Asaduzzaman Noor doesn’t need any introduction or adjective before his name. The living legend of our country dominated every medium-TV, cinema, and theatre with utter perfection throughout his career. He has played many characters in his life including thief, robber, helping hand, zamindar, professional killer, and Baker bhai. In the history of Bangladeshi TV drama and popular culture, Asaduzzaman Noor will be immortal for his portrayal of “Baker bhai” in Kothao Keu Nei.
Showtime’s Nazia Adnin had an opportunity to sit with Baker bhai to learn more about the character, and his thoughts on TV dramas, films, theatre, politics, and many more. On his birthday this Thursday, we present an excerpt of the conversation for our readers.
How did you prepare for the iconic character of Baker bhai?
Humayun Ahmed brought huge changes in terms of the quality of television dramas, his dramas were very close to the fans' hearts. And, for some reasons he liked my acting, subsequently, he wrote many characters keeping me in his mind. For Kothao Keu Nei he gave me two options, either I could play Mamun (Khairul Alam Sabuj) who was the love interest of Muna (SubornaMustafa) or Baker bhai.
After reading the script, I told Humayun Ahmed that Mamun's character would be easy for me to play. It wouldn’t be challenging to play that role, on the other hand, I wanted to accept the challenges of playing the goon character (Baker bhai). I knew I had to work harder to portray that character. Humayun Ahmed agreed.
I remember, back then a renowned television producer discouraged me to play the character. I was told that my appearance on TV was very soft, and my face had an innocent look. He suggested that I do not play the role as there was a higher chance of failing.
By that time, I had acted in Bohubrihi, Ei Shob Din Ratri and Ayomoy, thus, he thought the character was very risky for my career. Anyway, I played Baker bhai but I had to think a lot about the character.
When I was a college student at Carmichael College in Rangpur, I was very passionate about watching films at theatres regularly.
Solva Saal was one of favourite films at that age. Both the actors, Waheeda Rehman and Dev Anand, were my favourites as well. I still like Waheeda Rahman as an actor, she is so graceful. I watched that film 16 times with a few friends of mine.
I used to go to Oriental cinema hall to watch films frequently, and a handsome old man used to sit in front of that hall. He had shining, silver hair. He used to dress like the Pathans. He would drink tea, and people would greet him with respect. I was very curious to know who he was. I got to know that he was a famous goon, and his name was Yusuf.
He was actually a good person and used to help the poor, for which the locals respected him. Later in life, that character had a great influence while I was portraying Baker bhai. I tried to build Baker in that profile.
However, as the character progressed many characteristics and traits were developed or omitted. That happened while filming, Ayomoy as well.
When we made the drama, we didn’t realize it would be so widely accepted. I don’t know why it became so popular, butI think the cry for democracy at that time in our country played an important role for the drama. During the dictatorial regime in the country at that time, the drama felt like a breath of fresh air as a symbol of protest against the odds.
How was the experience of working with Suborna Mustafa on this production?
Suborna is younger than me; in fact there is a funny story behind it. When she first appeared in a TV drama, Borof Gola Nodi, she was a middle school student. Her father, Golam Mustafa, was our senior, and we used to respect him a lot. One day, Mustafa bhai brought her on the set, and told Suborna: ‘If you need anything ask your Noor chacha (uncle)’!
So, she used to call me Noorchacha in the beginning, which later became “Bhai.” I have a very friendly relationship with her till today.
We enjoyed working together on the sets of Kothao Keu Nei. Back then, we used to take rehearsals very seriouslyand they were mandatory. We had to go through a minimum of three rehearsals. Acting is also reacting, so without rehearsals that is not possible.
Why don’t we see any strong female character like Muna anymore? What are the reasons behind this?
I don’t want to generalize, but it is true that many of the new generation don’t want to look deeply into anything. I heard most of the time; actors don’t get a script these days until the last minute, which is a terrible situation. Quantity is increasing in number but due to commercialization, the quality is falling. But there is immense talent; we see that spark sometimes amid all the chaos.
A story is very important, and is the basic foundation of any play. Our foundation has gotten weak. In such a situation, we can’t expect any memorable male or female characters to emerge.
Most of the time people call you ‘Baker bhai’. How do you respond to that?
The fans call me Bakar bhai out of love; it has become a part of my life and I am grateful for that love and respect. Although on the rare occasion, I do remind people that I have a name given to me by my parents!
What is your preferred medium for acting- theatre, TV, or cinema?
The joy of acting in theatre can’t be compared with anything, as we perform in front of a live audience. Their reactions are priceless. There are a few things about acting on stage which can’t be described in words - you create moments, and grow on the stage.
How do you balance your acting and political career?
I was involved with student politics when I was a student. I was a member of Bangladesh Chhatra Union (BCU) during my university years. I was the cultural secretary of the East Pakistan central committee of BCU. After that, I was the president of Dhaka University SanskritikSamiti. I was a freedom fighter. I somehow was always connected with politics alongside my acting career. But after the Liberation War, I got distant from politics for various reasons.
I got involved with politics again during the mass uprising of 1990 against Ershad. Back then, all the artistes boycotted radio and television and had an important role to play in the movement.