Wednesday, November 3, 2010

RJ Neerob - the most sought after RJs in Dhaka

The down to earth Humayun Kabir Neerob, popularly known as ‘RJ Neerob’, has carved a distinct niche for himself in the radio fraternity and is today one of the most sought after RJs (radio jockey) of our country. Though presently RJing for Radio Today, he is at the same time producing a programme for the same radio station. He has also taken to part time acting as a hobby, hosts a campus-based television show, takes classes for grooming new and aspirant RJs and also participates in a variety of programmes and activities. Nevertheless the journey to the top has not been smooth for Neerob — only sheer grit and talent have taken him to the heights of his career. Despite his hectic schedule, the RJ didn’t hesitate to share his views on a wide range of topics. Excerpts from that lively conversation:

TDS: How did you embark on your journey in the media?
Neerob: Actually I was a student of the Mass Communication and Journalism Department of Dhaka University. As I always stood first in debate competitions, it helped me a great deal to become an RJ.

However, when I applied at Radio Today, there were no popular slots left for me. So I had to take on the stiff task of RJing at midnight. My show “Raat Vor Gaan” was a huge challenge for me since globally it has become a trend that shows aired in the afternoons become popular. This was evident with our popular afternoon drive show “U-turn”.

I would say that it was the blessings of Almighty Allah that from the very first episode of “Raat Vor Gaan” to date, my show has the most radio listeners.

TDS: Apparently writing is your passion and you have worked for several newspapers and magazines. You have also sung in a mixed audio album…
Neerob (smilingly): You heard right. Singing has also become one of my passions these days. My song “Jodi” from the album “Asheq featuring Firay Asha” is an output of this. Actually, composer Asheq is a very good friend of mine and it’s at his insistence that I recorded this song. What is amazing is that although I’m not a trained singer, I’ve received positive feedback from listeners. This has encouraged me a lot and I wish to sing in the days to come.

TDS: You’ve won the Media Journalists Association of Bangladesh (MEJAB) Award second time in a row as the best RJ. You have also been selected as the best RJ by the direct sms voting competition. How does it feel?
Neerob: It always feels great to receive awards; it is a form of recognition for the hard work one puts in. I’m especially thankful to the people who have given me the honour. It was a unanimous decision by the jury board. But at the same time this award has increased my responsibility manifold and I have to deliver my best in order to pay back the honour which has been bestowed upon me.

TDS: Who are your favourite RJs?
Neerob: From Radio Today, I like RJ Nousheen, RJ Mehran. RJ Opu from Radio Foorti and RJ Raju, RJ Iraj from Radio Aamar are also my favourites.

TDS: What’s your observation about the present state of the FM radio stations and the quality of their programmes?
Neerob: I’m very optimistic about the FM culture, which has already developed a great deal, and the competition has already got the desired momentum. The real test will begin from now on. I feel so far it’s been good but only the better ones will survive in the long run. In this age of immense competition, you have to come up with unique programmes and ideas to satisfy the tastes of the masses. Moreover, the arrival of new stations is making the competition even tougher.

TDS: What is your advice for people who are interested in taking up RJing as a profession?
Neerob: My advice is very simple. If you have good pronunciation and the courage to explore new challenges, then you should join this profession. To be an RJ, you need to be confident and have to believe in yourself. You have to have the power to interact with your listeners. That’s all that is required.

Nazmus Saquib,
The writer is a freelance contributor

Friday, November 7, 2008

Interview with Hasan Masud - A love affair between dreams and reality

A love affair between dreams and reality
interviews Hasan Masood, the army captain-turned-journalist-turned-actor whose career path illustrates the impulsiveness this eclectic figure lives

‘Amar account e duisho koti Dollar transfer hoye ashbe kintu apne amake pattai dichchen na!’

Honestly, the amount left me staggered and I found myself daydreaming about what I could have done with that amount of cash at that moment when Hasan Masood, the man who delivered those lines, came over and gave me a warm welcome back to reality. I was on set, where Hasan was rehearsing his lines and shooting takes for a sequence where he roars at a bank official for neglecting him.

His brilliant acting belies his experience, which begins with a military career in 1982, stops as a journalist with the Daily New Nation from 1993, the Daily Star from 1995 and the BBC World Service from 2004, and his present role as a television actor. The impulsive nature that guided him through this path serves him well as an actor. He is also a spirited singer and works on the soundtracks of his films.

‘Let’s start, shall we?’ he said with a grin. ‘When you are growing up, you always want to be some personality that you visualize the most. Actually life is full of surprises and it is very beautiful. So, when I saw soldiers marching past during by boyhood, I wanted to join the army. When I saw the shooting of any movie, I used to dream of becoming an actor and, similarly, listening to a good song, I wanted to become a singer and then when I used to watch the BBC or CNN, I wanted to become a journalist. Let’s say I had a spontaneous love affair with my dreams and reality.’

‘The main thing is your approach has to be honest. You must be devoted and honest with your dreams otherwise you will never achieve them,’ he added.

His most memorable experiences as a journalist were working as a sports reporter for The Daily Star while covering the first installation of the ICC Knockout in 1998. ‘It was thrilling to see all the cricket stars like Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting and more. And after I joined the BBC, my most memorable incident was covering Sheikh Hasina’s rally on August 21, 2004 and the grisly attack. I was only 50 feet away from Hasina, listening to her speech, and I thank the Almighty that I could escape. Being in the army helped me recognise the sound of grenades and I instantly lay down on the ground. Last, but not least, 1/11, and this event hurt me, this happened just because of the dishonesty of our politicians.’

Hasan said that he was always a dreamer. An adventurer at heart, he looked for challenges and set about achieving them. In 2003, while meeting his friend Mamunul Huq, he bumped in to film director Mostofa Sarwar Farooki, who liked his personality and gave him a call with a proposition to act in the movie ‘Bachelor’. This is how Hasan’s acting career started. So far he has acted in two movies, ‘Bachelor’ and ‘Made In Bangladesh,’ in the serials ‘69’ and ‘Taxi Driver,’ and now in a drama serial ‘House Full,’ being aired on NTV. He acted in several telefilms like ‘Bhagfol’ and ‘Tin er tolowar.’ In the last four years, he has also acted in almost 20 single dramas.

In a sequence from ‘69’, he jumps on a whim from a bridge and into the river for a swim; a stunt he performed himself. ‘Well, while in the army, I did the basic and advanced commando trainings and perhaps that helped me execute the jump easily.’

As a student, Hasan attended the five-year course at Chhayanaut and studied Nazrul Geeti. As he has a flair for singing, he released his solo album called Hridoy Ghotito on February 14, 2007. The compilation is a mix of folk, rap and other genres where all the lyrics were written by Marjuk Russel and the tunes of the songs were done by his friend, the late Sanjeeb Chowdhury.

Right now he is a freelance journalist giving weekly political updates of Bangladesh to BBC World Service and BBC Asian Network and he is exploring the field of hosting television talk shows.

Recalling some of the memorable scenes in his acting career, Hasan reminisced about a sequence from ‘Bhagfol’ where his heroine was Moushumi and he had to slap her. ‘I really regret that. Initially I couldn’t hit her for a while, but when she told me, ‘Hasan bhai, I do not mind, give me a proper slap,’ I did. But then that event disheartened me so much that I was not in the mood for an hour and later the whole crew came and consoled me.’

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Our hero on aviators - Interview of the silver screen film actor RIAZ from Bangladesh

Our hero on aviators
One of the exceptional film actors of the silver screen, Riaz tells about the struggles he has overcome from his career and his admiration for ‘Top Gun’
photo by Momena Jalil

From aviation, to entertainment and now about to enter business, celebrated film actor Riaz is flying high and looks beyond.

Blessed with boyish good looks, a ‘mystery-shrouded’ past, inimitable manners and appropriate acting skills, Riazuddin Ahmed Siddique today stands tall in the silver screen and is one of the most revered heroes in Bengali cinema. He has also made forays in modeling, television drama as well as art house production.

Sitting for an interview with him in his house, I noticed his home décor spelled boldness and manliness in a subtle note, and with a tinge of male ego —there are vertical swords as wall hangings, the air force eagle decoration pieces, Victorian furniture, award plates and crests. Amazingly, no show-off and fancy pictures of him hugging super cool heroines or photo stills full of cheese from his films. The filmy persona of this renowned film actor is mystically absent and fades behind the wall paintings and the décor.

The confident actor came out of his make-up shell and started narrating how he became the Riaz we know of today. ‘I was born in a place called Kamlapur of Faridpur district. During that time my father worked in the Faridpur Judge Court and so we lived in government staff quarters. Most of my childhood and adolescence was spent there from where I joined the Air Force after high school and it was not until 1994 that I moved to Dhaka.’

‘And it was during my teen days that one of the most celebrated Hollywood films, starring my favorite actor Tom Cruise, Top Gun, came out and made a strong impression on me. I made up my mind that if I have to choose my career, it has to be the Air Force,’ Riaz added.

He continued saying with a smile: ‘I joined the elite flying team in 1989 and suddenly found a role model in that Top Gun character. Wearing the same leather jacket, the Ray-Ban aviators, revving the bike and flying fighter planes sky high…I think I led a very satisfying life.’
‘Crashed n burned! Was not that Lieutenant Pete Mitchell Maverick (Tom Cruise)’s greatest trait?’ laughed Riaz. ‘Call it coincidence or what, I caught up with an accident and became medically unfit to be a fighter pilot anymore.’

Then he came to Dhaka and enrolled in the flying club. Not pursuing that for long, he decided to join Dhaka Billiard Centre (DBC) as an assistant manager in an effort to find a comfortable living. That did not continue for long either when he realised, ‘if I cannot fly high, let me at least act that I have wings’.

‘That was a huge decision in my life. I realised that if I wanted adventure, if I need to take up a challenge like the Air Force, to experience something quite out-of-the-box…what would it be? What would it be? I asked myself repeatedly until I settled to become an actor,’ he paused.
‘Why acting? Because when you are an actor in the media industry, you have great power accompanied by great responsibility, and thus my journey began. My debut film was Dewan Nazrul’s Banglar Nayok, released in 1995,’ he stopped for a moment.

From 1995 to 2008, he acted in almost 150 films. ‘150 titles to my name and if I have to choose the ones I liked most, I must say that I enjoyed acting in all 150 of them. But the works that satisfied him most are Humayun Ahmed’s Dui Duari which got me the national award, Shamol Chhaya, Chashi Nazrul Islam’s Shasti, Megher Porey Megh, Hajar Bochhor Dhorey, Khelaghor, Biyer Phul, Mon-er Majhe Tumi, Hridoy-er Kotha, Pran-er Cheye Priyo and more.
‘I can express myself being an actor and express what I feel to be the truth,’ he smiles. The versatile actor is on the verge of finding him in a new platform and that may well be in business. ‘I am no longer interested to keep acting as my professional career. I will act but only in selected films.’

He continued saying: ‘It could be a good career if the scene was clean. I feel there is lot of charm in acting, with plenty of challenge and addition of colours to life.’
‘But it is just that I am basically frustrated with the quality of films and the lack of good directors at present. The standard of our regular cinemas is degrading by the day and I must say, at a frustratingly alarming rate,’ he regrets.

‘There are good directors. I have worked with both internationally renowned ones from home and some from abroad like Mahesh Manjrekar from Bombay and others, but that opportunity is rare. I wish there were more creative directors,’ added Riaz.

Talking about what he might choose as an alternate profession to acting, he said, ‘I am thinking of opting for business. The garment and food related sectors particularly attract me. I sense a challenge coming on my way once again with a question of survival as I enter into business.’
‘And I believe everyone has to struggle in life to achieve what they aspire to. I struggled to let people know that I am here. It was a struggle to become popular in the film industry. I guess struggling is a continuous process otherwise it would not bring out the credibility of oneself,’ Riaz commented.

There is an interesting crest at his place, which says: 'A great non-smoker hero'. With a grin, Riaz said that ‘I actually quit smoking on the set. I have vowed so that my fans preferably would not have to see me smoke in films. It is just one of those silent social awareness campaigns,’ he laughed.

Speaking about an idol, Riaz said all actors and all directors are his idols. Even the ones junior to him, as they have a certain admirable way of dealing with the directors, which is different from the way he did. ‘It is a self-improving and continuous learning process always,’ he added.
His upcoming films are Tomakei Khuji, Akash Chowa Bhalobasha, Ebadaat, Megh-er Kol-e Rod and more. It was almost wrap up time but I could sense that he wanted to say some more.
He concluded saying, ‘Our nation is subject to strong and continuous deception. We should have improved a lot which we have not. We have good human resources and plenty of potential to grow as a society. The question is how we utilise them and may it be in the most creative way.’

Friday, May 30, 2008

Kazi Jessin, Alif Alauddin and Mishu Rahman - Breaking the barriers - women in Bangladesh Media

Breaking the barriers
Young, talented, dynamic and die-hard proponents of women power, Jesin, Alif, and Mishu represent a new breed of women who are stamping on an old stereotyped template to come out with conviction and flair.

Kazi Jesin
Needless to say that, Kazi Jesin continues to be one of the most popular talk-show hosts. She stands out for her distinctive style in delivering news or for discussing issues. 'I think it has been easier for us to be a part of media, because there has been a positive change in attitudes and perceptions of society towards women talk-show hosts or news presenters,' says Jesin. Born in Gaibandha, Jesin spent most of her childhood reading books and writing short stories. After her Secondary School Certificate examinations, she came to Dhaka but continued writing as a freelancer completing BBA from East West University. In 2003, Jesin received an offer from NTV to be a news presenter. 'It was during that time that women were increasingly being accepted and I felt it was a great opportunity.' Although she did not have to face discrimination, she feels that psychological stress on women still remains an obstacle. 'In spite of the positive changes, women are still questioned. For example, if she comes home late from work, she has to prove that she was actually at work. When you are on television, you show your face on screen and prove that you were doing your work. But, what about the women behind the screen and those who are in other professions?' She feels that society is yet to be supportive about a woman's career. 'As a woman, you go through this constant mental pressure. You always know that people are making comments about your character behind your back,' she adds ruefully. According to Jesin, her greatest experience at work was hosting the talk show 'Kal Kotha' on channel-i. 'It was a rare talk show about current issues with a female anchor. I feel, that per se was a great achievement.' Jessin feels television has seen a dramatic change. More and more women are choosing the electronic media as a profession. She also feels lucky to have the support of her husband. 'My marriage has never been an obstacle to my career. It's true that I had to prove myself to my in-laws like any other girl, but my husband has always been supportive and, has rarely questioned me.'

Alif Alauddin
Born to the musical family of veteran music director, Alauddin Ali and renowned singer, Salma Sultana, Alif Alauddin has inherited both musical talents as well as good looks. But, becoming one of the prominent stars in our media industry demanded a lot of passion and hard work. Being a woman, she achieved quite a bit as a media personality and singer. She started hosting programs on TV from childhood but I guess most readers would agree that her first music video, Ishtishon er rail gari ta, in 1997, aired on BTV brought her to limelight. That was her first screen popularity and there was no looking back after that. She hosted another popular TV program, 'Me and My Song' on ATN Bangla in 1998 followed by the Benson & Hedges Star Search Contest 2000, which eventually led Ekushey TV to offer her to host the very popular musical show, Virgin Takdum Takdum. Interestingly, she never had to worry about major objections during childhood from her parents, but occasionally, they would worry if she was late. 'My parents were obviously more understanding, given their background, but they certainly made sure that I am within limits,' says the young talent and carries on, 'but it's rather funny that I do get annoyed nowadays because while shooting for a music video, most producers end up saying, Apa ektu dishtang ebong jhakanaka gaan korben neche neche - meaning they want an upbeat song with feet tapping and something more. Why cannot I perform to a slower track?' observed Alif, her annoyance giving in to a charming giggle. She strongly believes that women joining professions so far dominated by men is inevitable and, so, society needs to be more open minded and welcoming towards female creativity. She stands out today as a popular solo musician, a band artist and a singer of the band, Pentagon. On top of that Alif hosts numerous exciting shows both on and off screen and best of all, is a judge of the popular DJUICE DROCKSTARS-2. With two solo albums to her name, she is working on the third and is recording another album with Pentagon.

Mishu Rahman
A bigger percentage of today's news viewers agree that TV news quality definitely carries 80 percent of the weight but it certainly should come with good presentation and must attract viewers; understandably, the latter part carries the remaining 20 per cent. And, when top of the rank news anchors are concerned, Mishu from Channel-i stands out among the first few. As a woman she never faced much discrimination in our media establishment but she criticised the fact that women are not allowed to work longer hours even if they wanted to. 'Although this never happened to me I still experience the absurd situation where a large number of employees refuse to work under a woman senior executive,' says Mishu and carries on, 'I always believe and know for a fact that we are not less creative than men in any respect and can handle pressure situations very well.' Mishu started news casting and working for Channel-i out of passion and on a part-time basis in 1999. But soon after her graduation, it was her good managerial traits which inspired her to join Unilever as the communications manager. The trail of success continued as she was offered head of operations, Impress Audio Vision Ltd. It must be added that after she commenced at Impress Audio Vision, the quality of the produced audio albums is better than many of the competitor brands and, that has been only possible because according to Mishu, 'we believe and harvest quality than quantity.' All these significant deliveries made one point clear which she merrily added - she was in several leadership positions and that helped. 'And, to this date, one of my achievements is when I represented Bangladesh in a UN leadership summit in 2003 from the Junior Chambers Bangladesh,' Mishu said. To this date, she is working as a very popular news anchor on Channel-i.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Nima Rahman

Nima Rahman
It was at the age of two-and-a-half that Nima Rahman first appeared on television. finds out how this powerful stage and television actor is still going strong

Be it the stage or television, she’s done it all. From a rigid, angry woman to a romantic, her presence is equally powerful. Over 42 television dramas and 16 theatre productions are a testimony to actor Nima Rahman’s skills. It’s no wonder that Nima was the first woman director and producer for a lifestyle show on Bangladesh Television in 1998 called Amader Kotha, which was later aired on Ekushey Television (ETV) as well. Recently, I caught up with this boisterous personality at her Gulshan bookstore Words n’ Pages. Between sipping on a glass of honey lemon iced tea and playing computer games, she described her struggle finding proper roles in both TV and theatre. She blames the politics in the media world for the fact that she does few selected roles nowadays. ‘I was and still am very straight forward with my attitude. I refuse to be a sycophant to powerful people and honestly that is the reason why I worked so little,’ Nima tells me. ‘And I always loathed people saying something in front of you and then something different behind your back. My whole life, I did not harm anyone except myself so you can see how dense I am,’ she added with a smirk. Born into an illustrious family, Nima is the granddaughter of poet Golam Mostofa. She credits her mother for interest and enthusiasm in the arts. ‘She is my sole inspiration. She used to be there all the time with me, even when I joined theatre in 1974. I remember how in my childhood years, she drew with red and blue pencils to explain characters and how to play them. Her impact was so great in my life that I could not let it go before actually becoming someone in my profession’ ‘Maa always told me never to be arrogant. I remember the day I received the Bangladesh National TV award, she told me: “The world is so big that getting a national award is no big deal. There is a lot to learn and plenty of work to be done” ’, Nima remembers. She started appearing on Bangladesh Television from the age of two-and-a-half years, reciting poems at first. At the age of five, she acted in Atiq Ul Haq Chowdhury’s first drama Jedin Chithi Elo which was broadcast all over Pakistan, and then, at the age of eight, Nima made her first foray into the world she would make her own: she joined the theatre group Nagorik Natya Sampradaya. ‘I went on to receive the Best Child Actor award of Bangladesh National TV Awards for the year 1976’s overall performance. I remember Ferdousi Majumder receiving the award for best actress, Abdullah Abu Sayeed for best TV show host, Ferdousi Rahman as best singer and many more, from that event’. Nima played her first lead character in 1979 while she was still in school. It was in the drama Shetu Kahini where she starred opposite Humayun Faridi. ‘But it is definitely the TV drama Amader Montu Mia written by Mumtazuddin Ahmed, where my lead role actually made me a household name,’ she says. One of the most fulfilling roles that Nima has played however, was that of Princess Dilruba in the drama written by Selim Al Deen on Bangladesh Television called Gronthikgon Kohe. And on stage, she recalls her character in Mukhosh, directed by Sara Zaker, which also featured Abul Hayat and Asaduzzaman Nur. Also fulfilling, she says, was the play Himmati, originally written in German by Bertolt Brecht. Nima she is currently between two phases of her acting career, which is why she’s become so scarce on television and the stage. ‘I’m still not comfortable doing roles of mothers as I still feel so young. Plus it is so difficult to portray the character of a Maa’, she says. Rahman wholeheartedly believes that she is not the right person to talk about her own success. ‘Does the moon tell everyone when it shines at night? However, this moment is a success as you are taking my interview and if I really need to speak of achievements, I think, it was a recital plus song album Gaaney Gaaney Bhalobasha with Anjan Dutt, which got great reviews on both sides of Bengal’. So what kind of acting role is the Nima Rahman of today looking for? Is she more evangelical in her approach? Does she believe in theatre for a cause? ‘I don’t like to overshadow anyone, and while portraying a character, I never try to send out a subliminal message. When it comes to acting, its pure entertainment and I think there are plenty of other ways to get the message across,’ she says. Presently, she is working on three programs of her own direction which are aired on ETV – Bhalobasha Karey Koi, a show about couples; the cooking show Rondhoner Bondhon and Shongsharer Tukitaki, a lifestyle show. But there’s more to Nima than just the stage and the screen. She’s an ardent reader of books which spurred her on to start her bookstore Words n’ Pages in 2004. ‘I never had plans to open the bookstore but when it happened, I realised how much I liked to submerge myself in the world of books. Interestingly, I think people in our society are starting to read again and they should turn this into a habit.’ Apart from reading, Nima also loves music. Her collection includes Abba, Simon and Garfunkel, Neil Diamond, Boney M, as well as Western and Eastern classical music. And what about the future? ‘I wont say. It ruins that whole element of surprise,’ she says. When her projects take shape though, she says, I always scream the loudest to let everyone know.