Vol. 5 Num 286 Fri. March 18, 2005  

In Conversation
" I sort of gambled with my life" --- Bulbul Ahmed

Bulbul Ahmed is one of the few names equally popular with viewers of both small and silver screen. He has played lead roles in movies like Devdas and Shimana Periye during the golden era. Likewise, the history of our television plays would be incomplete without Ei Shob Din Ratri that featured Bulbul.

"While still a student of Higher Secondary in 1958, I performed for the first time in my college's annual play Shesh Rokkha of Rabindranath Tagore in Sylhet. That same year, our organisation held a show of Nihar Ranjan Gupta's Ulka at the British Council in Dhaka," he recalls.

Bulbul has impressive credentials. In 1960, he joined the group Drama Circle and performed in plays such as Oedipus and The Arms and the Man.

Bulbul joined the television in 1968. "My first TV play was Purbabhash, written by Abdullah Al Mamun and directed by Mustafa Monwar," reminisces Bulbul. However, he earned great popularity for his characterisation of the lead role in the play Idiot. In quick succession, he appeared in plays Barof Gola Nodi, Arek Falgun, Shesh Bikeler Meye and many others. Despite his immense popularity on the silver screen, Bulbul has never been aloof from television.

Bulbul Ahmed's first appearance in films was in 1973 when he played a supporting character in Iye Korey Biye. Soon he appeared in the central role in the film Jibon Niye Jua. "At that time I worked for a bank and was transferred outside Dhaka. But as I was deeply engrossed in my acting career, I didn't want to leave the city. So, I quit my job as a banker and turned a full-time actor from this film. I sort of gambled with my life in a sense," says Bulbul.

A series of popular films followed in the years to come: Shurjo Konnya, Shimana Periye, Rupali Shoikotey, Bodhu Bidaay, Devdas, Bodnaam and many others. Among these films Devdas earned him immense recognition and he takes a lot of pride in this cinematic venture. "I believe that Devdas is one of the milestone films in our film industry," says Bulbul.

In his words, "Generally directors of remake films ask the cast to watch the previous versions of the film. However, our director Chashi Nazrul Islam absolutely forbade me from seeing the previous versions of Devdas. His reasoning was that he wanted an original performance from me. And that worked tremendously. After finishing the film, I curiously watched the other versions to gauge how well my predecessors had done the role. What I found is that I didn't do it badly," says an elated Bulbul.

Shimana Periye is another critically acclaimed film. The film, directed by Alamgir Kabir, introduced the Bulbul-Jayasri duo that is regarded as one of the best couples on the silver screen. "With Jayasri Kabir I made two more films--Mohona and Rupali Shoikotey, also directed by Alamgir Kabir."

He has also directed four movies--Rajlakkhi Srikanta, Akorshan, Garom Haowa and Koto Je Apon.

Meanwhile, he had played one of the lead characters in Humayun Ahmed's Ei Shob Din Ratri. The serial became popular not only at home but overseas too. "Recently, I went to Kolkata to shoot an ad-film. After one of our sessions, I was told that a didi is asking for me. I wondered who might that be. Finally, an elderly lady showed up and said, 'I recognised you as soon as I saw you; aren't you Shafiq?' I was overwhelmed." says Bulbul.

At present, Bulbul has his hands full with TV plays. "I don't think I will return to films full time," he says. "I am very selective when it comes to film roles now." The reasoning is obvious: "The environment of the film industry has deteriorated a lot and it's hard to work there with integrity," regrets Bulbul.

Bulbul Ahmed with Jayasree Kabir in Shimana Periye.Courtesy: Bangladesher Chalachchitrer Itihash