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Badhon feels ‘honoured’ after creating history for Bangladeshi films at Cannes festival

  • Saimum Saad, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2021-07-09 23:08:16 BdST

Actor and model Azmeri Haque Badhon, the lead in the film ‘Rehana Maryam Noor’, feels honoured to have featured at the 74th Cannes Film Festival as the first actor in Bangladeshi movie industry.

Director Abdullah Mohammad Saad’s film was featured in the Un Certain Regard section and became the first film from Bangladesh to be part of the prestigious festival’s official line-up.

Ahead of the movie’s world premiere at the festival on Wednesday afternoon, Badhon set her foot on the red carpet of the Sal Dubusi Theatre in Cane Pale Do Festival.

“Participating in the Cannes is a huge achievement for me. Such an opportunity is difficult to come by. I'm honoured to be a part of the film,” Badhon told bdnews24.con on Thursday.

The festival opened on Tuesday and they had the opportunity to walk on the main red carpet of the inaugural event, but did not. Badhon appeared before the cameras pointing at her sporting a jamdani and later a velvet jumpsuit.

Photo: Facebook

Photo: Facebook

Such sights might have featured celebrated actors from Hollywood and Bollywood before, but for a girl from Bangladesh walking about in the event was a fantasy for the past 50 years.

On this glorious occasion, Badhon expressed her heartfelt gratitude to Saad

The film revolves round Rehana, an assistant professor at a local medical college who finds herself in a difficult position after witnessing a sexual assault because she knows both the victim and the perpetrator.

“Full credit goes to director Saad. It's difficult to make movies centred on women in our society. No one wants to look at our society from the perspective of a woman, nor does anybody want to show it.”

“The women can’t do it for reasons surrounding them while it’s difficult for men to relate. And those who do understand don’t want to take risks due to social views.

"Men have little understanding of the way women are portrayed in this movie. Saad was able to think differently. I'll always be grateful to Saad for making me a part of history.”

Badhon had not watched the whole film, which took a year and a half to finish, before, and Saad had told her that she would meet Rehana during the Cannes screening.

A standing ovation from the audience after its world premiere at the Festival left Badhon emotional.

Photo: Facebook

Photo: Facebook

Many viewers transcended the language barrier and vicariously felt Badhon’s pain during the screening.

A French woman was in tears as she embraced Badhon inside the hall; she was touched by Rehana’s agony, anger and determination. As the crowd applauded their embrace, Badhon could not fight back tears herself.

The audience’s reaction to the movie made it clear that Rehana’s struggles struck a cord with women beyond Bangladesh.

Following the screening, a foreign director during Wednesday’s lunch told Badhon, “You're amazing.” Another French woman came forward to tell her, “You are Rehana, I watched your film. Fascinating. Could I hold you for a bit?”

Badhon said she was astounded because never in her wildest dreams did she imagine people coming to approach her in this way.

Photo: Facebook

Photo: Facebook

Once she got the script in her hands, she bonded with the producer, director and the crew. At one point during the shoot, Badhon was on the verge of leaving the project altogether while struggling with depression in her personal life.

“Saad gave me strength at that time. He told me 'if you can’t portray Rehana, no one can'. His perseverance gave me strength. I'm not a trained actor, I don't know the techniques. Rather than acting, I reacted in front of the camera.”

“We didn't agree on many things during the filming, but he always kept faith in me. I also had faith in him and the team, and kept working hard. I gave my best to complete my work.”

Badhon put all other works aside to finish the film, which did not sit well with all her colleagues. Some said, “What kind of work requires one and a half years?” while others dismissed her, calling it madness’.

However, those same people are now sending congratulatory messages and saying that the decision was a good one, Badhon said.

The success of the film has pushed Bangladeshi audience's expectations higher.

“We're already subject to a lot of expectations. I believe Saad will win an Oscar one day. He's an extremely honest and talented director.”

“I'm an actor, and I've to be utilised. My opportunities are few and I'm halfway through my life. I don’t know what opportunities I'll get in the rest of my life. But I'll not hold myself back from trying.”

Badhon’s life is almost a mirror image of that of Rehana’s.

Photo: Facebook

Photo: Facebook

She received custody of her daughter Michele Amani Saira in 2018 after officially splitting with her ex-husband in 2014. Now she is battling it out as a single mother.

“The time was non-existent to me. Since then I’ve thought of living life my way. I want to leave a body of work behind that the people of Bangladesh will forever cherish.”

The film’s producer Jeremy Chua, Executive Producer Ehsanul Haque Babu, cinematographer Tuhin Tamijul, set director Ali Afjal Uzzal, colourist Chinmoy Roy and sound director Sayba Talukder are also present at the Cannes.

The cast also includes Afia Jahin Jaima, Kazi Sami Hassan, Afia Tabassum Borno and Saberi Alam.

‘Rehana Maryam Noor’ will fight it out with films from 20 countries for the award. The winner will be announced on Jul 16.

After the curtain comes down on the festival on Jul 17, Saad, Badhan and the rest of the crew will fly back to Dhaka on the following day.