Girl Power

By Sabrina Fatma Ahmad

From a model to an RJ to an actress with serious chops, Sarah Alam’s star has been continuously on the rise. She’s wrapped up 2022 with a starring role in Bodh, the Hoichoi series on everyone’s essential binge list. This month, she hopped on a call with MWB to talk about Bodh and beyond

There’s something mind-bending about celeb stalking online. By the time you’re on the phone calling them up for an interview, your research has made you feel like you already know them, but in reality, you’re still actually total strangers to one another, and having that epiphany can make things awkward real fast. But the same warm qualities that made Sarah Alam a VJ and RJ both, shone through from the first hello. We broke the ice by talking about her fur babies Azlan and Alayla, and then it was down to business as we got into Bodh.

Your character Srabonti is a badass lawyer who plays squash, drives a really cool car, stands up to criminals, and can quote the Penal Code chapter and verse off the top of her head. How did you prepare for such a role?

The first, and biggest change I had to make was to chop off my hair. There’s this thing in the legal circles – you can’t have long hair, because it looks “too feminine” and can be a distraction in the court, but you can’t cut it too short because that can make you look unapproachable, at least in our culture. So I had to say goodbye to my long hair and settle for a mid-length cut that was approachable, but also professional. Getting that haircut strangely made it easier for me to tap into Srabonti’s mindset – she’s a lot more on edge and stressed out than I am in real life.

Other than that, I spent the months of rehearsal time researching things like the jargon, observing my friends who are in the legal profession. I had to polish my driving skills, which had gone rusty because I didn’t own a car and therefore didn’t have much practice. For the last few weeks before we started shooting, I played a lot of badminton, because squash courts are a little hard to come by in Dhaka [laughs], and we transposed those skills into the squash scenes.

Because Srabonti is such a fierce feminist – and this is shown through some obvious signals such as her outspokenness, her tattoos, etc. – and our society isn’t exactly enamored of feminists like this, did you have to face any backlash?

Surprisingly, not really. I was bracing for this myself, but what really surprised me in a pleasant way is that overall the reception was positive. I think it’s because of the character’s strong relationship with her father, and the presence he had in her life, that shielded her, and to some extent, shielded me from criticism. Also, given her status and background, I think people felt her personality was expected. I am happy people are happy with my portrayal, because characters like Srabonti do exist in society!

Kudos on delivering a nuanced performance, though. I loved that Srabonti was brave and proactive when she had to be, but level headed enough to know when to stand back or step back and let the men take the lead. It’s so easy for these characters to become one-note.

Thank you. I am so grateful for my director (Amitabh Reza Chowdhury) and the writer (Rafiqul Islam) for writing such a great character for me to play. 

You also had to portray very layered relationships in the story – from the love and frustration between Srabonti and Alamgir, to the toxicity with Tanvir, to the changing dynamics of your relationship with DBI Officer Ehsan. What was the dynamic like on set, when the cameras were off?

We had a lot of work to do to get into these roles. Shahjahan Shomrat, who is really such a happy, fun person in real life, had to transform into this annoying, oversmart person, the kind that makes you want to shut him up after five minutes of talking to him. [Laughs] Shomrat and I swapped scripts so we could really understand where each of our characters came from – why was Srabonti so on edge, why was Ehsan so sarcastic. And Afzal Bhai, he was so great, so patient with getting us to fit into our relationship dynamics with one another. He had such a gracious way of folding us into the roles, and letting us learn from his experience, and he didn’t do a single scene without the proper rehearsals. It helped that we had months of preparation before we went into shooting, so once the cameras started rolling, it felt very comfortable.

Do you feel like you’ve grown from acting in Bodh?

Definitely. Stepping into Srabonti’s shoes has made me feel like I can, and must stand up for the things I believe in.

You just finished shooting for a series on Chorki. Want to give us a taste of what to expect?

It’s a sitcom called Internsheep, set in an ad agency, where I play the role of a domineering lady boss, with a heart of gold. I guess some of the characteristics are similar to the role I played in Bodh, but this is a little more lighthearted, and a little more of a departure for me, so I am excited to see what everyone thinks.

Fashion Direction & Styling: Mahmudul Hasan Mukul
Photographer: Farabi Tamal
Make-up & Hair: Ferdous Ahsan Orko
Wardrobe: Sciccoso

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