Dilara Zaman: The continuous saga of an iconic actor

Karoby Shihab | Published: 00:00, Aug 30,2019 | Updated: 21:44, Sep 03,2019


Dilara Zaman

The actor whose dedication to her craft has made her one of the most celebrated icons of the country, Dilara Zaman was lucky enough to have her supportive husband and children. In an interview with Karoby Shihab, she relates how events and opportunities unfolded in her life since childhood and made her what she is today. 

Iconic actor Dilara Zaman has been and still is a familiar face of Bangladesh television industry. She is one of the veterans, who, since the birth of television in this region, has proved her talent over and over again and made a permanent inroads into the collective psyche.

The society, however, was way too conservative when the actor started her acting career. Fighting against all the obstacles, Dilara Zaman was obstinate enough to stick to her decision to continue acting. Over the last 40 years she has acted in numerous Bengali films and dramas, thereby becoming a household name.

Dilara Zaman was born in June 19, 1943, during the Second World War, in the Bardhaman district of undivided Bengal where her father RafiqUddin Ahmed was posted. Right after her birth, mother Sitara Begum Chowdhry was diagnosed with malaria. Due to the sickness, Sitara couldn’t breast feed little Dilara. She had to feed on the alternative food. Still she was healthy as any other baby. Later, her family shifted to Asansol. After the partition of India, they moved to Jessore in 1947. Dilara Zaman was a student of Momen Garden School, Now known as Government Girls’ High School. She studied there till class four.

As a kid, Dilara was too restless. At that age she liked to roam around with her male friends and enjoyed to eat fruits like guava, mango from trees. Kids used sharp oyster shell to peel the fruits. The actor still recalls those days of freedom. She visited Jessore in 2018 to see if the town was still the same or not. She found the house where she lived with her parents 65 years ago. Finding the house and meeting a man whose relative lives there was a pleasant experience for her. It was an emtional experience for her — she broke down in tears because she.

The child Dilara Zaman, who enjoyed the tranquility of the small town, had to shift to Dhaka as the family moved its base from Jessore to the then provincial capital of East Pakistan. Later, she completed her schooling from Banglabazar Gilrs’ School.

In 1956, she watched a stage drama named ‘Rokter Daag’ at a hall of Dhaka Rohmot Ali Institute. That was the first time she ever felt her urge for acting. She was too curious and surprised seeing the artists perform on stage. She, at the tender age of 13, took an immediate liking to the actors and wished to be like them.

‘Often I tried to act or practice various expressions standing in front of the mirror. I wondered about the actors! Will I be able to be like them ever?’ she kept reharsing things in her mind. She was looking for a chance to act on stage, sincethen. Later Dilara Zaman performed in a stage play based on the story ‘Mamlar Fol’, written by Sharat Chandra, when she was a student of class nine. That was her first acting experience on stage.

Though, young Dilara was apparently nervous, as didn’t learn much about acting on stage, her role in that play was greatly appreciated by the viewers. She recalls that they didn’t have any makeup products at that time. The artistes used to mix chalk powder and minium together and apply on the face. The memory still makes her smile.

When Dirala Zaman was a student of intermediate iat Eden College, she began to read books of famous authors and poets.

‘The political condition of our country wasn’t stable t that time. The actor wanted to do something revolutionary — she often joined political procession as part of Bangladesh Student Union. Few of her classmates of that time are now successful personalities in the political arena. But, Dilara didn’t continue politics as she chose to concentrate on her studies.

Dilara continued her acting practice in college programmes. She found a mentor who supported her enthusiasm for acting in her teacher Rokeya Rahman Kabir and at the same time she developed skills as a writer. Her first writing was published in ‘Kochi Kachar Ashor’. She wanted to perform in radio as well.

Though Dilara Zaman belonged to a religiously conservative family, her parents supported her a lot. They never stopped her from chasing the goal. Even her mother tried to teach her dance moves. She prepared dance costumes for her daughter and nurtured the inner spirit, thereby helping Dilara Zaman to be the icon she is today. Neighbours and relatives sometimes used to taunt her parents about her acting and having higher ambition. Dilara’s Father Rafiq Uddin Ahmed always protested at such uncalled for verbal badgering and stayed right beside his daughter all throughout.

Dilara Zaman started her master’s studies in Bangali literature at Dhaka University. With Munir Chowdhury as teacher, her acting talent had received enthusiastic mentoring. The teacher asked her to play a role in a stage drama. It was a time when boys and girls used to feel hesitant to perform in a same drama as co-artists. Dilara Zaman informed Munir Chowdhury that her family might not allow her to take part in the drama. This prompted Munir Chowdhury to write a letter to Dilara’s father asking for permission. That was a surprising event for them and they allowed her to perform. So, in 1963, the actor performed in a stage play arranged by the DUCSU. Abdullah Al Mamun and EnamulHaq was her co-artists.

Meanwhile, she continued with her writing habit. Dilara Zaman used to go to the Bangla Academy to attend cultural programmes. Writers used to read out their stories or poems in the gatherings and they discussed and criticised regarding the qualities of those write-ups. Young Dilara Zaman found the love of her life in such programme in 1963. Late Fakhruzzaman Chowdhury used to attend the same programmes and once he criticised a poem written by DilaraZaman.

‘I was mad at him at that time. How can a person judge the writer by just a poem? I must talk to him, I decided in mymind,’ this is how Dilara Zaman reacted after she came to know about Fakhruzzaman Chowdhury’s critical observation about her work. Later, however, she changed her mind. They used to meet more often and developed feelings for each other gradually. Fakhruzzaman was a research fellow of Bangla Academy at that time. The following year, in 1964, they — Dilara and Fakhruzzaman — got married.

In the same year, BTV started its journey. She is one of the very few actors who have seen television industry to flourish. Actors used to come for rehearsal and dramas were on aired live.

‘We had no green room. Things were too difficult back then. We had to be too aware always about our every movement during the drama time as it was on air live. We had no chance to go for retake. Now technology has been revolutionised. We got lots of television channels. Things have became easier now,’ observes the actor.

She became involved in radio too. In1966 she performed in her first radio play.

Apart from acting, she started her teaching career from Nari Shikkha Mandia School, she taught at Sher-E-Bangla School and College before she retired shortly after 2000.

‘I was a school teacher of a few renowned schools like Sher-E-Bangla High School and College and Viqarunnisa Noon School, Udayan School, Shahin School and College and others by profession. I have achieved B Ed degree too. Moreover, acting is both my passion and profession. I had to hear negative comments about my acting career from my colleagues. Many of them did not take it positively. It was so painful for me. I had to change few schools just for this reason. However, teaching is a noble profession. I have respect for that. I permanently left school after 2000. After that I was concentrating on my acting only.’ says Dilara Zaman while describing her experience in teaching.

Playing the double role of an artist and a teacher was not easy. Ignoring all obstacles and difficulties, she had to maintain an equilibrium and at the same time she was a mother of two. She regrets that she could not give enough time to her family and had to depend on the helping hands to take care of the kids.

‘I was too busy all the time. I had to take my classes, later I had to run to go to the shooting spot. I used to carry extra clothing for shooting. I often had to come back at midnight. I often found my daughters Tanira and Zubaira were sleeping. I could not spend quality time with them. In fact, I could not cook their desired food. But, now I try to cook foods for my junior co-artistes and they enjoy eating those. This makes me happy and sad at the same time. Once I had no time, now I have it in plenty. But my daughters live far away from me.’ Dilara Zaman says this in emotion-choked voice.

‘Every form of art has its own strength. I enjoyed every form. But, on the proscenium stage an actor can directly connect to the viewers. The audience can share their feedback with the actor just right at the venue. This is an overwhelming feeling. Acting on stage is tough; there is no way for one to make any mistake and get away with it. Every dialogue has to be delivered with accuracy,’ says the actor while sharing her experience in stage performance.

Dilara Zaman has worked in films too. Aguner Poroshmoni was her first film. Before that, she performed in few other short films as well.

‘Film is a vast industry. It takes lot of practice and courage to act on the silver screen. I enjoyed working in that sector too. Nowadays I have become old. and I don’t have the same energy. But I still love my profession and I want to continue with it as long as the almighty grants me to do so,’ she adds.

On the roles she played in the four decades she said, ‘I played the role of the mother of actor Bulbul Ahmed in television drama ‘Eishob Din Ratri’, directed by Humayun Ahmed. Later in another drama, we played the roles as husband and wife. I used to pinch Bulbul Ahmed about this a lot. He was a very shy person at that time.’ She had a good laugh remembering this. 

‘Time has been changed. Choices and preference are not the same the way it was at our time. Now there are lots of television channels, the scope of learning has been increased. Advanced technology has appeared as blessings for this industry. The struggle has been lessened. But, I think there is no shortcut on the way to success. It is a long-term process that one needs to follow. It is all about learning and gradually adapting to a specific lifestyle as well,’ she adds while reflecting on the changes of television industry.

Dilara Zaman does not want to compare present television industry with that of her time.

‘I will never say that the quality has declined. The taste of the viewers has changed. We are in a new era where everything changes very fast. We should accept the diversity. New artists are working according to the viewer’s demand. Linguistic difference made a vast impact,’ she observed.

At the same time, she thinks that the new generation needs to be groomed properly. The senior artists will always be there to guide the youngsters she said. She feels the newcomers have potential to contribute to the entertainment industry.

‘I think there is no alternative to reading literature. It widens the pathways and broadens the mind. Literature is the food for the soul. And cultural practice enriches the depth of knowledge. She requested the parents to motivate their children to be involved in any forms of art. This is the only a way of elevating the taste of the future generation,’ DilaraZaman said.

Dilara Zaman has won several prestigious awards, along with Ekushey Padak and National Film Award in recognition of her outstanding contributions in art and culture of the country. She is in her seventies now, still a very popular and regular face on the television screen.

Nowadays, she is working on drama serials while many of the artists of her generation are now involved in making films or dramas, she has not thought of doing that yet. Sometimes she visits her daughters in Canada and America. Her daughters wanted their mother to stay close to them but Dilara Zaman came back to Bangladesh as her roots are deep into this country. The love she got from people, she will never forget.

The eminent actor thanked every individual whoever gave her support in her life’s journey. She mentions that her daughters sacrificed a lot so that she could pursue her career. Her husband Fakhruzzaman Chowdhury’s support also made her the persona she is today.


Photos by Abdullah Apu

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