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‘The society that can’t laugh at itself has trouble ahead’

  • Published at 10:04 pm May 15th, 2018
  • Last updated at 04:06 pm May 21st, 2018
Iresh Zaker Saikat Bhadra

It all started with voice acting for a project which was just a small gig to him back then. From the small gigs to the horrifying character of Thandu in “Swapnajaal,” Iresh Zaker and his versatile acting career is filled with a thousand stories. He already bagged a national award for his role in the film 'Chuye Dile Mon,' which also was a negative role. Dhaka Tribune Showtime's Rumpa Syeda Farzana Zaman recently went to visit his office along with photo and video journalist Saikat Bhadra and sat down with him to talk about his journey from small gigs to a national award winning villain, and also his successful corporate career. Today's special edition of Showtime is all about the life and stories behind Iresh

Acting never was in my head but it was always in my blood

When Iresh came back to Bangladesh back in 2005 he never knew that he will head into acting. Besides that his father advised him to “stay away from it.” The reason behind that is quite interesting. To Aly Zaker, Iresh's father and prominent Bangladeshi actor, his son's huge physique and look was not heroic enough. So he is the one who said that he should not come into acting. Yet, the guy is sure to have some acting in his blood whose mother is Sara Zaker, who is still dominating theatre with her strong acting and sheer class, and father is Aly Zaker who has always dominated the stage and given us characters like Farid Mama from Humayun Ahmed's famous TV drama series “Bohubrihi.”

The start came a bit differently. Iresh started off as a voice actor in the children’s TV show Sisimpur. He also did some small voice acting gigs here and there from time to time.  He cannot do those now for lack of time.

His onscreen debut in acting came in 2006 when he played a role alongside his father Aly Zaker in a TV fiction titled “Batasher Khacha.”

It has been 12 years from “Batasher Khacha” to “Swapnajaal.” National Award winner Iresh can not act, seems like a joke now.   

More of a film guy?

Iresh replied: “Working on a film is more exciting.” When asked why, his reply was that one can play with their voice on a feature length motion picture. “The difference between Swapnajaal’s original footage and final footage says it all, that how one can play with their voice on a film,” added Iresh. His character Thandu was a cold hearted village goon and murderer in his recent film “Swapnajaal”, and his voice played a major role in creating that aura of a terrifying villain.

“Film gives that space to work on a dialogue exactly the way you want it to be and of course there is a big screen factor in there too,” explained Iresh. 

Yet, that does not necessarily means that Iresh loves working on films the most. He said that his love is for the stage. Iresh might be seen on stage in July of this year. That is still a surprise. He also always wanted to do the Nuruldin character from his father’s play “Nuruluddin Er Sharajibon.” He smiled and said: “This has been my lifelong dream and I will do it even if it is alone and in front of a mirror.” He is scared whether he can ever conjure the courage to come close to emulating his father.

Hero Iresh-Villain Iresh

The father who once told his son that this country does not expect a hero like him, that son has already created himself into an iconic villain. He has already done two negative roles out of three feature films he has done. Even received a National Award for one of them. When asked why he is doing negative roles he laughed and replied: “My face clearly has an urban vibe to it and doesn’t go well with a village character. On the other hand urban hero means manly characters like Arifin Shuvoo or Shakib Khan. So, obviously I have to be the villain.” But he clearly stated that these stereotypes of weird looking villains are breaking apart now. Specifically with dashing actors like Taskeen Rahman and his splendid performance in the blockbuster hit film “Dhaka Attack.” According to Iresh, crafting a negative role is hard work. He also added: “While portraying a negative role on screen, we have to do things that we don’t do in our regular lives and that obviously takes a lot of hard work.”

Involvement in “Swapnajaal”

Iresh thinks that working on a film is a huge opportunity. Especially when the film is by Giasuddin Selim. Even though comparatively a smaller character, Iresh chose to work on Thandu. He is also not working regularly on TV for quite a while now. He is a full time corporate executive now. So he accepted the challenge of turning a born and raised city guy into a murderous village goon. Both the actor and director got busy with developing the look for the character.

Giasuddin Selim told him: “Eat butter and cheese and stop cutting your hair and beard for the next seven months.” Iresh did as told. His main weapon on developing him into a village character was hard work. Usually actors get a script of a television project seven days before going into production. Whereas he had seven months to work with. The seven months of hard work paid off on screen. “My friends even didn’t recognise me in the first couple shots,” said Iresh. 

He also said: “Being praised for portraying something that I am completely not is obviously a big achievement for me.” He also thanked Giasuddin Selim for giving him the opportunity to work on a village character.

Who can act and who are actors?

”It has become a practice in our country that the person who acts in the most TV dramas or films are known as actors, but the actor who does five productions with proper care in a year aren’t given the status of a good actor,” said Iresh a bit bitterly. It might be the for the same reason that he has to hear that he “acts very well,” after acting for ten years. These things deeply hurt him. Moreover his characters in numerous productions have less screen time as he is not regular in his acting career. Even the character of Thandu is very small compared to the length of the film. But he hopes for more opportunities. Though he also agrees that the difference in remuneration of a cast is set by an invisible force in this country’s media industry. 

Iresh said: “Even I feel that my remuneration is set higher than I deserve when I see a cast member who spent a lot more time and effort than me is getting much lower pay. And who is setting these standards?”

“If the industry goes through a correction with this remuneration process than we will see a lot of actors shifting to quality rather than quantity,” added the actor. “I think that I shouldn’t be paid more just because I’m Iresh. Proper evaluation of an actor’s caliber is most important to an artist,” explained Iresh.

Celebrity duo’s son Iresh

Iresh got a comparatively easy entry in the industry for his celebrity parents when he first came back from abroad. He confesses that it wouldn’t have been this easy if it were not for his parents. “Though it is true that I got in easily for my parents, but later on I had to maintain it. Chances come once, they don’t come often and one shouldn’t expect that. Worked hard and tried my best to utilize the opportunity I was given,” said Iresh. 

He had to take leaves from his family business to prove himself as an actor and tried to create a name for himself. He also agreed that it was a pressure as he was the son of a popular celebrity couple. He works on a very few projects, and he feels sad when a work does not turn out the way he wanted. It is always challenging to turn the spotlight onto himself in this huge crowd. Yet he praises himself that he is doing good work and the awards and nominations have inspired him a lot. “If that weren’t the case Giasuddin Selim wouldn’t have chosen me for his film,” said Iresh. He also said that people do always compare him to his father maybe for his resemblance with him or some reason. He still agrees that there is no way to compare his acting caliber with his father’s. He also keeps in mind that his acting does not reflect his father’s as he looks and constantly works hard to get out of his shadow.

Versatile Iresh

Iresh is always active with versatile projects. Within all those he also was seen as a comic show presenter. Currently he is not active in that because Bangladesh is still not ready for their own comic representation. Yet it is a very popular form of comedy in foreign nations. Iresh thinks that positive criticism can change an entire society. “And the society that can’t laugh at itself has trouble ahead,” said Iresh. As a member of the Producers’ Guild he is also worried about the country’s TV fictions. According to him everything is turning to quantity whereas the standard should be of quality. Though everyone is trying to maintain quality they are losing it in order to be in the race of keeping higher numbers. He also thinks that to get quality acting, quality productions are a must. Only then can a Mosharraf Karim, a Chanchal Chowdhury completely give everything they have to offer. Iresh thinks that the media industry has turned into a mass producing ready made garments industry and its main product is undergarments. He also thinks if this strategy keeps going on the media industry will not survive. He also said there is no way to keep up with the Netflix and Youtube wave without quality original content because that is the ace in the current generation of media industry. He believes that is the strategy to go for and produce and distribute the upcoming shows and series. 

He also believes that we have to take art to the masses as we brand products to the people. He concluded by saying: “If one loves his own work, the audience can automatically connect to it. So there is no alternative for love.”