Vol. 5 Num 729 Fri. June 16, 2006  

Illuminating the small screen
Subarna Mustafa on contemporary entertainment

Born in a family with an impressive tradition in acting, Subarna Mustafa has established herself as the leading lady in Bangladeshi TV plays. To date, she remains unparalleled with her unique performance, expressive eyes, beguiling and mysterious smile -- all the attributes of a charismatic actress. Though at present she is not playing a typical 'heroine' on screen, she appears frequently in diverse roles.

What is the difference between the standard of contemporary plays and that of the early 1980s? Subarna has a quick response: "It is not fair to make comparisons as the scenario is totally different. In those days there was only one TV channel. The viewers used to watch TV plays with longer duration, written by eminent writers who had a clear concept of the 'forms' of TV plays. Nowadays, there are several channels, with many playwrights, directors, artistes and technical hands. As a result the viewers have great expectations. However the reality is that there are fewer quality productions. The basic problem lies on the emphasis on commercial rather than professional approach. Consequently, floor crossing often occurs in this medium. But, this has a positive side as well, since upcoming artistes are doing well especially in the technical aspects. As a result there is diversity in productions."

What is her view on the trend of mega-serials? Subarna said, "This is the age of the 'soap operas'. However, the irony is that these 'soaps' are not aired daily rather once or twice a week. As a result one story continues for weeks, which hampers the interest of the audience. However, in daily soap operas in the West the same actors present a new story in each of the episodes. I think the ongoing mega-serial form is not an ideal entertainment source. Moreover, the surfeit of commercials during the TV plays is another damper.

"Another lacuna is that people from different professions are crossing the floor to act in TV plays. The attitude towards acting is, at best, cavalier. I agree that some of them are doing well while many are substandard. As a result it is difficult to maintain high standards."

Subarna thinks that single episode TV plays are in demand rather than 'mega-serials'. "I believe, commercial interest of the directors, producers, and TV channels lead to several mega-serials."

On her message for young performers, she says, "Acting is an inherent talent, which practice can only hone. Analysing the script one should use her/his common sense during the characterisation. And the actor must have different approach for different mediums." This mantra seems to be the secret of Subarna's excellence.

The actress adds, "The problem with the younger generation is that most of them perform in the mega-serials. It's unfair to the actors when the playwrights give the script on the shooting spot. Without adequate knowledge the actors are asked to improvise a sequence, which only a master performer can handle."

Though she is not happy with the current local films, Subarna thinks that films should be the ultimate goal for a promising artiste.

The actress is eager to work in films. However, she says, "Given the current scenario of mainstream cinema, I'm not eager to act at all. True, the TV channels are producing a few films. But, I don't think that these films can change the overall scenario".

"All over the world, films are made for the entertainment of the masses. If a movie runs at only one theatre, it doesn't get the widespread exposure. For this reason many movie halls have closed down in our country during the last few years. Films should be big budget productions, which will run nationwide."

On her future plan, Subarna says that she is eager to direct quality commercial movies. She said, "Films can recover their rich tradition. However, the involvement of reputable artistes, directors and technical hands and government monitoring are necessary ingredients."