Bangladeshi actor and media personality Sarah Alam has been making significant impacts on the media industry in Bangladesh. With a remarkable ability to handle various roles within the industry, she appears to excel in every endeavor she undertakes.
In this exclusive interview with Tinds, she takes us on a journey through her diverse upbringing and her flourishing career in the media sector. From her early days in Dhaka to her educational experiences and her forays into acting, hosting, and more, Sarah’s narrative highlights her unwavering commitment and fervor for her craft. She also imparts valuable insights into the industry’s challenges and her personal aspirations, and she offers advice for those aspiring to make their mark in the world of acting and media.
Tinds Desk: Tell us something about where you grew up, where you studied, or maybe a little about your family.
Sarah Alam: Certainly, let me start from the beginning. I was born and mostly raised in Dhaka, but due to my father’s job, we moved around quite a bit. In my family, there’s my mother, my father, and a younger brother. My current family also includes my dogs.
All the moving around allowed me the opportunity to explore various parts of the country.
I spent a year living in Jessore and five years in Rajshahi. Consequently, I’ve had a diverse educational experience. I attended schools with both Bangla and English mediums, following the English National Curriculum.
Tinds Desk: What inspired you to embark on a career in the media industry, especially considering your beginnings as an RJ? Can you share how it all began?
Sarah Alam: My journey in the media world dates back to 2010 when I was still in college. A friend of mine, without even asking, submitted my CV to a newly opened radio station called People’s Radio. The interview panel was quite intrigued by my audacity, as I hadn’t even completed my studies yet. They called me for an initial interview, and somehow, I managed to pass all five rounds of exams they threw at me. That’s how I began my career as the most junior RJ. I vividly remember going to work in my school uniform; that’s how it all started. Gradually, I fell in love with the job and was eager to continue.
During this time, MTV had a trial period in Bangladesh for two years, collaborating with a local television network. They were on the lookout for a VJ, a term that sounded incredibly cool and intriguing to me. The thought of being part of a global platform was very exciting, and both my boss and colleagues encouraged me to give it a shot. I participated in the contest and, to my surprise, got selected.
I worked with MTV for two years, took a break, did a few other jobs for the next year, and finally joined Radio Foorti in 2015, the same year I joined the university for my undergrad.
I stayed in this dynamic world for seven long years. Fortunately, I received offers from various production companies who wanted me to appear in their television commercials. My first television commercial was for a sanitary napkin, directed by Amitabh Reza. It led to me having one of the biggest billboards in Bangladesh for a couple of years.
I would say that my journey in media was not meticulously planned, and my academic background is quite different from my work, but it has been an exciting and enjoyable ride.
Tinds Desk: Juggling multiple roles in the media industry can be quite demanding, whether it’s acting, presenting, hosting, or any other role. How do you manage your time effectively? How do you cope with the continuous shooting and handle the stress?
Sarah Alam: Right from my school days, I’ve always been an active person. I wasn’t content with just sticking to one thing. I engaged in extracurricular activities, various sports, and even drama. On top of that, I had to excel in my studies, as the expectations of my parents were quite high. So, I’ve always enjoyed taking on multiple roles. It makes me feel like I’m making the most of my time and being productive, and that’s something that holds importance for me.
Whenever I’m presented with an interesting opportunity, I rarely decline it. I have a curiosity to experiment, learn, and see how things work. If I find that I enjoy it, I will continue pursuing it. This is how I ended up working across multiple domains within the industry today.
In all honesty, when I commit to a long-term project like a web series, I make sure to communicate effectively with my other professional commitments. They understand that when I’m engaged in a long-term shoot, it means I won’t be available for voiceovers or events, for example. Fortunately, these productions usually have extended periods for post-production, which allows me to manage my other tasks during that time. So, balancing it all is quite manageable, I would say. The key is effective planning.
Tinds Desk: What would you say was the most challenging aspect of working in media?
Sarah Alam: The challenges in our industry can vary, but I believe that in Bangladesh, the need for the industry to expand and offer more job opportunities with quality scripts is a significant challenge. Sometimes, I think actors could do more if more versatile roles were offered to them. Fortunately, with the rise of OTT platforms in Bangladesh, things are evolving, and we’re seeing a shift towards diverse script offerings catering to various tastes and talents. This, in itself, is a challenge because it requires actors to adapt to different script styles and genres.
However, I must emphasize that everyone I’ve worked with in this industry so far has been incredibly passionate about their work. Thanks to their dedication and commitment, the challenges don’t seem insurmountable. A strong team is vital.
One of the most significant challenges I’ve personally encountered in my journey as an actor is balancing a full-time job with acting commitments, as my job requires long hours. Nevertheless, I consider myself fortunate, as many talented directors and reputable production houses have approached me. Achieving success in this field has demanded hard work, but I also recognize the element of luck in my journey.
So, I believe there are more challenges awaiting me in the future, and I look forward to addressing them as they arise.
Tinds Desk: What are three words that you would use to describe yourself?
Sarah Alam: Sure, three words that describe me would be adventurous, a foodie, and a bit of a workaholic.
I have a deep love for traveling, and I used to explore new places before the pandemic. It was much simpler to plan a trip and set off on adventures. However, with my increased workload, finding time for travel has become more challenging. Nevertheless, I seize any opportunity I get to go out and explore whenever I can.
Tinds Desk: So, what’s currently keeping you occupied? Are you involved in a film or any upcoming projects?
Sarah Alam: Lately, I’ve been working on a few TV commercials that are set to be released soon. What’s unique about these projects is that they feature distinct products and scripts, allowing me to experiment with different characters in each of them. Even though the screen time is brief, the opportunity to dive into these diverse roles is truly exciting for me.
I’ve also recently played a role in a movie. Although it’s a small character, it’s a highly interesting one, and it presents a different look that hasn’t been seen from me before. I’m really excited about it, especially because I had the chance to collaborate with some incredible artists. However, we haven’t begun promoting the film yet, so there isn’t much I can reveal about it at the moment.
A multitude of events are on the horizon. I’ll be hosting a couple of major events, but I’m not at liberty to disclose their names just yet.
Tinds Desk: Could you share a bit about your personal life and your aspirations for the future? What are your plans?
Sarah Alam: Absolutely, my long-term goal is to continue acting. I also have a fondness for hosting and voiceovers, which I’ve enjoyed, but acting is where I see myself in the long run. Simultaneously, given my background in environmental studies, I also envision a role for myself in the development sector.
Tinds Desk: As a final question, what advice would you offer to individuals who are aspiring to pursue a career in acting or becoming an RJ?
Sarah Alam: My advice applies to anything you wish to pursue. You must maintain an unwavering commitment to your goals. Don’t let a few setbacks deter you; instead, believe in yourself and stay true to the person you aspire to become. It’s crucial to always keep your core human values intact, even while you’re striving to achieve your dreams.