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Actor-reciter Jayanta Chattopadhyay has known Tareque Masud closely, and worked with him, for nearly three decades. Starting with voice-over for “Adam Surat” (a documentary on artist SM Sultan -- one of Masud's earliest works), Chattopadhyay acted in “Matir Moina”, “Ontorjatra” and “Runway”. The actor was cast in “Kagojer Phool” which was to be Masud's next film. Chattopadhyay is clearly one of the few who can provide an in-depth insight into the recently deceased filmmaker's working method.

“If I had to sum him (Tareque) up in one word, I'd call him a perfectionist. I'd known him since the '80s. We were both active in the film society movement and were members of the Short Film Forum. Then I worked with him on 'Adam Surat'. Over the years we grew closer; we were like family,” says Chattopadhyay.

Chattopadhyay recalls Masud “would always consult with us prior to and during the shooting of a film and would consider everyone's opinion. His method was unlike other filmmakers' I'd worked with.

“Tareque stressed on pre-production work. He was painstakingly particular; everything was listed in a notebook, including tea and meal breaks. That meticulous planning and pre-production work translated into immaculate films.

“I remember, when he gave me the script of 'Matir Moina', he locked the door and asked me to go over it more than once; he wanted my opinion. A director usually provides pointers when explaining scenes to an actor, like how he/she should play the role. Tareque didn't do that. When I asked him how he wanted me to play Kazi in 'Matir Moina', he said: 'Just be Kazi. Don't try to act. Behave the way he would.'

“I was not allowed to cut my hair or shave prior to the shooting of the film. Once my hair and beard were long enough, Tareque oversaw the haircut and trimming. I had my photos taken in full costume to make sure I looked every bit as Kazi.

“Tareque felt a line delivered by me in 'Runway' lacked conviction. He was with Catherine in U.S. at that time. So, Nahid (Tareque's brother) took 25/30 takes of me delivering that line, and they were sent to U.S.

“Tareque's meticulousness might have frustrated some but I loved his method. One-take was the norm on the set, thanks to his elaborate pre-production work. From what I recall, one shot in 'Matir Moina' needed multiple takes because the ground was wet from rain and Rokeya Prachy kept slipping.”

“There'd always be healthy, constructive arguments on the set. Catherine saw things from an editor's point of view and would occasionally argue with Tareque regarding certain scenes. Shooting would resume once they'd reached a decision after much deliberation.

“He preferred working with non-actors. He felt that actors often develop certain mannerisms that become their trademark. When playing a role, an actor often unintentionally incorporates his/her individual traits. He wanted his actors to completely shed their identities and become the characters of his film,” Chattopadhyay says.

About “Kagojer Phool”, Chattopadhyay says, “Tareque and Catherine had been planning to make the film before they started shooting 'Runway'. Except for filming, everything was ready. 'Kagojer Phool' was to be the prequel to 'Matir Moina'. It'd follow a younger Kazi (based on Masud's father) and zoom in on his years in Calcutta (now Kolkata) -- from 1945 to '47. The film would show how Kazi's character was shaped by the riots in Calcutta and partition of Bengal.”

Screening of Masud's last film “Runway” took an unusual route. Instead of releasing it in Dhaka and then all over the country, the Masuds decided to go the other way around.

“Tareque felt that though 'Matir Moina' had earned him international acclaim, the general audience in Bangladesh didn't watch the film. He wanted to take his films to the masses. Another reason was to provide a boost to the ailing movie theatres across the country. 'Runway' had houseful shows everywhere. Tareque would call me from different districts; he was really excited. He shot a documentary on the movie theatres in bad shape as well, hoping that it would generate much-needed awareness,” Chattopadhyay says.

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