The Daily Star >> Arts & Entertainment >> Date: Friday, March 2, 2012
When my dear friend Pradeep Bhattacherjee offered me a chance to spend three long weeks outside Dhaka, I just could not say “No”. I travel out of the city quite often but never had the opportunity or the reason to spend an extended period of time outside the metropolis.
Pradeep had undertaken an interesting project — directing a reality show titled “Forgotten roots”, jointly produced by Pillar Productions and Delta Bay, both stationed in London, UK and he offered me the most interesting position, that of the host!
In due time I was also introduced to Dilara Khan, now resident of London. “Forgotten Roots” is her brainchild.
The community of third or fourth generation expatriates, have, for obvious reasons, lost touch with their Bangladeshi roots. They remain alien to the life, livelihood and culture of this land. Some of them have visited this country, their forefathers called their own, but they saw it with the eyes of ‘foreigners’.
“Forgotten Roots” — as a reality show — proposed to present opportunity for a band of youth to experience the life of rural Bengal, travel around the country and soak their feet in the culture of Bangladesh — all in the guise of challenges offered on reality television.
The entire show was scheduled to be aired on foreign TV channels and the primary selection of participants through auditions was already done in countries with sizable Bangladeshi expat population.
To give a solid patriotic start, the participants were to engage in a 16-day event, fighting for a net score of 1971 points involving 21 challenges. In total, 26 episodes had been planned with the competitors vying for a cash reward of 10,000 pound sterling.
From the very beginning, I was drawn to this project. As a host I would have the privilege of presenting Bangladesh to these youngsters. Nadia Ali, my co-host, had travelled from London to Dhaka and I learned the details of the project from the producer, Mainul Hossain Mukul.
Participants, from the UK and the USA arrived in Dhaka on December 25, 2011. A press conference was scheduled in the evening, the very same day.
Upon returning to the hotel, a long chatting session ran deep into the night although the entire team of participants were ready to leave for Lalakhaal, Joyinta Upazila, Sylhet at 10 am sharp the next day. The advance team had already camped at the spot way ahead in time to make arrangements for food, lodging and selecting the locations for the shooting.
D-Day and it was time to move for Lalakhaal. The adventurists got their wake up call early in the morning. Enthused by the thrill of the whole affair they became busy updating their current status to friends and family via phone, and also on Facebook.
As the cars moved through the snaking highway, the participants and the entire crew broke into songs. Some of the participants knew a few lines of popular Bangla tunes and they took this opportunity to profess their vocal prowess.
The team broke the tranquillity of Lalakhaal as we reached base camp at a nearby school. Our participants were welcomed with garlands, as they entered a remote setting, truly far from the maddening crowd.
It is safe to say that the serene atmosphere of Lalakhaal took different forms as the days of the competition progressed. Combining all the teams that were part of the show — the directorial, art, creative, costume, event, DOP, production — there were over 200 people involved in this project.
The large crowd that poured in to watch the shooting, the innumerable cups of piping hot tea, the sound of “light…camera…action” made the whole affair one not devoid of excitement and pure fun.
Not just the routine schedule, each experience by the adventurists was a revelation for them. The lodging, food, entertainment and the environment were like new discoveries for each of the participants.
As the days passed by, the usual course of reality television took us to new levels of excitement. There was shooting all day; in the evening there was music, fun and frolic. Sunburnt and exhausted, our final day was drawing near. As the band of “foreign”, expatriate generation featured in the show experienced Bangladesh, we had a chance to encounter their world.
It was our sincere effort to uphold values like the mother tongue, the opulent culture, the heritage and the history of Bangladesh to our young participants. Our success, or failure, is for the audience to judge, for they shall be our ultimate critics. But this I can say, “Those who came to their native land as foreigners left the country taking a part of it with them.”
Starting tonight, “Forgotten Roots” will be on air across the globe on ATN Bangla. You are all cordially invited to watch.
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