Boy Wonder

The bright and young Dibya Jyoti is poised to shake up the silver screen

By Rasha Jameel

Between starring in slice-of-life comedies on cable television and portraying emotionally-complex characters on streaming platforms, Dibya Jyoti has already begun to carve out a niche of his own in the Bangladeshi entertainment industry.

Being born to iconic and well-revered media personalities and actors is a rather tough identity to live up to, especially if you’re working alongside your celebrity parents in the same industry. But having proved his mettle as a versatile actor over the course of several diverse projects, part-time actor and full-time Economics major Dibya Jyoti is a rising star in his own right. Fresh off of his successes in Syed Ahmed Shawki’s Karagar and Akram Khan’s Nakshi Kanthar Jomin: A Tale of Two Sisters, the industry newcomer is poised to take over the silver screens once again essaying the role of a young Bangabandhu in Shyam Benegal’s Mujib: The Making of a Nation.

‘What is the person behind all these brilliant performances actually like though?’, the curious mind wonders. All it took was an exchanging of texts back and forth with the boy wonder himself to set up a meet online. The curious mind asked, and Dibya Jyoti graciously obliged.

How would you describe your process for preparing for a role?

My process for preparing for a role is very simple. I find it pretty difficult to get into the nitty-gritty of it all – the theoretical approach to acting – I find it to be very complicated. I have studied lots of books from different actors, as well as ‘An Actor Prepares’ by Constantin Stanislavski, but I don’t think I’m really able to retain all that information in my mind. I just read the script again and again and go over the details quite thoroughly. If possible, I try to go meet the scriptwriter. If no backstory is provided for a certain character, I try to come up with one on my own, based on how this person is living their life, and I just try to adapt to the life of the character. I don’t know if all that falls under ‘method acting’ or not, but I don’t really take a theoretical approach. I just have one thing on my mind, plain and simple, and that is that I have to be the character, and in order to do so, I have to know the lifestyle of said character, his life and emotions.

Separating textbook knowledge from practical knowledge in this regard, where the latter involves mastering the craft by watching another, which would you say has helped you learn more or improve as an actor?

Definitely practical knowledge, where I have the opportunity to learn from another’s work, it’s so much better. I don’t want to dismiss the importance of textbook knowledge of course, it’s especially significant in understanding the craft. But when it comes to watching an actor perform… let me put it this way, acting as a craft has more to do with practical knowledge much like other creative avenues. Personally, in my case what happened is that seeing other actors perform live and asking them questions about their performances was just more helpful in the long run.

Are there any particular techniques or such that you have picked up from your fellow actors?

Several. It’s something that happens quite often, but it’s not that I copy them. For example, just the other day I was rewatching one of my favorite movies of all time, The Pianist, starring Adrien Brody who won Best Actor at the Oscars for his performance, and there’s this scene which really stayed with me. As I watched Brody’s performance, I thought to myself, “Maybe this is something I can use for a role- the precision with which he expresses his emotions”. I’ve gone on to pick up ideas from several other actors over time where I’d watch them perform and reflect on the effort put in by the actors. This is something I partake in quite regularly, and my inspiration isn’t limited to the movies. I learn something new every time I watch, say, my mother act or Chanchal Chowdhury act, and try to incorporate it into my style of the craft. It’s imperative that I make it my own because, for example when I have to cry on-screen, I can’t cry like another actor, I’ll cry like me. So yeah, picking up a trick or two in the moment, I tend to do that.

You’ve already got a bunch of interesting roles under your belt. Which one was the most challenging?

If we’re talking about released projects, it’s got to be David Adams in Karagar, till now. Also, I don’t know if I’m supposed to talk about this just yet since it comes after Eid, but my role in the upcoming season of Mohanagar was rather difficult to play. This mostly had to do with logistical difficulties, for instance, I had to shoot for scenes late into the night following an 8pm call time, despite being an early riser. Adjusting my sleep cycle around the late-night shoots was what I found to be the most challenging aspect of playing Masum in the second season of Mohanagar.

You’ve already played the younger version of Chanchal Chowdhury’s David Adams in Karagar. Similarly, you’re playing the younger version of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who’ll be portrayed by Arifin Shuvoo in the upcoming Mujib: The Making of a Nation. What is the dynamic like between two actors who are playing the same character in different stages of life?

My scenes for Mujib: The Making of a Nation were actually shot back in 2020, before I’d started filming for Karagar. When it comes to the biopic, Arifin Shuvoo and I are both embodying a real-life legend on the silver screen. We didn’t really compare notes in our individual portrayals of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as I’m embodying the ‘Father of our Nation’ in his teens – a time in Bangabandhu’s life we don’t know much about. Due to the lack of source material, Shuvoo bhaiya and I couldn’t compare notes on a teen-aged Bangabandhu even if we wanted to. Besides, Shuvoo bhaiya and I ended up filming our scenes at different times since the film was shot in a chronological order based on the narrative, with the scenes featuring Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in his teens being filmed first. Shooting for Karagar was a different story. It’s important to note that I’ve grown up with Chanchal kaka and he’s someone I’m extremely close and consider to be family. The day before Karagar was to be released on Hoichoi, our director Syed Ahmed Shawki called me up to say that a mystical incident had occurred. ‘You and your kaka cried in the exact same manner in the climax of the season finale’, he said, and I couldn’t be more surprised because we’d filmed our scenes separately and hadn’t really talked about our performances with each other. Looking back on it, I’d say maybe the incident came to be purely on an instinctual basis because of how familiar I was with Chanchal kaka’s nerves when he approached a character.

Tell us about a character you’d love to play.

There are so many. I’m someone whose comfort zone is in front of the camera. Nothing brings me more joy than to perform before the camera on days when I’m feeling particularly down in the dumps. I’m always looking forward to play the next role. However, at the top of my list of characters I’d love to play is any role which requires the actor to undergo some form physical transformation, and I’m not talking about the kind where you just build muscles overnight. If a role requires me to gain or lose weight, I’d love to take on that kind of challenge for a film or tv project as an actor.

You’ve worked in both cable television and the OTT space. How would you compare the experiences of working in the aforementioned media?

If I have to compare, I’ll start off by saying that for a web series, the production process is much lengthier, where pre-production consists of script-readings, costume trials, look trials, cast meets, etcetera, and then we have the post-production dubbings and promotional events. On the other hand, the tv dramas in our industry tend to be produced on a comparatively smaller budget and therefore can’t always accommodate such an elaborate production process. Normally we’re handed our respective scripts about a week in advance and start shooting soon after. That’s really the main difference I feel. The production values of a web series tend to rival that of a movie’s, providing the actor with ample time to get into the skin of their character, which is especially helpful for newcomers in the industry like myself to become more involved in the process and reduce the scope for error.

What is it like watching yourself on the screen for the first time as a member of the audience, every time a new project of yours comes out?

I’m always skeptical of the quality of my own work; I’m my harshest critic. I don’t want to sound like a 35-year old but all I can think about while watching myself on screen is how I could’ve done it better. When I’m seeing myself perform as an actor, all I see is room for improvement, because I constantly take into account personal growth as a factor in my work. My parents disagree with most of my criticism of my work, they keep saying that regardless of how I feel, once I’m aware of my errors in a particular performance, I won’t be able to deliver it in the same instinctual manner should I get the opportunity for a do-over; the ‘X factor’ would be gone. Even at the MWB shoot the other day, when I was offered a look at the photos that had been taken, I had to decline because of my skepticism towards my work. While I always welcome any criticism of my work with open arms, I do have a hard time accepting compliments.

How would you say your childhood spent in the company of veteran actors and media personalities in the entertainment industry has impacted your work in the same industry?

I consider it a blessing. Coming from a family of well-revered, seasoned actors has really helped establish a sense of home in the Bangladeshi entertainment industry for me. I don’t fret or get nervous about working with the big media personalities as they’ve seen me grow up while I, in turn, have seen their hair turn grey thus coming to regard them all as family over time, rather than looking at them as just another co-actor or director and such. It’s been nothing but a blessing and I’m very grateful for it.

Who’s a director you’d love to work with?

I consider myself very lucky to have had multiple opportunities at a fairly young age to work with my favorite directors namely Piplu R Khan, Shyam Benegal, Amitabh Reza Chowdhury, Syed Ahmed Shawki, Adnan Al Rajeev… basically everyone I’ve ever dreamt of working with. There are, however, two brilliant directors I look forward to working with on a film or tv series but am yet to: Nuhash Humayun and Mejbaur Rahman Sumon.

If Dibbo Jyoti wasn’t an actor today, he would be…

An undergraduate student struggling with Economics.

Having taken the Bangladeshi entertainment industry by storm already, what would you say keeps you grounded amid all the media and fan frenzy?

Again, going back to my interactions with various media personalities throughout my childhood, that is what keeps me humbled, acting as a paperweight. When I think about the actors I’ve grown up around, Chanchal Chowdhury, Mosharraf Korim, Jaya Ahsan, and their accomplishments, this ‘storm’ that you speak of feels insignificant to me next to the legacy they’ve built in our entertainment industry.

Tell us a little about your future projects. What can the audience expect to see next from Dibya Jyoti?

To tell you the truth, I myself don’t know much about future projects. My debut film with my brother Shommo, titled ‘Nakshi Kanthar Jomin: A Tale of Two Sisters’ is coming out this year. It’s been directed Akram Khan using a government grant and is set against the backdrop of Bangladesh’s Liberation War of 1971. The film had its world premiere at the 53rd International Film Festival of India hosted in Goa, India, where it became the first Bengali film in 50 years to be nominated for a Gandhi medal. Just recently, the film won the third prize in the Asian Competition category at the Bengaluru International Film Festival. It’s undoubtedly a very big deal not just for us, the team behind Nakshi Kanthar Jomin, but also for the country as a whole. Mujib: The Making of a Nation is also slated to release in 2023, so I have two movies releasing later this year and I’m very excited about both of them.

Speaking of attending international film festivals and presenting your own films on such massive platforms, what was the experience like to represent your nation on international waters as a member of the entertainment industry?

I’ve never felt any pressure. When Nakshi Kanthar Jomin premiered at the International Film Festival of India, an event inaugurated by cinematic legends like Amitabh Bachchan and Rajnikanth, we were all beside ourselves in excitement at the prospect of a Bangladeshi film being screened there. The Gandhi medal wasn’t on anyone’s minds at the time. It was my first time attending a film festival full of international film crew members. I came across Varun Dhawan smiling as he got into his car. A. R. Rahman was also in attendance and I rushed towards him barefoot for a quick photo because it was just that kind of an environment, buzzing with excitement at every corner. Being there representing my home country with a film, it was a surreal feeling to say the least. When our film’s title popped up in Bangla on the screen at the first show, I cried like a kid along with my parents, my brother, the film’s cast and crew all of whom sat next to each other. The film was being screened for an international audience who didn’t speak Bangla but that didn’t matter. As the credits rolled, the audience commended our work saying, “Your movie has managed to transcend the language barrier”. I was absolutely overcome with emotions at the realization of being able to gain such experiences this early in life. I cannot describe the feeling in words, except to say that this is yet another feeling that keeps me grounded.

Fashion Direction & Styling: Mahmudul Hasan Mukul
Photographer: Farabi Tamal
Make-up & Hair: Mohammad Al Amin
Location: Beacon Studio

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