Although Mahbub is successful now, his start was not so smooth. When he was around 21 or 22 years old, Mahbub left home for South Korea to earn money for his mother’s treatment in 1999. He started working in a hazardous and unhygienic garments factory.
Unfortunately, seven months later his mother died. Mahbub’s elder brother was already in South Korea. Although his brother left South Korea, he stayed on in a bid to change his fortune.
While talking to Prothom Alo over WhatsApp, Mahbub kept recalling his migrant life. He said that the media publishes negative news about migrant workers most of the time.
With the hope to change the environment of inequality and deprivation of workers, Mahbub started to participate in seminars and social movements with the workers. At that time, he realised that only movement on the roads would not bring any results, media coverage was also needed. Mahbub started to make documentaries out of the need for the migrant workers to have their own media. His documentaries were broadcast on the national media of South Korea. He also got paid for this.
On the initiative of 10 to 12 migrant workers including Mahbub, the “Migrant Worker Television” was launched in South Korea in 2004. They organised a film festival in 2006 and Mahbub was the directort.
In addition to presenting news in Korean language, Mahbub started to appear in different television channels which brought him fame.
He first acted in a short film named “The Road of Revenge”. He also completed different film related courses. Then he began to think of working on the big screen.
Mahbub said he did not have any experience about acting while in the country. He officially started his career on the big screen with a feature film named “Bandhobi”. Mahbub was called on for this film around the year 2008, but not for acting. He was called on to verify whether the screenplay of the film matched with the real life incidents or not. The director wanted to cast the hero of the film from among the migrant workers who had a good command over the Korean language and did not have any problem with the visas.
Mahbub too, was looking for the hero. However, the director could not find anyone. Then Mahbub expressed his wish to act in the film.
Mahbub said that the real test started from that point. He had to lose 12-13 kg weight in a short time.
Mahbub said he also played a role in naming the film “Bandhobi”. The film, made at a cost of Tk 3 crore, was a love story. The story also highlights different problems of the migrant workers. There is a song in Bengali language in the film too.
He got the chance to watch his performance for the first time during the premier of “Bandhobi” at a film festival.
Mahbub Alam said that he feels good to see himself on the big posters. Many of the Korean moviegoers took pictures with him. Many of them want to know whether his dialogues in the films were dubbed or not.
He said his film “Bandhobi” was invited to different film festivals of the world. The film was loved by the audience from different countries including Bangladesh. However, many of the audience hated the film too on racial grounds. However, Mahbub did not give up and became even more interested in film acting.
Mahbub said he even worked on a film with a budget of Tk 10 crore. He wants to work in films with even bigger budgets.
At this point, Mahbub said with a smile that although he is well-known as a hero in South Korea, he has not worked in any Bangladeshi film as yet. However, some of the Bangladeshi directors have expressed their desire to work with him.
The 40-year-old Mahbub said, “Overall I am doing well. If I do not like a film, I do not work in it. And if there is a challenge, I get more encouraged to work.”
“It feels good to think that I have been able to introduce Bangladesh, at least to some extent, to another country through my works,” said Mahbub.
Mahbub also married a Korean girl named Lee Myung. He said his family is neither happy nor angry with him for marrying a Korean girl. Overall, he has a good bonds with his family. His wife tries to speak in Bengali whenever she comes to the country.
Mahbub was born in a big family of nine brothers and two sisters. His father is alive. Mahbub tries to visit Bangladesh every year.
*This report appeared in the online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ashish Basu