For his debut film in 1999, Shakib Khan got just Tk 5,000 as signing money and now the superstar bargains for a thousand times higher rate for a film with the producers in Bangladesh and India.
In his career spanning about two decades, Shakib has been the propeller of the contemporary local film industry, widely known as Dhallywood.
Despite the slump trade in the film industry, films starring Shakib like ‘Super Hero’, ‘Shikari’, ‘Purno Doirgho Prem Kahini’, ‘Bossgiri’, ‘Nabab’, ‘Rangbaaz’ and others brought profits for both producers and exhibitors. And the hero got national film awards for his acting in ‘Aro Bhalobashbo Tomai’ (2015), ‘Khodar Pore Ma’ (2012) and ‘Bhalobaslei Ghar Bandha Jay Na’ (2010).
Following a huge commercial success of Shakib Khan starring ‘Bhaijaan Elo Re’ in India, as reported by Indian press such as The Times of India, it is had houseful shows over a hundred local cinemas for two weeks till last Friday. Two more Shakib-starrer films Captain Khan and Naqaab are ready for release in Bangladesh and India respectively in the fourth week of this month.
In an interview with New Age, the three-time National Film Award winning superstar talked about his struggles and challenges he faced to earn his position in Bangladesh and Kolkata in India, his present projects and dreams regarding the local film industry and his career as well.
Sharing his personal story of how he came to be a local film hero with the stage name Shakib Khan from Masud Rana in 1999, Shakib said that just out of curiosity he came to Bangladesh Film Development Corporation to watch shooting of films.
‘All on a sudden a man called me and asked my whereabouts. Actually he was director Abul Khair Bulbul, who offered me a role in a film. And that was my dream come true moment. I was really excited,’ Shakib said, adding that going back to his home he had to get his mother’s permission for his acting in film.
Shakib said he got Tk 5,000 as signing money for the role of the hero in his debut film ‘Sabaito Sukhi Hote Chay’ though it released after his second film ‘Ononta Bhalobasa’ (1999).
‘My acting in the role of Moshal in “Ononta Bhalobasa” [directed by Sohanur Rahman] was a success and that was the beginning of my rise and simultaneously the beginning of struggles for survival in the film industry, which witnessed a huge wave of vulgarity, nudity and piracy,’ Shakib said.
‘The ongoing vulgarity, obscenity and piracy discouraged big production houses like SP Films, SS Production, Ashirbad Kathachitra, Jhinuk Mala Kathachitra, Ananda Mela Films, Jamuna Films Corporation, and others to produce films. Many talented directors were cornered by the makers of such vulgar films. Manna Bhai [the deceased superstar Manna] alone fought against these problems. And I, as a newcomer, was really in a dilemma whether I should continue my career or quit as I never wanted to appear in those vulgar films.’
Shakib, said he then decided to play supporting roles and sacrificing characters in films such as ‘Amar Swapna Tumi’ (2005). ‘Though I did not appear in the main hero characters in those days, audience, directors and producers were happy with my performances and those films did moderate business despite a huge fall in the film industry,’ he said.
And Shakib got a huge break as a hero acting in FI Manik’s romantic comedy ‘Koti Takar Kabin’ (2006) opposite Opu Biswas. Since then, the hero presented one after another commercially successful films such as ‘Dadima’ (2006), ‘Biye Bari’ (2006), ‘Pitar Ason’ (2007), ‘Priya Amar Priya’ (2008), ‘Bhalobaslei Ghor Bandha Jay Na’ (2010), ‘Number One Shakib Khan’ (2010), ‘Khodar Pore Ma (2012), ‘My Name is Khan’ (2013), ‘Bhalobasha Aaj Kal’ (2013), ‘Purno Doirgho Prem Kahini’ (2013), ‘Hero: The Superstar’ (2014), ‘Purno Doirgho Prem Kahini 2’ (2016) and Bossgiri (2016) opposite leading actresses like Shabnur, Opu Biswas, Jaya Ahsan, Pori Moni, Bidya Sinha Mim and Shobnom Bubly.
But, at the peak of his career, Shakib faced many challenges and many controversies in 2017 when Opu Biswas disclosed her secret marriage with the hero and having a son. Moreover, all film associations decided to ban Shakib for life, tried to harass him physically, even a CNG three-wheeler driver filed a defamation case against Shakib alleging that he was facing problem in family life as Shakib in a dialogue of a film disclosed the driver’s mobile number as his phone number.
‘That was the worst part in my life. And it happened as some vested groups in the film industry intentionally tried to destroy my career just out of jealousy,’ Shakib recalled.
‘It never happened in the film industry that the vested groups just out of jealousy used police and other government organs to seize power and destroy my career,’ said Shakib, who was the elected president of Bangladesh Film Actors Association for two consecutive terms.
The actor said he did not bother much when the associations collectively decided to ban him as he knew his ability and had trust in his fans. ‘But, I felt disturbed seeing involvement of police in the execution of their plans. And I was completely shaken when they used Opu and my son Abraham as weapons to destroy my career. Public sympathy that they wanted to grow capitalising the issue of my son and my divorce with Opu was not for welfare of Opu or Abraham but to tarnish my image. Unfortunately some senior actors took their side,’ said an emotional Shakib adding that he was taking care of his son even after the divorce with Opu and would continue it.
Shakib said he went through a mental trauma at that stage of his life when he said and did things he should not have said and done. At the same time he said he got tremendous support from senior actors like Razzak, ATM Shamsuzzaman and others to overcome the situation.
‘Razzak uncle [Nayak Raj Razzak] had always been supportive to me. Till his death, he used to encourage saying that your popularity made them jealous and vindictive. Don’t bother for them; just go ahead with your work. And I was really encouraged watching a TV talk show where ATM Shamuzzaman uncle said he felt proud of me for my success in Bangladesh and India,’ said Shakib, adding that other senior artistes also understood all these plots played by some power-hungry people in the industry and became sympathetic to him.
The three-time national film award winning actor said he was even encouraged by prime minister Sheikh Hasina. ‘While handing over the national film award for my role in ‘Aro Bhalobasbo Tomay’, the prime minister told me that the forerunners would always become victims of jealousy of others. Actually she was told by the information minister at event that my film ‘Nabab’ was doing huge business at that time and all cinemas were houseful for six consecutive weeks,’ said Shakib.
After getting such moral support from the prime minister, Shakib said he was no longer afraid of police harassment, rather concentrated more on his career in Dhallywood and Kolkata-based Tollywood. ‘They could not do me any harm but damaged the local film industry as the local producers are still panicked to invest money. And the whole incidents rather helped me know my true friends and enemies and also evaluate everything from a greater perspective,’ Shakib said.
The crisis regarding release of films starring Shakib in the local market also encouraged him to work more in joint-ventures with the Indian Kolkata-based producers for a wider audience.
‘My joint-venture film ‘Shikari’ (2016) [opposite Indian actress Srabanti] was a success. But, when I faced the crisis, I paid more attention to working in joint ventures like Nabab (2017) opposite Shubhasree and again opposite her in Chalbaaz (2018),’ said Shakib, adding that he had never been against joint-venture productions but being the president of Bangladesh Film Actors Association, he was vocal against the release of Indian films in the local market in the name of film exchange [under the SAFTA protocol].
‘Many senior actors in Bangladesh have appeared in joint venture films by producers of other SAARC countries,’ Shakib said.
‘Watching my growing popularity in Kolkata, the Indian producers picked me for their films. And my debut Indian film “Bhaijan Elo Re” [released in 2018 also featuring Payel Sarkar and Srabanti Chatterji] did a huge business in India.
He added that the Times of India in its box-office review published that ‘Bhaijan Elo Re’ had been the most commercially successful film in West Bengal in the past six months. ‘They gave huge coverage of mine and even my son Abraham,’ Shakib said.
His first-ever horror film ‘Naqaab’, he informed, would be released in India on August 24 and in Bangladesh around the same time. It is a well-anticipated film in India and its trailer had over 1.73 million views on YouTube only in 10 days. The film has a very interesting storyline [and features Indian actresses Nusrat Jahan and Sayantika Banerjee]. ‘Local film Captain Khan starring me and Bubly in lead roles will also be released in Eid ul Azha in Bangladesh,’ Shakib said.
He also said he learnt many things working in the Indian film industry. ‘They are broad-minded people and know how to do business competing with big industries like Bollywood, Hollywood and Tamil films,’ Shakib said.
The superstar also spoke about some other projects like Priyotoma and hoped that films starring him would be released simultaneously not only in Bangladesh and India but globally.
‘My fans are proud of my success and I need not bother other issues. We need to make big-budget films targeting global viewers and we are now in that direction,’ Shakib said.
In the past 19 years since his debut through ‘Ononta Bhalobasa’, Shakib acted over 200 films of which six were released in India. l
Cover and another photo have been collected from Shakib’s verified facebook page