The start of the new millennium saw the rise of a dazzling star in Dhallywood. Unstoppable and unmatched in popularity even today, Shakib Khan seldom sets any time aside for the small screen or commercials. Largely absent in local films for the last three years, Shakib is currently shooting two Bangladeshi films and a mega-budget commercial for Banglalink. Directed by Adnan Al Rajeev, Shakib is joined by popular actor Nusraat Faria in sequences that involve festive singing and dancing. The elusive Shakib Khan talks about his return to Dhallywood in a conversation with Dhaka Tribune Showtime’s Sadia Khalid.
You’re starring in a commercial after many years. Why this break from commercials?
I myself was away. In the last three years, I came to Bangladesh for brief periods to shoot films. In those days I would leave the country after my work was done. This time I said no to two Kolkata films to act in three Bangladeshi films.
When was the last time you acted in a commercial?
I don’t remember the year. It was so long ago.
What aspect of this commercial attracted you to finally sign up for this one?
First of all, the director is really good. Adnan Al Rajeev is one of the best directors. The arrangement is huge. Considering everything, I decided to sign up. Everywhere in the world, stars appear in commercials. There are two positive aspects this: one is that you get to work with a different set of professionals, and the other is that a link is created between the corporate and the film industry.
The set was super. When the commercial airs around December 20 or 21, the election will be at the top of everyone’s mind. The atmosphere is turning heavy with the constant thought of the upcoming polls. I hope a shiny TVC like this will relieve people. They’ll think “Wow. Super.” It’s something different, something larger, glamorous and colourful.
How has your experience been of acting alongside Nusraat Faria. You are also acting in a movie together?
Undoubtedly, she is a very good artiste. We have a good bond; very friendly. The shooting of the film (“Shahenshah”) is almost over. We’ll act together again soon.
You are acting more in India these days. How is the difference in the work environment between these two industries?
West Bengal was way behind us all our lives. In fact, even now our market is larger than theirs. The problem is that we haven’t been able to utilize this market whereas they’ve created a large industry utilizing a smaller market… I wouldn’t have known this if I hadn’t worked there. In West Bengal, they compare our industry with the Tamil industry. They say we should be able to make films with Tk20 crores.
In the days of black and white films, when the population was smaller, we had over a thousand cinema halls. Now when the population is three times greater we should have 5000 cinema halls, right? But somehow we fell behind. However, every industry has its ups and downs. But there’s a wave of good films now. I’m hopeful that within a short time we’ll break new ground.
You didn’t sign up for some lucrative offers in India to work here in Bangladesh.
I left several Indian films to sign up for two films here: one opposite Nusraat Faria and the other opposite Shabnom Bubly. If you don’t work, nothing will change. If you want to change the industry, you have to work here. You have to be in the field and help out. Now if a production I work on doesn’t have certain equipment like a steadicam or drones, I try to manage those from abroad.
The movies I’m doing now, the post-production and “hands” (miscellaneous crew) are from India. Last year, there were many beautiful music videos in local films with Indian choreographers. Now, hands, producers, and other professionals are being groomed in Bangladesh. We need local films to revive the local industry.
Your films are doing good internationally as well.
The first film of mine that was released internationally was “Shikari” (2016). It was released commercially in the multiplexes. We didn’t rent a theatre to show our film. It ran alongside Hollywood and Bollywood films.
I was talking to Jaya (Ahsan) the other day. She said her film (“Debi”) is doing well in the US. She told me some Bollywood film was dropped to make space for her film.
In the last 20 years, we didn’t have many actors as popular as you. Why do you think actors don’t reach that height in popularity or survive as long as you did?
From our childhood, we’ve seen Shahrukh Khan, Aamir Khan, and Salman Khan. Even today, they are the unbeaten superstars. None can beat them. The young stars weren’t able to beat them. They are all 50 up in age. I think no one can beat them even in the next 10 years.
In my opinion, actors reach superstar status if they still survive in the industry after 40. Then they play the matured characters. If the industry survives, we’ll have new superstars. Like Prosenjit Chatterjee who has had a big influence on the Kolkata film industry, we’re trying to do the same and develop our industry.