The tale of a misfit in a concrete slum, 'Live From Dhaka' will premiere at Star Cineplex on Friday. After travelling the world for over two years, the film has finally opened in its hometown. The star of the film, actor Mostafa Monwar, sat with Dhaka Tribune Showtime’s Sadia Khalid to talk about how the film was conceived by writer-cum-director Abdullah Mohammad Saad, and how it was received by foreign audiences at various international film festivals.
You have been working as an actor for two decades now. How has your film “Live From Dhaka” been received so far?
It has traveled to many festivals and received two awards in Singapore (Singapore International Film Festival). I received the Best Actor prize and Saad won as Best Director there. Some of the other festivals it went to included International Film Festival Rotterdam, Locarno Film Festival, Jeonju International Film Festival, International Film Festival of Kerala, International Film Festival of Santiago De Compostela, Five Flavours Film Festival, Festival Cinema Africano Asia e America Latina, International Film Festival of South Asia Toronto, Chicago South Asian Film Festival, and the list goes on.
How did you feel while receiving the Best Actor award at such a prestigious festival?
It felt very strange. I never received recognition for my acting. This is my first award as an actor. I was taken aback. I almost gave up on acting at one point. But I am glad I continued.
You were there during the screening in Singapore. How did the foreign audience receive the film? What aspect of the film do you think they related to? Did they react to any particular scene?
“Live From Dhaka” is a character-driven film. The characters were unpredictable. You can’t chart their moves. How Saad created the characters was very unconventional. They (foreign audience) usually don’t see urban characters of Bangladesh.
What I think about festivals is this_ in Bangladesh, if a work is appreciated abroad, then we accept it as a good work. I think the language of film is universal. A foreign audience might not understand certain cultural aspects, but they will identify with the human struggles. Our films fail to communicate because of weak storytelling. But I believe if we continuously make good films, we can overcome the cultural barrier and reach a broader audience, both locally and internationally.
When you make a film with a festival strategy in mind, who do you write the film for the local or the foreign audience?
If I talk about this film, it wasn’t made having any festival in mind. It’s an unbelievably low-budget film. When Saad approached me with this almost zero-budget film, I was first attracted to it because it seemed like a worthy challenge. Even if we don’t have the money, we should be able to figure out a way to make the film interesting through our wit and techniques. I wanted to show people that you can make a good film even without a big budget. We were clear about our expectations from this film.
What was your first reaction when you read the script?
I’ve received many good scripts in my career, but I wasn’t happy with my portrayal of a lot of those characters. When I read this script, I wanted to do justice to this dynamic character. My aim was to achieve the satisfaction that you get from creating something good.
The director is famous for being introverted. Is that affecting the publicity of this film?
Saad is very shy and introverted. He doesn’t give interviews or have his photo taken. Now, when people ask for his pictures for publicity and he can’t give them any, people may think he is moody. But it’s really not that. I asked him if he’s so secretive, then why is he sending the film to these festivals. I didn’t even take any money for it. He said that the awards are the returns he can give to the cast and crew who worked so selflessly on this project.
Tell us about Sajjad, the character you play in “Live From Dhaka”.
This film has an urban story. My character grows up with certain values. Later on, he has to compromise some values for survival. The film explores his internal conflicts that arise from having these values.
Sajjad lives in Dhaka. He has a younger brother, a girlfriend and a car. His brother is dependent on him. Due to an accident, he has to use a crutch to walk. He’s always in a lot of physical pain. His source of income is the stock market. He always tries to escape Dhaka to find peace. We’ll find out in the film whether he can leave his responsibilities behind and escape.