Veteran actors Mosharraf Karim and Tareen Jahan have recently starred in the drama ‘No Prem No Biye’. The comedy of errors features Mosharraf as an employee who mistakenly sends a romantic text to his boss, played by Tareen. Now, to keep his job, he must delete the message before the grumpy boss reads it. In an exclusive interview with Dhaka Tribune Showtime’s Faruque Ratul, the actors share their experience of working with each other
This question is for Mosharraf Karim. Please share some memorable stories from your time with the theatre troupe Nattokendro.
Mosharraf: My time in theatre made me the actor that I am today. When I acted in theatre, I was at an age when it was easy to fall in love with something new. In my case, I fell in love with drama. I still reminisce about those days. The happy memories of acting in theatre never go away from the minds of actors. Those memories have kept me going all these years. The time with that theatre troupe was like being with a family. There are countless memories, and some are quite strange.
Once we went to perform a show in Sunamganj of Sylhet division. My throat became very sore, and no sound was coming out. So, I had to mime my bits in the play. It was fortunate, that I was playing a small role in that show. If it were a bigger role, then it could have been a disaster.
Another time, we went to perform in Nababganj, and the stage started breaking down. Then people from our theatre troupe went underneath the stage and literally held it together with their own hands, and that is how the show went on for a while. So, there are lots of stories like this.
This question is for Tareen Jahan. Please tell us about your start in media and the experience of acting with senior actors as a child artist.
Tareen: I started as a dance artist and I have been dancing since I was three and half years old. My first experience of dancing on stage was in 1984. I was very young then. Due to my father’s work, we shifted to Dhaka in 1985, and that is the year when I first appeared on BTV as a dancer. So I have been appearing on screen since 1985. I participated in Notun Kuri in 1988. I stood first in four categories of performance and became the champion that year.
When I began acting for BTV as a child artist, I had the good fortune of working with famous stars such as Ferdousi Mazumdar, Suborna Mustafa, Humayun Faridi, Golam Mustafa sir, Afzal Hossain and many others. It was an excellent experience to work with all of them, and I learned a great deal from each of them. I grew up as an actor because I received guidelines from my co-actors of that time. My biggest mentor or guide in media is Abdullah Al Mamun sir. He taught me everything by hand. So did Ferdousi Mazumdar and Suborna Mustafa.
When I was a child, I wanted to act in theatre as well. However, all my time was divided between school and TV performances. Therefore, I did not get the opportunity to act on stage or join a theatre troupe. But I was groomed as an actor through performances on TV.
Tell us your experience of working with each other?
Tareen: Firstly, I would like to clarify that I am not as busy an artist as Mosharraf Bhai. It is very difficult to get time from his schedule. He is one of my favourite actors. And I think he is one of the great actors of Bangladesh. We are all very proud of him. He is a very versatile actor, and he can portray almost any role. When he acts, the character just comes alive on the screen. When I get the opportunity to work with such an actor, I really enjoy every moment during the project.
Mosharraf Bhai is also a wonderful person, and has a great sense of humour. He has this amazing ability to instantly improvise to any situation that is presented to him. Not all actors have this ability within them, but Mosharraf Bhai has 100% of this skill. It is hard to predict what he will do and how he will react. It gets really difficult to control my laughter when he does his sudden improvisations.
Mosharraf: I think Tareen is actually praising me too much. People started accepting my work a long time after Tareen became famous. I first worked with Tareen in a drama series called “Khoma”. She was already a big name by then, and everybody knew that she did good work. I was apprehensive about performing with her, as I was worried about how she would perceive my style of acting. I was amazed to find that there were no negative reactions from her during our scene. In the scene, I had to break a plate, and I would say that was the icebreaker between us.
She is definitely one of my favourite actors, and the main reason for that is how seriously she takes her role. I sometimes forget important details during a scene, but Tareen never does. She does her work honestly and completely. I know we are not being interviewed for just complimenting each other, but I have to mention how well she goes about her work. While we were working for “No Prem No Biye”, I felt that the exchange of dialogues between us were in perfect synch. As a result, I was able to really enjoy working with her on that project.
You must both get a lot of scripts to choose from. What process do you follow for choosing a script?
Tareen: The TV audience has this perception of me that if I am playing a role, then it would definitely be a gloomy character, or a tragic one. I am even called “tragedy queen” by some. (Laughing) Apparently there is very little laughter in the dramas in which I work. So, I do get offered a lot of roles of that type. However, I still try to pick roles that are very different from one another. I think I am blessed that I have had the opportunity of playing a variety of characters in my career that spans 35 years. An artist never gets satisfied with playing the same role over and over again. It is challenging to play different characters, and I like taking that challenge.
Mosharraf: While picking a script, I definitely go through the story in its entirety, to see if it is believable. After that I look at the character that has been offered to me, and try to imagine myself in that role. I ask myself “will I be able to bring this character to life?” If I see myself performing as the character in my mind’s eyes, then I definitely accept the part.
Tareen, please tell us about your work in films.
Tareen: I have worked in a short film titled “Kajoler Din Ratri”. Aside from that I have also worked for a film in Kolkata called “Eta Amader Golpo”. The film was directed by Manasi Sinha. My co-artist was Debdut Ghosh. The film also stars some of my favourite actors such as Saswata Chatterjee, Aparajita Auddy, Koneenica Banerjee, and many other big stars of Kolkata. I was the only actor from Bangladesh. The film has not been released yet. The shooting had been completed. Right when I was about to return to Kolkata to dub my voice, the lockdown began. The film also has some creative work left.
I am currently working for another film that has won a national film grant. The film is being made on a story of the Liberation War, and will be directed by Hridi Huq.
Please tell us about the characters you portrayed in “No Prem No Biye”?
Mosharraf: The script of the drama was like a “comedy of errors,” where one mistake leads to another and that results in more mishaps. The characters are trying to escape the consequences of the mistakes. My role is that of a regular office-going individual, who mistakenly sends a message that was intended for a colleague to the boss of the office. The boss is played by Tareen. Then my character tries to come up with ideas to delete the message before the boss reads it, and more funny situations arise from his ideas. It was a very good script written by director Sohel Hasan, and we both were very happy with it. We had a lot of fun acting with this script.
Tareen: I also think the script was very well written. I was informed that Mosharraf Bhai was in this project when I was given the script. While reading it, I was visualizing how Mosharraf Bhai was going to perform his lines, and I just could not stop laughing. After reading, I immediately told them that I will accept the role.
This was my first time working with the director Sohel Hasan. The project was pulled off with wonderful team work. I think the credit for this kind of work cannot go to just one person. The entire team worked hard to complete the drama neatly.
I played the character of a strict corporate boss. My character’s back story is that she had a relationship before, but her fiancé had betrayed her. She became ill from the shock of that betrayal and subsequent break-up. She was in the hospital for three months. After her recovery, she harbours a very negative perception about love, relationships, and marriage, and she also stops trusting all men. Then she tries to spread the same negativity among her employees. She enforces a rule that no employee can be married or in a relationship of any kind if they want to work in her office. This does not work out well for the employees, as some of them desire to have a relationship and get married. Some were already married or dating in secret. However, no one is admitting to their marriage or relationship out of fear of losing their job.
Right in the midst of this, Mosharraf Karim’s character, an employee at the office, sends a romantic text to the boss, which was intended for another colleague. He knows that he will get fired for this. So how he deals with the anxiety of the situation is what drives this story forward.
Please share your experience of working with ZEE5?
Tareen: My experience is very positive. We should definitely appreciate the fact that Bangla dramas can now be streamed there. I also applaud the fact that people of India and Bangladesh are able to see each other’s work on this platform. At the end of the day, Bangladeshis and the people of West Bengal love the Bangla language equally. Therefore, any content in Bangla is appreciated in both sides of the border equally. I would also like ZEE5 to create opportunities for collaboration between artists of West Bengal and Bangladesh. I hope their work continues to flourish. I wish them all the best.
Mosharraf: The experience was definitely amazing. I am very grateful to ZEE5 and the director Sohel Hasan. We completed the work beautifully. While working for the drama, we all had the feeling that we were accomplishing something good together. I was very pleased when we were able to finish the work. I enjoyed watching the production, and I have heard that the viewers are also enjoying it. So definitely it was a fantastic experience.
Tareen, do you think that the amount of content being made now could result in a drop in quality?
Tareen: I do not think so. I am a very positive person, and I am taking this increase in content very positively. This means that more work opportunities are being created for artists. Bangladesh has a lot of talented and versatile actors. Before OTT platforms, the actors could only appear on TV, and not everyone used to get that chance. Now OTT platforms are making a wide variety of contents such as films, drama series, serials, short films, etc. This has created a lot more work opportunities for actors than before.
Also, Bangladeshi content producers are now getting the chance to compete with international makers. Competition for making good content should definitely be taken positively. Bangladesh also has some very good directors, writers and production technicians. They are also getting the chance to show their talent through all the content that is being made.
How did Covid-19 impact the drama industry?
Tareen: Before Covid-19, usually there would be 40 to 45 people in the production crew during shooting. After Covid-19, that number has come down to 15 to 20 people. Those who are absolutely not required are no longer being called to the set.
This has actually harmed the industry in one way. Many people of this industry, such as technicians and make-up artists, work on the basis of per-day payment. Their families depend on their daily earnings. Many such people went completely out of work, when shooting was completely stopped for three to four months during the lockdown. We actors tried to help these people as much as we could through our associations. We raised funds, and distributed relief among them. We tried our best.
Now, people are maintaining the health and safety precautions during shooting. We are doing fewer scenes where the actors have to be in close proximity to each other. Props are being sanitized before usage. Hygiene standards are being maintained.
Despite the circumstances, people are working with the same excitement as they did before. You can discern in their eyes the joy of returning to work after such a break.
Please say a few words for your fans.
Mosharraf: A big thank you to all who have already seen the drama. Those who have not watched it yet, please do not wait any longer. During shooting, we felt that we were making something special. The happiness in the set was infectious. I am sure you will feel the same happiness when you watch it. We make these dramas with the hope that our fans will watch them. We get encouraged to work more if people watch our work.
Tareen: I think no one can become an artist in our field, if they do not have the support of viewers. We work in front of the screen for the sake of our audience. As artists, our biggest achievement, our biggest reason to be happy, is the reaction we get from our audience. If the reaction is positive, then it doubles our happiness. Therefore, please watch us. I also thank the entire team behind this production.