Of course, new faces should be encouraged, but in a movie which involves such a huge amount of money, the clever move would have been to choose from existing actors with considerable public followings. Arifin Shuvoo, Taskin or Tahsan could have been groomed to play the part with pizzazz and suavity. 

What is the point in calling people and insulting them? 

Since so many young people had been called, there was no point in treating them with disdain. In addition, a dress code should have been mentioned clearly: no suits required, but formal trousers and shirts with formal shoes. If that had been done then all the candidates would have looked proper. 

Shockingly, the clothes of the judges themselves were entirely unsuitable for the occasion. 

What did the people think of the judges? I asked a few students from Dhaka University and this is what they had to say: “There was one actress with too much make-up on, as if she was on the set of Scary Stories, a bearded fellow who looked like an angst-driven soul surviving on anti-depressants, a guy with no sense of colour combinations, and another bearded fellow who seemed to take the role of a judge to be that of a joker.” 

And these people continued to give the aspirants a tough time, finding faults in their accents, English pronunciation, the cuts of their hair, and the clothes they were wearing. It was like a pot calling the kettle black, because a look into the antecedents of the judges would most probably not reveal illustrious and impeccable backgrounds, commented Zahirul Islam Mamoon, a journalist and an avid film geek. 

The most perplexing thing was why these people, who were hardly above 35, were chosen to act as judges in the first place. 

When Masud Rana was the most read book in Bangladesh in the late 70s and mid-80s, these people were either not born or were too young to understand the cultural impact of the series. And yet these judges took a “holier than thou” stance, though it was not clear why. 

One aspirant was turned down because the judges found him to be too short. It’s possible that they weren’t aware that Sohel Rana, who played the part in 1975, was not very tall either (around five six as I am told). And if Tom Cruise could pull it off in the Mission Impossible series, then there is no reason why a short person cannot harbour a desire to compete for the role. 

To conclude, the selection process was outrageous, and the behaviour of the judges utterly objectionable. There are many ways of turning someone down, and a lot of polite ways to say “no.”

Instead of creating interest in the movie, the selection circus has triggered widespread revulsion. In such a case, maybe it would be wise to allow Masud Rana to take a nap for the time being. 

Towheed Feroze is News Editor at Bangla Tribune and teaches at the University of Dhaka.