Q/A with Golam Sohrab Dodul

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By Anika Chowdhury

Golam Sohrab Dodul is known for his noteworthy contributions both in front of and behind the camera. Before starting his journey as a director, Dodul was recognized as a National Film Award-winning actor – showcasing his versatility and dedication to the craft of story-telling. From a young age, his interests extended beyond acting; he felt fascinated by the technical aspects of film-making, including camera operations and still photography. This early curiosity laid the foundation for his eventual transition to directing. 

In addition to his acting and directorial endeavours, Dodul has also trained in classical Hindustani music. His musical training has undoubtedly influenced his cinematic work, allowing him to create more nuanced and emotionally resonant films.

As a director, Golam Sohrab Dodul has helmed several notable projects, including Shapludu (2019), Dark Room (2021), and Mobaroknama (2023), which created a buzz among audiences both in Bangladesh and India. Each of these works reflects his deep understanding of narrative story-telling, character development, and the intricate balance between visual aesthetics and thematic depth. 

In a candid conversation with Golam Sohrab Dodul, MWB got to know what more complex social themes he is willing to explore, and his upcoming projects. 

You have been a versatile artist, an actor, a singer, and now a director. What inspired you to venture into film-making?

From my early days in the industry, I tended to notice how first editing worked. I was curious about how cameras are operated and the subtlety of still photography. I always paid attention to assistant directors and DOPs – how they arranged the sequence of scenes, how they designed the lights, and how the shot divisions were made. 

Along with acting, these subtle technicalities fascinated me. I dreamt of creating something of my own and my dream pushed me into the realm of film-making. I was also a regular visitor at the international film festivals and watched movies regularly. These activities have inspired me. Even though I worked as an actor, I have always wanted to make movies. 

Acting allowed me to explore various facets of human emotion and narrative from a performer’s perspective, but I always felt a pull towards the creative process behind the camera.

Who are the film-makers or artists that have significantly influenced your work, and in what ways have they done so?

Alamgir Kabir’s films have influenced me; I used to watch his movies regularly. I have also felt inspired by the film-maker Kabir Anwar. When it comes to international film directors, the names of Abbas Kiarostami and Satyajit Ray naturally come to my mind.  

But honestly speaking, it would be very tough to highlight anyone’s name or talk about a particular film. These renowned and influential directors – whom I consider my mentors – and their works are part of my research. Sometimes, I feel like Charulata (1964) by Satyajit Ray is my favourite movie; however, at other times, Nayak (1966) seems like a masterpiece to me. Therefore, I cannot specify any movie’s or director’s names. But I would say every film has its distinctive flavour and we have different lessons to learn from different directors. 

How did your experience of working in front of the camera impact your work behind it?

Frankly, if I hadn’t acted before the camera, I wouldn’t have understood the process of working behind the camera. I was never an assistant director. After being involved with writing screenplays, I directly started film-making.

As an actor, you’re intimately involved in the narrative moment-to-moment, which instils a deep understanding of character development, emotional authenticity, and the subtleties of visual story-telling.

When I was an actor, I worked with the director and tried to understand the technicalities – for example, arranging the sequence and marking the continuity – these were the tasks of an assistant director, but I used to do them. Consequently, I learned the skills that an assistant director requires. 

How do you choose your projects?

I love to work with contemporary issues. However, it is not like I don’t want to work with other genres – it depends mostly on the content and what type of script gets my attention.

The characters in Dark Room – starring Chanchal Chowdhury, Azmeri Haque Badhon, and Tareen Jahan – are complex and multi-dimensional. How did you work with your actors to achieve the depth and nuances of these characters?

I believe a good director knows how to connect with the characters and understand their inner workings. If I were to present a fictional character – say a woman who prepares meals for office-goers – I would first understand her psychology, lifestyle, and internal crisis. This is what I did with the characters in Dark Room.

The film Dark Room deals with the inner turmoil that a married couple faces. Inherently, humans crave freedom. Due to societal obligations, we have to stay committed, but at the end of the day, we want diversity in our lives. This is what I have tried to portray in Dark Room. When your married life becomes a loop, it plays the same monotonous tune, which ultimately causes you mental distress. Dark Room deals with this universal issue of monotony.  

Mobaroknama has been well-received by the audience and this is your first project with OTT platform Hoichoi. How did this project come to be?

I had thought of the story of Mobaroknama about one year ago and it is based on a family I know from Old Dhaka. Based on my real-life experience, I curated the entire story and pitched it to Hoichoi. They instantly liked the story and we started to prepare for the series.  

Did any real-life events influence the story or characters of Mobaroknama?

I have sketched the mother of Suraiya based on a real-life character. There was a woman in Old Dhaka with the same mindset and behaviour you have seen in Suriya’s mother in Mobaroknama. Similar to Mobaroknama, there has been a conflict in this family. And just like Suriya’s mother, this woman also prioritizes society before her children. The daughter, a resemblance to Suriya, fights back and ensures her freedom. 

The story I am telling you is very common as many parents in Bangladesh still nurture this conversation and narrow-minded outlook. So, my goal has been to present the real scenario and deal with these critical issues that are plaguing our society.  

The courtroom scene was certainly one of the highlights of this web series. How did you approach the character dynamics and tension within the courtroom scene? 

Layers were very important for us when we started to build the courtroom scenes. Every courtroom scene has certain layers and background stories. So, we did extensive research before building the story. It is not very easy to build the tension. We need to think about how we were going to advance and how the narrative is going to jump between courtroom scenes and hearings. Perhaps, this is why the final outcome kept everyone hooked throughout the entire series.

Audiences have drawn parallels between Mobaroknama and the Bollywood film Pink (2016) starring Amitabh Bachchan. Did you find some inspiration there?

I have heard this question many times before and honestly speaking, I didn’t even watch Pink before making this series. So, Mobarok from Mobaroknama doesn’t resemble Amitabh Bachchan from Pink. They have different stories and characterizations.

One aspect that I would say is common between them is the importance of consent. I wanted to send a very clear message through this series: “No means no.” And I believe Pink also delivers this message.   

Do you see the story or characters of Mobaroknama evolving in future projects? Is there potential for a sequel or spin-off?

There have been talks with Hoichoi for the second season of Mobaroknama, but nothing has been fixed yet. I can only give the creative direction; however, Hoichoi can make the final call. Nevertheless, I am wholeheartedly overwhelmed and inspired by the praise I have been receiving from everyone. 

A banker saw Mobaroknama 15 times and sent me 4 or 5 kgs of sweets from Munshiganj as a token of appreciation. I was shocked by this gift but felt exceedingly happy. So, if everything goes well with Hoichoi, I will certainly start working on the sequel. 

In many of your interviews, you have shown your admiration towards celebrated actor Suborna Mustafa. Can we expect to see you working with her anytime soon?

Suborna Mustafa is such a person who knows how to praise someone. And words will fall short to describe how elated I felt when she praised me. I will be more than happy and honoured to work with her if she agrees.  

Many people have suggested I should cast Suborna Mustafa or Aupee Karim in the second season of Mobaroknama. The idea seemed very interesting to me and if I am able, I will certainly try and ask them to join Mobaroknama 2.  

Are there any upcoming projects you’re particularly excited about? Can you share some details about them? 

I am currently working on a couple of projects for the upcoming Eid. In the future, I may work on new OTT projects for Binge, Chorki, or Hoichoi, but nothing has been finalized yet. For now, I am focusing on online content for YouTube. 

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