The Dashing Debutante

Former Miss World Bangladesh Jessia Islam graced the pages of our Radar section in a previous issue. She returns this month to share the cover with her MR-9 co-stars and continue the conversation

By Sabrina Fatma Ahmad

Let’s start with how you came to be involved with the MR-9 franchise.

I got into it I think two years into the making of the film. I think initially they had someone else in mind for the role, and I had no idea they were still looking for additional cast members. The project was delayed by the pandemic, and I think [Jannatul Ferdoush] Peya Apu, who was initially supposed to play Agent Rupa, got pregnant, and they needed someone else to fill in the roles, and so they held a fresh round of casting. I was called in for auditions for an unspecified role, and eventually bagged the BCI Agent Rupa role.

What did you have to do to prepare for this role?

The biggest requirement for this role was that the actor has to be physically fit; it’s an action role. I was already taking twice weekly Muay Thai lessons from an instructor from Thailand. When I was confirmed for the role of agent Rupa, I began to train with the rest of the MR-9 team in Krav Maga. As a team, we also got acting lessons, but I took advantage of the pandemic to go to India and attend acting workshops to fully prepare for the role. 

What was the most challenging part of the preps?

The physical training was very demanding. The Muay Thai lessons really left me exhausted. Also training as a team, and being consistent with the training and keeping up with everyone was a bit of a challenge.

“I like the grammar of knowing all of my angles in front of the camera. It makes me feel fearless and confident from every angle. Modeling compels me to feel pretty and bold, regardless of what people think. The confidence with which I get to present myself while modeling uplifts my self-confidence in myself and that is what I love most about the profession.” ~ Jessia Islam

Can you tell us a little bit about the experience of being on set?

The script kept changing because of a number of factors. The pandemic really forced the director and producers to make a lot of adjustments. The cast and location changes, which weren’t part of the original plan had to be taken into account, so that also made things a little uncertain. I was nervous on many accounts. This was my first acting role, and I would be going up with established names in the business. This was the first US-Bangladesh collaboration, involving foreign cast members and multiple locations, so it was exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time, but I made sure that I gave my best.

“I realized that people in front of the camera have the highest power to influence others, having the highest reach to the audience. And maybe that’s why it always felt interesting to me.” ~ Jessia Islam

Now that the movie is out, how do you feel?

Honestly? I think the promotions have been harder than the filming. While on set, you have a script, you know your job. But now that the film is out, there are so many engagements, and many of them rather spontaneous, going to universities to promote the film. It’s been a lot. I know I gave it my best, but it’s different when people come up to you and tell you they liked seeing you on screen and want to see more of you. It’s been overwhelming. I am very happy.

We’ll be seeing a lot more of Agent Rupa soon, hopefully?

Oh, I think so. The sequel is already in the works, and there’s been a series planned. Do or Die was just an introduction into the characters. We’re now going to see them in action, and if you’ve read the Masud Rana books, you’ll see that Rupa is a recurring character so I’m just getting warmed up, and you’ll get to see what I can bring to the role. 

What’s next for you personally?

You know I started my career in beauty pageants. That’s something I am passionate about and want to participate in more, if I can, and use those platforms for bigger causes. I’m a working model, so am focused on the modelling work as well, and keeping my options open for more acting roles in the future.

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