From a somewhat forgotten actress of a bygone era to reinventing herself and becoming a household name, Azmeri Haque Badhon's journey is no less remarkable than Rehana, the female protagonist she played in 'Rehana Maryam Noor'.
Badhon grew up with Rehana and was able to rediscover herself with the character.
"Rehana Maryam Noor was a turning point in my life, let alone my career. I have grown up with Rehana as a woman and an actress. Apart from the birth of my child, playing Rehana has been one of the most defining experiences of my life," she said.
Following Rehana's critical acclaim, Badhon has appeared in the HoiChoi series 'Robindronath Ekhane Kawkhono Khete Aashenni'. She will also star in a Netflix film 'Khufiya', and Chorki series 'Guti'; both likely to be released in early 2023.
Khufiya is Badhon's first exposure to Bollywood, especially in a movie starring the likes of Tabu and Ali Fazal.
"I was always interested in working with a director as talented and experienced as Vishal Bhardwaj. I shared the screen with Tabu which was a big deal for me, even though I had very little screen time. Regardless, I believed that working in Khufiya would enrich my career. Overall, I had a pleasant experience working in Mumbai," said Badhon.
When asked how she got the role in Khufiya, Badhon said that she was asked to audition for the role by Anurag Kashyap, director of 'Gangs of Wasseypur', at the Cannes Film Festival. The audition went well and she was selected for the part.
"Sharing the screen with Tabu was an unforgettable experience. Nearly all of my scenes are with Tabu. Had she not cooperated with me, it would have been difficult for me to portray the character," she added.
Bangladesh has recently gone through a silent revolution as OTT platforms have become one of the primary media of entertainment. Badhon welcomed this upheaval in content creation.
"In my experience, we are not accustomed to taking changes positively. But personally, I appreciate the rise of OTT platforms. It has allowed talented, young directors to tell their unique and innovative stories."
Badhon is also the lead protagonist of the upcoming chorki web series Guti where she plays the role of a drug dealer.
"I want to thank Chorki for facilitating a female-led story to be released. Recent market studies revealed that the Bangladeshi audience, at large, was still not prepared to accept a female lead protagonist. A female lead is still not bankable. And it goes without saying, having a bankable lead is crucial for the financial aspect of any art form. Thankfully, Chorki was not thinking of that when releasing Guti."
Badhon had been in talks with Shankha Dasgupta, creator of Guti, for nearly 2-2.5 years. She was excited about bringing Sultana, the lead character of the show, on to the screen.
"Most crime dramas about drug cartels or mafias are male-centric. But in real life, many female criminals are also involved in organised crime. It's encouraging to see that Shankha decided to tell their story."
Female-led TV series such as 'Aranyak' and 'Delhi Crime' have been able to garner much appreciation from the audience. Badhon believed that the Indian audience had matured over time, but female protagonists are yet to achieve that level of acceptance among Bangladeshi audiences.
"Although female-centric stories have become acceptable in Bollywood, let alone the West, it is unfortunate that it is still not widely practised in Bangladesh. But I am hopeful that female-centric stories will be normalised in Bangladesh as well," said Badhon.
From the Bangladesh National Female Football team to mountaineers like Wasfia Nazreen, the success of Bangladeshi women remains at the forefront of public discourse. Badhon felt that this should have been the norm long ago.
"Women have always represented Bangladesh on the global stage. From the Prime Minister to our RMG workers, their contribution to Bangladesh is immeasurable. Sadly, this contribution is often not acknowledged," said Badhon.
"Presently I am only working on Khufiya and Guti. In the future, I want to work on more female-centric stories, preferably a lead character."