In Conversation with Mr. Sohel Arman: The Road to Becoming a Storyteller

Nafisa Islam

Feb 08, 2022


Overcoming the Odds is a blog series brought to you by volunteer writer Nafisa Islam from IYAP Bangladesh. This series aims at exploring and sharing the inspiring stories of famous personalities in Bangladesh, who have combated stressful negative sentiments and overcome mental health related struggles in their early life and emerged successful after walking along the path of their passions and dreams with courage and determination.

Sohel Arman is a Bangladeshi film director, a script writer and a producer. This is a motivational moment with him.

01. Thank you Sohel for taking time out of your schedule today. How are you doing?

Yes, I am fine. Thank You, Nafisa!

02. Could you please describe yourself in 3 words?

I’m polite, gentle and smart.

03. What makes you smile the most? What is your greatest strength and weakness according to you?

When my work is well received and appreciated by people or the audience, that satisfaction brings me the sincerest smile. I believe my greatest strength is my self-confidence. My weakness is that I feel lethargic at times.

04. The purpose of our campaign is to inspire youth who are feeling down and lost. We believe sharing your story and how you overcome your challenges would empower many young people. Have feelings of anxiety or discomfort due to any situation while working bothered you? What kind of negative feelings or experiences have you had in your early life? How did you overcome those situations?

Actually, life is a journey. At first, there is a struggle and there is no gain if there is no pain. Even when I am feeling down or upset, I try to retain my confidence that I can do it. Whenever there is sorrow or frustration, I convince myself that there is definitely going to be a ray of positivity soon. Every day or every night, they are never the same, they keep on changing and unfolding. I always opt for optimistic thinking.  If I am ever frustrated, I do not indulge in it, I strengthen myself to look out for what is positive. With a proper control of our mind, we can triumph even in the most stressful moments.

05. Do you do spiritual practice? How did you come to this stage of life after going through so many obstacles?

My spiritual power lies in my honesty. If I do my work with honesty, that will be my success. Being honest with my family, friends and my work is the most important power, as I believe.

06. How important do you think it is, to go for help, regarding mental health issues/seek mental health support and deal with stress?

Mental health is of great importance and is a valuable asset to everyone. If we take good care of our mental well-being, we take care of our surroundings well too. I would encourage everyone to seek professional help if required because it is very necessary to maintain a sound mental health to live a healthy life.

07. We know there are a lot of stigmas related to mental health. How can we work on these stigmas and make people aware about mental health?

In my opinion, the lack of proper education is the root of this social stigma. Many people don’t even know there is something called mental health. It is high time we should be more vocal and talk about mental health without any hesitation. Due to this reason, we need to educate ourselves with proper knowledge and resources. The government can run awareness campaigns to create awareness among the people. More importantly, we need to work hand in hand to fight these kinds of stigmas to shatter it and let the light come in.

08. We can see that you have overcome many of your challenges by pursuing your passions. Now, let us talk about your journey. Please tell us what inspired you to enter into the world of films?

Basically, my journey started when I completed my secondary school. When I was very young, around the time when I was in fifth class, I started writing poetry and riddles. Since then, I always thought I could be a very good writer, a filmmaker or a good actor. When I passed tenth class, my friends inspired me a lot to start doing something professional: to do some drama, to do some acting. When I actually started doing that, my family was a little confused about how I was doing this because I have had no prior practice nor training to do this kind of a job. However, I didn’t give up. I worked hard: I worked at a few places and I spent a lot of time with media people and started to learn to be a professional actor, director and a play writer. They helped me a lot. I learned through experiences. As I had a strong liking towards what I was doing, I persisted on gathering experiences and learning continuously and ultimately, after five or six years, I have been able to emerge successful in this field.

09. I have researched and seen that your father was a great director in Bangladesh. Have you ever faced a situation where people said that you could easily get a place in this industry since your father was a famous person? Has anyone ever said this with the intention to demotivate you? If so, how did you answer them?

Yes, It was one of my biggest frustrations when forming my own identity and caused me to struggle a lot. When I did some work, some people surrounding me would doubt if it was really my work and make such comments that really caused me to get upset. Some people used to think that Mr. Amzad Hossain is helping his unskillful son to secure a place in this field. The truth is my father always wanted me to work independently and learn on my own and grab the opportunities without his involvement. He of course never hesitated to give me the right guidance and training whenever needed. I am proud of my father and am very lucky to be his son. There is a very big tree, whose shadow comforts you whenever you need: my father was like that big tree in my life.  Now I’m very happy that everyone knows me as Sohel Arman individually. I’m not yet very proud of it. But I’m very inspired that I can create my own work.

10. What do you think about making mistakes when working? How can we keep going forward despite these mistakes?

There are no perfect people who do not make mistakes nor are we able to become successful without making mistakes. I always keep learning from my mistakes. Mistakes sometimes make you upset, hopeless and yet these very mistakes make you learn new things and get  inspired. We can always do better the next time. Mistakes will be unavoidable, but we should not let them be a factor that demotivates us or stops us. They will only make you more skillful.

11. ‘Eito Prem’  is one of the most talked about amongst your work. What was your journey like when making ‘Eito Prem’ (This Is Love) movie?

I told you earlier that I had a desire that one day I would be a very good filmmaker. So, once I turned 15 years of age, I started my professional life in around 1992-1993 when I was still very young. Since then I have been working with people while learning from them. When it occurred to me that I might be able to try doing a film, I went for ‘Eito Prem’ (This is Love). I developed a plot which was related to the Bangladesh Liberation war in 1971. After that, I wrote my film song, then took a short photography and cinematography course plus attended a couple of workshops before I actually started working on the film ‘Eito Prem’. I think I worked according to a strategy and I worked hard for this film, each and every second. I wrote my songs and developed the plots, dialogues and the script. The film was made into a reality with the contribution of many great people just like film star Sakib Khan and the renowned singer Habib Wahid. Finally, we were able to breathe life into a successful movie.

12. Which actor, according to you, is the all-time best actor?

There are so many actors that I found to be very talented. This question is very hard to answer. I would not mention one name as there are so many good actors. I love to work with all of them. If you would ask me to give you a few names, I’ll start with my father’s name, that is Amzad Hossain. I’m very impressed by his acting. Also, on my list are Abdullah Al Mamun, Afzal Hossain, Humayun Faridi, Ferdousi Majumdar, Suborna Mustafa, Somi Kaiser, Bipasha Hayaat, Afsana Mimi Zahid Hasan, Rajjak, Bobita, ATM Shamsuzzaman, Hasan Inam etc.

13. What projects are you working on right now and what are your plans for the future?

I’m currently working on a ‘single drama’, which spans for just a period of 40 minutes. Such a drama is called a ‘single drama’. Now I’m undertaking this work with experienced stars like Afran Nisho, Ziaul Faruq Apurba, Mehazabien Chowdhury and Tanjin Tisha. I’m also working with younger stars like Khairul Bashar, Yash Ronan, Samira Khan Mahi and Mahima. In 2022, I’m making plans to work on another film from January to March. I’ll be working on the script for the next film.

14. Covid-19 crisis has disrupted the global film industry. What are the challenges and opportunities for the industry created by the pandemic?

It’s true that this situation has made it difficult for us to do our work for the media, because most of the media work, especially film, drama or singing cannot happen online. We need a team to work together. It is unhealthy and risky to do work in this situation. So, we had our struggles for the last two years. Nowadays, the situation is gradually progressing, so we have restarted our work again. In the future, we hope that we will be able to work more, despite the COVID situation. We try our best to maintain all rules and health protocols as instructed by the government though at times, it can be very tough doing shooting with these rules.

15. As so many filmmakers are releasing their films online, do you have similar plans?

Our world is changing. The whole world is now depending on the internet, so the format of doing things is also changing. People are used to going to the Cinema hall. People used to watch television with family but days have changed now and a little mobile has become a full package for entertainment with the advent of smartphones. Along with that, many online applications and platforms such as Netflix, Google apps, Video Prime etc. have emerged. Our filmmakers have also started filmmaking for online or OTT platforms. I also have a similar future intention. The year 2022 might see this transformation in my journey as well.

16. What is your opinion on the place of women in the film industry?

One thing I always tell my Assistant Director, fellow artists or friends is that I always think first that you are a human being. The first thing to think about is that you are a human being. I’ll think about it later whether you are a boy or a girl.  In that sense in our film industry, women are not engaging themselves frequently. So I’ll request all the female artists to rethink and consider working within this field. This field can offer multiple opportunities for them. So I always support women who can do the job we are doing now. It’s very hopeful. There are many women who are successful in our media. I’d be very glad if a woman wanted to have a career in this media and would be happy to help them.

17. How do you think are children influenced by movies?

Children are very much interested in movies, especially animated movies. You know that films can teach good lessons to children. Children should watch films with their parents.

18. What advice would you like to give to those hoping to pursue a career in this field and for young filmmakers out there?

 I think, every person can achieve the success of their own life by working hard. One can use his or her thoughts and ideas for their professional use. Since most of our media work is now done online, online platforms have taken our media industry a long way and created many new opportunities that are accessible. There are many people who have a lot of talent to work in the media. So they should make use of these platforms. There are a lot of talented people, who have the talent to think outside of the box.  If these talented people keep following their passion and work with dedication they will surely succeed in this field.

Many thanks for sharing your thoughts today with us. That’s all the time we have. It was such a pleasure talking to you Sohel. Thank you so much once again for making time.

Thank you Nafisa!! I’m glad you are doing this. Your questions were really interesting. Thank you and thanks to the IYAP team! It was nice to be a part of this interview.

About the Author:

Nafisa Islam

Nafisa Islam

Nafisa Islam is an ardent youth from Bangladesh. Currently pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in English Literature, she is very much interested in using writing as a medium of expression to bring change to the way people think. She is very much passionate about children and their rights as well and would like to use her writing to bring justice to children facing difficulties. She also embodies an obsession with fashion and shows immense dedication towards her work. She always loves to be supportive and always likes to empower youth to advance in their careers and takes delight in seeing them happy and achieving their successes and goals.

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