By Siam Raihan
After the massive critical acclaim of Taqdeer, Bangladeshi filmmaker Syed Ahmed Shawki’s second web series Karagar has awed Bangalis across the globe. A recent review of the seven-episode-long show published in the Times of India dubbed it as “the best Bengali series till date.” Popular Bangladeshi model and actor FS Nayeem has turned into a fan favourite for his portrayal of of Ashfaq, and is being praised by fans across both Bengals. In a recent interview with MW Bangladesh, Nayeem talked about his experience with his newly found cross-border stardom, the joys and challenges behind it, and future plans.
How are you enjoying the audience response to your performance in Karagar?
I’d firstly like to thank the Almighty, that He blessed me with such an amazing opportunity that paved the way into so many people’s hearts. To be very honest, I never knew that my fan base is so huge. It is kind of unimaginable to me at this point. The excitement is hard to describe in words. But the challenge is how well the audience is going to receive my upcoming projects. That is a huge amount of pressure for any performer.
How did you get on board Karagar?
The whole thing was a four to five-month process. The project’s director Syed Ahmed Shawki communicated with me directly. What surprised me was he and his whole team had a whole archive of my notable roles, some of which are not even available on YouTube. They had studied me thoroughly before approaching me to star in the role of Ashfaq. During production, I felt like I was working with an international team. Every actor on set felt that was. Film Noir [Shawki’s production company] is undoubtedly the best team in the country right now. Each crew member in each department is best at what they do. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, truly.
So, it was an interesting shooting experience?
Well, what seemed the most interesting to me was that during the entire time of production, I was never Nayeem. I was always Ashfaq. The director and his entire team kept me inside the character of Ashfaq. It is a very difficult task for any production team to reach that level of efficiency and precision. Again, all the credit for that goes to the entire team.
Fans have been praising your impeccable on-screen bromance with Intekhab Dinar in the series. How well do you two get along off-screen?
Our offscreen relationship is like that of two brothers. I call him ‘Bhaijan’ and he calls me ‘Bhaiya.’ We have known each other for so many years. When I started my acting career Dinar Bhai (who plays Jailer Mostak Ahmed) is already a superstar and an acclaimed TV actor in our industry. The best thing about Dinar Bhai is that he just does not try to outperform everyone else on set. He spreads his aura and brilliance to the entire cast. He gives space and assistance to his co-artists and pulls them up to his level. Most importantly, working with Dinar Bhai never feels like work. It always feels like I’m learning so much with each second I get to spend with him on set.
Thoughts on the Ashfaq memes that have crossed into West Bengal now?
That is another unexpected thing to me, that my ‘Ashfaq’ character somehow felt relatable to every Bangali across the globe who had the opportunity to watch the series on Hoichoi. Also, almost every popular film review content creator in West Bengal posted reviews on Karagar and praised my character. Times of India gave us the title of best Bengali series ever. All of this is so overwhelming and again I thank the Almighty that we are receiving so much love from all across the globe. I am really surprised to see the massive increase in my international fanbase (laughs).
When can we expect the second season?
We’ve actually already shot the entire second season during the production of season one. I can’t officially disclose the release date, as that is up to the director and Hoichoi officials. It won’t be soon, as the post-production is ongoing which takes a huge time as you know. But the audience is up for a surprise (laughs).
Any interesting project you signed after the massive success of Karagar?
I have been approached for several projects. I will spend the next month reading the scripts. One project will go into production during mid-September. I can’t disclose the details of it right now. I will meet the entire team within the next few weeks. I have to clarify, though, every project won’t be Karagar.
Who are some actors and directors that inspire you?
If we talk about directors, then every Bangladeshi director I had the opportunity to work with are my favourite directors. I tend to focus on actors and the process they go through to prepare themselves for a role. That is my personal opinion as a performer.
I have always loved the works and the acting process of Christian Bale, Brad Pitt, Ashton Kutcher, Bradley Cooper, Patrick Dempsey, David Gandy and many more. They are very aware of their performance and process. Also, they push themselves into their characters and turn them as real as possible on screen. Their work and process have always inspired me.
Like Brad Pitt playing the role of Achilles in Troy, or Bradly Cooper’s role of Phil in the Hangover trilogy, you just cannot re-create those again. And that inspires me every single day.
Any dream director or actor you want to work with in the globalized age of OTT content?
Well, I’d love to work with Monica Belucci someday (laughs). If I ever get that opportunity, I mean. It sounds absurd when I said it out loud (laughs). It’s even bigger than my biggest dreams (laughs). I do believe that the Almighty gives us opportunities in all shapes and forms. We have to keep doing our best with every opportunity that comes in front of us. Hopefully, the Almighty can grant me the opportunity in my lifetime to work with some of the actors or directors whose work has inspired me to get into acting in the first place. Fingers crossed and never say never (laughs).
Siam Raihan is a freelance journalist, film producer, and editor.