A solid training can give an actor the freedom to be free: Aref Syed

13 Jul 2016, 18:34 | updated: 13 Jul 2016, 18:41

Mahbubul Haque Osmani*
Aref Syed. Photo: NTV

Actor Aref Syed grabbed the attention of film lovers and critics by his debut film Anil Bagchir Ekdin, directed by Morshedul Islam. He was awarded the Meril Prothom Alo Puroshkar 2015 as Best Actor (Film) Critics' Choice. He got training on acting from the Stella Adler Studio of Acting in New York. Recently he attended International Film Festival of South Asia in Toronto, Canada where Anil Bagchir Ekdin had its North American Premier. He along with the director of this film got an overwhelming response from the audiences of Canada.

*Mahbubul Haque Osmani, a contributor to NTV Online has recently interviewed Aref Syed

Osmani: What inspired you to be an actor? 
Aref Syed: When I was a child, I didn't even realize what acting was or even that acting could be a profession as such. However, good actors, their acting, good stories subconsciously always touched me, like I am sure they do to all viewers. It was during my living in New York City (where I completed my BS Degree from Columbia University in Industrial Engineering and Economics), that I first took some part time acting classes at the prestigious Stella Adler Studio of Acting as a hobby. Like they say, after that, there was no looking back. Soon afterwards, I enrolled in their full time conservatory program. I realized a solid training can give an actor the freedom to be free. That's when I recognized my love for acting, to be an actor, to be able to portray (and be) characters that are beyond me.

Osmani: How did you prepare for the role? 
Aref Syed:
It was a very difficult and challenging task to prepare for the role of Anil Bagchi. First, I adjusted my healthy diet plans, and stopped working out in the gym (as I am avid fitness enthusiast) at least 3/4 months before the shoot. I knew I have to be very non 'muscle type' from a physical point of view. Then besides thoroughly reading and analyzing the original novel and Morshedul sir's script, I read a lot of books on our 1971 Liberation War and that time. I also met with actual Hindu families of that time who left Bangladesh then and settled in India. Some of their personal stories and sacrifices really helped me feel that time from a very human feel. Not to mention, my director Morshedul Islam sir was also very helpful. I can't thank him enough for giving me such a debut, and esp. for giving me the encouragement and freedom to prepare the role as I deem fit. He always used to say, ‘As an actor, you have to come prepared as the character, and on the set we will do the rest.’ I could not have asked for a better director in my first film who has so much faith in me and whom I could trust fully to be Anil Bagchi.       

Osmani: What is the strongest thing a role required you to do? 
Aref Syed:
Besides the physical challenges and weather challenges (of shooting in peak Bangladeshi summer), the toughest part of this role was to be able to portray the simplicity and honesty of this character.

Osmani: Besides acting, what other training have you had (voice, dance, stage combat, etc.)? 
Aref Syed:
It's actually all cumulative. As an actor, in my training I had to take all those classes. I also took some part time classes at another very prestigious acting studio called The Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City.

Osmani: If you could choose, which three directors (outside of Bangladesh) would you really want to work with? 
Aref Syed:
That's a very tough question! :) If I have to just pick three, just for this time in frame, I'd say Satyajit Ray, Steven Spielberg, and Sanjay Leela Bhansali. 

Osmani: What's the worst part about being an actor?
Aref Syed:
I won't say the 'worst' aspect, but definitely the challenging part of being an actor is to be able to be patient. We actors usually have to wait for hours sometimes before a shot is ready to be captured (purely due to technical reasons etc). So to be able to hold onto the character's moments and emotional arc during that phase is quite tough. 

Osmani: What's the best part of being an actor? 
Aref Syed:
The adulation and love! (smiles) Jokes apart, no actor will say they don't crave for the love and adulation of the audience. That is definitely there, for me too. However, I'd add really if I am able to tough someone's soul or heart through my acting or portrayal of a character, that's a big reward for me in itself.

Osmani: What do you enjoy most about acting? 
Aref Syed:
To be able to live multiple lives in my one lifetime!

Osmani: What your dream role would be? 
Aref Syed:
Again, very tough to say really. I think I will know it when I see it. (smiles) Basically though, any role is my dream role if I haven't done it before; if I am nervous or afraid to play it. That's when I get really excited and challenged. 

Osmani: Where do you see yourself in a few years?
Aref Syed:
I can't thank the audience and the fan enough who have loved my work in Anil Bagchir Ekdin. To be able to act in a Humayun Ahmed's story, directed by the noted Morshedul Islam, playing the lead character, that too in my debut work/film, esp. in such a touching story that reflects a very humane story to our great 1971 Liberation War, to be able to share the screen with such noted fellow actors alike, I can't be grateful enough. We got an overwhelming response from the amazing audience of IFFSA Toronto where our film had its North American Premier in May 2016. Not to mention, to be nominated in my very first film for the Meril Prothom Alo Puroshkar - Best Actor (Film) Critics' Choice, and then to be awarded, I am truly speechless. I take such accolades not as a reward as such, but rather as a huge responsibility for doing better works in the future. 

In the next few years, I really hope the audience and respected filmmakers (of our country and abroad alike) will allow me to present many different kinds of characters in all different 'families' of films, to allow me to share interesting stories with everyone.

Osmani: Thank you for giving your valuable time to the NTVBD.COM