Social media platforms have been buzzing with the latest poster and five-second character teasers of multi-starrer series 'Unoloukik'. The series is set to premiere on Monday night with the official launch of Chorki, a video streaming platform.
Movie enthusiasts have been raving about the superb casting of the anthology series that includes Asaduzzaman Noor, Chanchal Chowdhury, Nusrat Imrose Tisha, Iresh Zaker, Rafiath Rashid Mithila and many more.
Watch the trailer of 'Unoloukik' here
The anthology series comprises five episodes titled 'Moribar holo tar sadh', 'Dwikhondito', 'Hello ladies', 'Mrs Prohelika', and 'Do not write me'.
The Business Standard took an exclusive interview of 'Unoloukik' director Robiul Alam Robi to know more about the series and how he was able to convince Asaduzzaman Noor to make his digital debut with it.
Apart from being a filmmaker, Robiul Alam Robi is the head of content team in Good Company – Asiatic 360's content initiative.
TBS: What incident inspired you to pursue the art of filmmaking?
Robiul Alam Robi: Throughout my childhood and adolescence, the idea of cinema and television was something that was discouraged.
I was told to concentrate on my studies and I barely had the chance to watch movies as it was quite frowned upon at that time in the small town of Sonaimuri in Noakhali.
While studying in Dhaka University, I got to interact with people from various sectors. Some of them were members of the film society and some came from photography clubs while others were part of student politics.
My acquaintance with all these people inspired me to create new thoughts and ideologies of life that soon led to my involvement in filmmaking.
My friend Kazi Muntasir Billah was one of those friends who truly inspired me to follow filmmaking.
He gave me two VCDs and told me to watch it. One of them was Jean-Luc Godard's 'Breathless' and another was Krzysztof Kieślowski's polish series 'Dekalog'. Not only did I fall in love with these two, they also made me realise that I want to make my own films.
What inspired you to make 'Unoloukik'?
Robi: 'Unoloukik' is a special project for me as I have made this after a short hiatus from production to studying film studies in Jadavpur University. There I got to learn about the theoretical and practical aspects of film and I wanted to translate those experiences into a visual medium through my work 'Unoloukik'.
How do the five stories in the anthology series differ from each other?
Robi: 'Unoloukik' is based on stories written by Shibabrata Barman. The themes of these stories revolve around the psychoanalytic journey of the human mind, death, commodity, mental health, and crime.
All these stories have their own premises dealing with the facts of our everyday life but linked through some elements that do not exist in reality, recorded history, or the present universe's nature. That is why the title of this series is 'Unoloukik', which means 'quasi-real'.
How were you able to convince Asaduzzaman Noor to make his debut in web-series and how was it like working with such talented actors?
Robi: After seeing Sheikh Niamat Ali's film 'Dahan', I was eager to work with the maestro Asaduzzaman Noor.
When I was working on the series' development, I was convinced that he was the perfect cast for the story 'Do not write me'. So, I contacted him and discussed the character with him. Fortunately, he liked it and we were able to do this project together.
Like Asaduzzaman Noor, I discussed each character with the actors before casting them. I chose to cast them not because they are celebrities, but because of their performance and abilities.
It has always been my priority to cast the right actor who is a good fit for the character and understands the character's psychology in the stories.
It has been years since the audience have seen Chanchal Chowdhury and Nusrat Imrose Tisha together for a series. How was it like working with both the actors and can you tell us about the plot of 'Mrs Prohelika'?
Robi: 'Mrs Prohelika' is a story about the delusion of our existence in a psychoanalytic setting. Here, Chanchal Chowdhury plays the role of the psychiatrist while Nusrat Imrose Tisha plays the role of a patient.
Needless to say, they both are brilliant performers who have already established their on-screen chemistry together with their wonderful performances.
The rise of web series has led to a surge in entry of theatre artists in the OTT site, apart from TV actors and popular faces in films. Why do you think it was possible?
Robi: OTT has exposed us to personal viewing experience for small screens, which was previously limited to private viewing experience only for the television audience. When the screen becomes more personal and smaller, we tend to be more focused on the performance and the story.
However, the cinema screen demands bigger pictures and long shots. In OTT, we stay with the characters and the stories. That is why performance and stories are a vital part of the OTT fiction content. Actors from theatres are well-trained to deal with dramaturgy. So, they get the privilege to perform well according to the screenplay.
More and more famous actors and TV personalities are moving towards web series. What do you think will change due to the shift from small screen to digital platform?
Robi: Shifting the exhibiting medium can bring some experiential changes. But the storytelling in filmmaking will always be the same. So, this shift in mediums is not a big concern for true artists.
You have also directed one of the episodes of 'Iti, Tomari Dhaka' which was Bangladesh's selection for the Oscars. How was your experience working on that project?
Robi: The title of my film in 'Iti, Tomari Dhaka' is 'Maghfirat'. It is about the contrast of experiential desires among the people of a socially stratified urban life. Oscars Bangladesh Committee selected the anthology film for Oscars 2021 submission. I am truly grateful that they loved our movie.
You have also written the screenplay for Indian web-series 'Kaali' that stars Paoli Dam. How did you come up with the story?
Robi: 'Kaali' is a story about a contrasting reality in which the responsibility of motherhood forces a mother to violate state law and order. This metro life instigated me to crack the idea of that story. Producers and director of 'Kaali' were impressed by the core idea of mine.
Indian web series have more advanced technical equipment and higher budgets. Do you think with limited budgets, Bangladeshi web series will be able to compete with them?
Robi: It is not a matter of competing. We require smart budgets and smart equipment for outstanding productions. However, we must keep in mind that a creative mind should be the primary requirement for any artistic expression. Without it, all of our intelligence will be for nothing.