Queen of Hearts

𝗕𝗶𝗱𝘆𝗮 𝗦𝗶𝗻𝗵𝗮 𝗠𝗶𝗺 featuring Festivibe

By Siam Raihan

From her Lux Channel i Superstar win back in 2007 to the recent three-month-long blockbuster run of Poran, acclaimed Bangladeshi model and actor Bidya Sinha Saha Mim needs no introduction. MWB recently had the pleasure of a lengthy tete-a-tete with the National Film Award-winning artiste.

I was trying to get hold of her for three straight days but understandably getting an appointment with the ‘talk of the nation’ is not an easy task. Yet, each time the Dhallywood starlet was sweet enough to call or text me that she was occupied somewhere and earnestly apologized for rescheduling. This amount of decency and professionalism from a celebrity was a first, coming from a man who has been interviewing Bangladeshi celebrities for a living for the past seven years. She won our hearts with her incredible performance in Raihan Rafi’s blockbuster hit Poran. And she has, unintentionally won my heart by proving that you can be a decent human being to a journalist you have never met, even at the height of your fame.

From her Lux Channel i Superstar win back in 2007 to the recent three-month-long blockbuster run of Poran, acclaimed Bangladeshi model and actor Bidya Sinha Saha Mim needs no introduction. MWB recently had the pleasure of a lengthy tete-a-tete with the National Film Award-winning artiste.

She called late at night, clearly sounding tired as if she just returned home from a long day. This time I apologized for asking her to talk to me at this hour. She assured me at once that I don’t need to worry about that and can talk without any hesitation. Within a few moments, she took charge of the conversation and we had an hour-long discussion about her recent success with Poran, her goals, family life, the future of Bangladeshi content and a lot more.

Humble beginnings / The Mim we know and love today

Born in Rajshahi, Mim grew up in Bhola because of her father’s teaching job. Her family relocated to Cumilla when her father joined Victoria College. Mim completed her higher secondary from the same college. It is evident that living in several places across the country has given her a broad outlook on life.

After her HSC she secured a spot at Jahangirnagar University’s prestigious Drama and Dramatics department. She was preparing to start her second year there when she won the beauty pageant Lux Channel i Superstar in 2007. Acting opportunities followed, and she landed lead roles in numerous hit television dramas. Her parents were always very supportive of her work, which gave her the confidence to plow ahead. By 2008, she started working on Humayun Ahmed’s feature film Amar Ache Jol. “That role kick-started my career as an actor. The very next year I played the role of Priyanka alongside Shakib Khan in my second film Amar Praner Priya directed by Zakir Hossain Raju,” said Mim.

“It also became a big hit and I kept regularly working in TV dramas and films till today. I also kept working with major brands too,” she added. As she got very busy with multiple projects she, later on, completed her graduation from a private university.

“The pandemic hit and everything came to a halt. We witnessed the entire planet on lockdown. That was a very difficult time for all of us”

Bidya Sinha Mim

“I took a break from acting from 2012 to 2013 and returned to the silver screen with Khalid Mahmud Mithu’s Jonakir Alo. My role in that film got me my first National Film Award,” Mim said.

After that win, she had the opportunity to work on several Indian films and acted opposite superstars like Soham Chakraborty, Prasenjit Chatterjee and Jeet. Everything was going great for her. She simultaneously kept working in both Dhallywood and Tollywood films. She got emotional and said, “Then the pandemic hit and everything came to a halt. We witnessed the entire planet on lockdown. That was a very difficult time for all of us.” But after the pandemic subsided she started shooting Poran which became a blockbuster hit. Mim informed that she witnessed two life-changing experiences in this same year. “Professionally,I had the opportunity to work in Poran and witnessed its ongoing three-month-long blockbuster run. And on the personal front, I got married this year and started my family with my husband, Soni Poddar. That is basically the breakdown of the Mim people know and love,” she said with a soft chuckle.

She did not forget to remind us that her upcoming film Damal will also be released this year.

Becoming Unicef’s National Ambassador in Bangladesh

“Being an ambassador of a UN agency is a great honour,” said Mim when asked about her experience as Unicef’s National Ambassador in Bangladesh since May 2022. It was a remarkable moment in her life when they approached her with “such a prestigious offer.”

She clarified that she has always wanted to work for the children of Bangladesh. So, getting such an opportunity to work for the children and women of her country was something of a dream come true. “I usually participated in their social media awareness and information campaigns but last week was the first time when I got the opportunity to work with Unicef in the field, said Mim as she talked about her visit to remote regions around Sylhet which were completely submerged during the flood.

“During my two-day tour, I saw first-hand how Unicef contributes to the restoration of flood-damaged toilets, water points, schools and health facilities. I also met the flood victims and social workers who helped these children and their families after the floods,” Mim added. She also took part in distributing safety kits to the flood-affected families.

“While some people of Bangladesh are actively trying to undermine our women, the women of our country are the ones who are succeeding in every single sector”

Bidya Sinha Mim

SAFF win reaction

Mim felt “absolutely amazing” when asked how she felt when the Bangladesh women’s national team clinched their maiden SAFF Women’s Championship. “While some people of Bangladesh are actively trying to undermine our women, the women of our country are the ones who are succeeding in every single sector,” an ecstatic Mim explained. She feels that whenever a woman brings any amount of international success it is a win for every woman in Bangladesh. “We women try our level best at whichever sector we are working in. As I am an actor and I represent the art sector of my country, I always try to give my best performance on screen so that I can represent my country to the world in the best way possible,” said Mim. She also made clear that she constantly pushed herself towards improvement in that regard. “Our women’s football team is doing the same with sports. They have been fighting off all the prejudices and hurdles in front of them and now they came out as South Asian champions,” she added. But Mim also never liked this distinction of “us” against “them.”

“Why do we need to divide our victories? We should all be treated the same in every workplace, right?” asked Mim. In her opinion, true equality will only come if we all treat each other as human beings and forget the gender labels.

The never-ending success of Poran

Mim laughed and declared that their entire team never thought that Poran would turn into such a nationwide sensation. “It is unimaginable that our three-month-old film is still going strong against recently released Bangladeshi films,” explained Mim. She is extremely thankful that the film has continued witnessing house-full shows even during the weekends. There was a sudden excitement in her voice as she said, “And not just against local films. Poran opened alongside Marvel’s Thor: Love and Thunder. People started to say our box-office run will eventually slow down.” In reality, the complete opposite happened.

“To be very specific, during the second week, Mirpur’s Sony Square had to pull out Thor from one of the theaters in their multiplex, just to accommodate more showings of Poran,” she continued. Mim was in awe of all the love the film has received from the audience. She kept thanking the audience and said, “Our heartfelt gratitude to the viewers who turned this film into a blockbuster.”

Poran was recently released in North America and a few months back in Europe and Australia. All of the shows were sold out right after the pre-bookings began and she is pleased with that fact too.

“The most important thing about Poran is that it helped our theater owners in need and even inspired new investors to create more theaters across the country. This will ultimately help our film industry in the long run”

Mim shared another interesting memory about Poran during her Sylhet visit for the Unicef campaign. “I stayed at the Grand Sylhet Hotel and Resort which opened the first multiplex in that area,” she said. During her stay there, the owners of the five-star hotel came to thank her. “They surprised me by saying that they originally opened this multiplex inside their resort for their guests’ entertainment,” she added, explaining how the owners never thought that the theater would be a profitable venture. To their amazement, the resort owners opened the theater with Poran which brought them more than Tk 60 lakhs in profit. It is a rare example, as traditionally, Bangladeshi films struggle to recoup even the film’s original budget from the theaters. A lot of theater owners have contacted team Poran and said that they were deep in debt due to the Covid-19 lockdowns and this film came in as their savior.

Mim took a long breath of relief and said, “The most important thing about this film is that it helped our theater owners in need and even inspired new investors to create more theaters across the country. This will ultimately help our film industry in the long run. The intense response and love from the fans were added bonuses.”

“I’m not sure whether anything else in my career will beat the success of Poran. But our next film Damal has already created some hype and will be released soon. Only the Almighty can say what’s next,” said Mim.

Expectations with Damal

Mim always wanted to work in a Liberation War-based film and it was one of the main reasons why she signed the film. “The film revolves around the war and the Shadhin Bangla football team and the audience will likely be very eager to watch it,” explained Mim. Moreover, she thinks that her character in the screenplay was a very challenging one and she also wanted to experience that. She claimed that the film has a lot of major characters and each of them has an important role to play throughout Damal. Mim also thinks that they are very well written. “The entire cast had been working very hard and we are very happy with the output. I am very happy and hopeful about Damal. We all want Damal to be as successful as Poran, hopefully even more. Let’s see how everything pans out,” she added.

OTT presence and future

Mim is a firm believer that Bangladeshi OTT content is gradually catching up in the international market. She also loves the fact that people are paying for the content they enjoy most. Mim also thinks that it is great that netizens are already talking about censorship regulations in Bangladesh and how they are worried about the future of OTT content in the country if they get censored too.

“If we even start to censor OTT content then our brilliant filmmakers can’t even portray the story they actually want to say on screen,” she said in a worried voice. She believes that all sorts of restrictions on any sort of content should be lifted. “People can write anything they want if they are publishing books, then why should the visual medium be restricted?” asked Mim.

She went on about how the people who are in support of censorship these days don’t talk about the dark ages of our film industry when most films were obscene and how a lot of actors had to stop working in films altogether.

“There was a censor board back then. Why didn’t they censor those films?” asked Mim. She thinks most of the films that are currently being blocked by outdated censor regulations are not even banned for obscenity. “The reasons are silly if we compare it to Hollywood or even Bollywood films. Then what is the basis of all this?” she asked.

When asked about her absence in the recent OTT wave in Bangladesh, she reminded us that her web series Beauty and the Bullet and Zee5’s What The Fry were well received by the audience.

“I have been approached by a lot of filmmakers working on OTT projects but the scripts didn’t align with what I was exactly looking for. If I come across any OTT web series scripts that I like then I will definitely start working on more OTT content in the future,” she clarified.

Antarjal updates…

Mim also signed the Dipankar Dipon cyber-thriller Antarjal. According to her, it is a very exciting project. She informed me that all parts of her shoot are already complete. And the Antarjal team is still shooting some outdoor parts of her co-star Siam Ahmed. She could not tell us the exact release date but she is hopeful if the post-production is complete according to schedule then the audience can watch the film next year in theaters. It is a very unique project for Mim as she plays “the role of a cyber security officer of ​​Bangladesh Government’s e-Government Computer Incident Response Team (BGD e-GOV CIRT).”

Just Married

When asked how marriage is suiting her, Mim seemed to be enjoying her newly married life. Having just married Soni Poddar this year, she says they are really happy with each other. “We are both focused on our careers as well as our family. We have learned to spend time with each other despite our busy schedules. Things are great overall,” Mim said happily.

Best and Worst moments

“Definitely, the best point in my career was winning the ‘Lux Channel i Superstar’ title back in 2007,” said Mim and explained how huge of a turning point in her life and how it changed her career completely. But she also added that the massive commercial success of Poran is also one of the best things that happened in her career.

“I can’t point out a specific worst moment but yes I did face bad days. Sometimes I was very tired of work or something bad happened on set or even I signed a project then later heard that I was replaced with someone else,” said Mim.

Working on some projects put her through a severe depression. But she knows this is all part of the journey.

She knows that she can point out a hundred bad things in this industry. “Yet, I also hear one praise about some work I did, and I instantly feel happy. So all these ups and downs will always be there. That’s how life works,” she answered.

Aspirations and inspirations

It’ll be a dream come true if I can ever work with Sanjay Leela Bhansali. I absolutely love every single one of his films. His works always have that larger-than-life factor. Especially his last film Gangubai’ was mind-blowing. As actors, we always aspire to play a historical role like that. Something that will stay in the hearts of the audience forever. Something with depth, you know?” said Mim.

“Also, acting in a web series like Game of Thrones won’t be bad, right?” she continued as she thinks content like that usually turns into a global phenomenon and even gets considered a classic.

Mim also has numerous actors that she looks up to but can’t just single out some names. Mim thought for a moment and said, “If I have to say then I have to point out a very specific moment which was Aishwarya Rai winning the Miss World 1994 crown.” That event somehow inspired Mim and she always followed her work which she loved. But she also loved the fact that one crown changed her entire career. “Ever since her win, I wanted to win a crown too. Thankfully that is how I entered this industry,” said Mim.

Photos: Rony Rezaul

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