We don't always get what we want from life. But there are the ones who don't take no for an answer and fight for their aspirations.
Mahbub Alam, popularly known as Mahbub Lee in South Korea, chose to fight for his dreams.
Born in Narayanganj, Mahbub completed his B.Com from Government Tolaram College. After graduation, he desperately wanted to do a Masters in the US, but he ended up being a migrant worker in South Korea.
"My mother was a dialysis patient and her treatment was expensive. So in 1999, I moved to South Korea to work and cover her medical expenses. My elder brother was already there as a migrant worker."
Even though Mahbub started liking the scenic side of South Korea, his job was very unfulfilling. It was a 3D job ("dirty, dangerous and demanding" or "dirty, dangerous and difficult") at an RMG factory.
Mahbub had difficulties coping with the hazardous working environment. But, he endured nevertheless to support his sick mother.
Unfortunately, seven months later, his mother passed away, leaving him lost and clueless in a foreign city. Her death made him examine his life decisions, and he became adamant about changing his fate.
"Taking care of my mother was the sole purpose of my life. After losing her I had to find a new purpose. I wanted my work to have an impact on my country and community," he added.
Soon after Mahbub started advocating for workers' health and safety. To gain media coverage for the movement, he made documentaries which exposed the deleterious conditions of South Korean RMG industries.
These documentaries were broadcast on several national and private television channels in South Korea.
"From filming to editing, I was involved in every part of those films. They might not be the best-made documentaries, but they convey powerful messages."
Mahbub, along with 10 – 12 migrant workers, took the initiative to launch 'Migrant Worker's Television' in South Korea in 2004. They hosted a film festival in 2006, where Mahbub served as the director of the event.
Mahbub was suddenly in the limelight. He started getting different opportunities to work in the media, be it a news presenter, anchor, or a side role in a drama.
"I had no full-time job then. These gigs were my livelihood. So, I was in for a penny, in for a pound," he said.
His debut movie Bandhobi (2009) was a fortunate stroke of serendipity.
The movie was initially titled as 'Karim & Min-Seo', where Karim was a Bangladeshi migrant worker and Min-Seo was a native. The film was about their love against all odds.
"The director knew me and he asked me to find the lead character from the migrant worker community. It had to be someone good-looking, someone who had a good command of the Korean language, and did not have any visa complications," he said.
After a few months of searching, Mahbub realised it had to be him.
Then he did something bold, he convinced the director to consider him for the role.
"Even though it was a low-budget film, the movie created a lot of buzz in the country. It even won several awards."
Since the release of Bandhobi, it paved the way to Mahbub's success. The 41-year-old actor now has a celebrated career in South Korea. He has starred in 15 South Korean films, TV dramas and advertisements.
A group of Korean natives, however, did not like his presence in the industry because he was of the migrant community. They threatened Mahbub in various ways.
"I was hurt but threats could not intimidate me. Discrimination is something I have faced since my birth. My ancestors are from India. My family moved to Bangladesh after the partition. Many people from our neighbourhood did not accept us," he recalled.
Mahbub Alam is currently the CEO of the South Korean production and distribution company M and M International. He is also the director of the Bangladesh cultural association in Korea.
Being a citizen of South Korea for more than two decades now, he has never forgotten his roots. He regularly visits Bangladesh and is very familiar with the Dhallywood scene.
He believes Bangladesh's film industry is full of potential. Tarek Masud and Mustafa Sarwar Farooqi are his all-time favourites. Mahbub is even planning to do a joint project with Bangladesh.
"With the advancement of K-Pop culture, the world has connected with South Korea on a new level. Many Bangladeshis are well versed about Korean culture. I believe a joint venture with Bangladesh will be a worthwhile project."
When asked about which one of his projects was his favourite, Mahbub uttered "Bandhobi" without a second's hesitation.
"This movie is very special to me. I had to train very hard for this. From acting classes to diet plans, everything was new and full of challenges. I had to lose 12 Kg for the role," he reminisced.
Mahbub entered the media industry in his late twenties. Many consider it a late debut, but Mahbub believes it happened exactly at the right time.
"Our career path is led by a set of opportunities. I got mine a little late, but that's fine. A man has to start from the moment he gets the opportunity."