"Mohanagar", the latest Hoichoi original series from Bangladesh, was released recently. Just hours after its release, it gained immense appreciation and positive reviews from the audience, both in Bangladesh and India. In a recent chat with The Daily Star, Ashfaque Nipun, the director and writer of the show, opened up about his experience of working on the project, and more.
"Mohanagar" features Mosharraf Karim as OC Harun, along with Zakia Bari Mamo as Shahana Huda, Shamol Mawla as Afnan Chowdhury, Mostafizur Noor Imran as Moloy Kumar, and Khairul Basar as Abir Hasan, among others.
Surprisingly, Hoichoi decided to release the series seven hours before its intended time, after seeing the anticipation for it across social media.
"The overwhelming response from the audience has been very encouraging," shares Nipun. "For directors, it is not just about the storytelling. We expect the audience to grasp or relate to the underlying messages we intend to deliver and when they do, it is incredibly gratifying."
The director further emphasised on the vital role of subscriptions. "When you are watching something on an OTT platform, you have to subscribe to it, and allocate time to watch it," says Nipun. "The fact that people have been binging it since the minute it was released is a big deal for us."
According to Nipun, the amount of hard work that went into the production has paid off, as people has been putting up rave reviews on social media. "Even professional Indian reviewers are talking about it and Indian audiences are enjoying it. All of this seems worth the hard work."
The series, produced by Shopnoghuri Productions, follows several hours inside a police station, starting from midnight. "No one knows what goes on inside a police station, especially at night. I wanted to tell a story about a police station, and how under different circumstances, different types of people gather under a roof, following an incident," expresses Ashfaque.
Along with what goes on inside a police station, the story revolves around how in minutes, circumstances can change, and how an intense situation can shift and turn. According to the director, the police station showcased in the series represents a miniature version of the country itself.
"There are so many different characters at play inside the police station -- an industrialist, a journalist, police officers, a victim, a young businessperson, a thief and the wife of a rickshaw puller. These people from different social classes represent different perspectives," says Nipun. "The project gave me a chance to portray several characters and issues, in one story."
"I couldn't think of anyone else except Mosharraf Karim to portray such a colorful character as OC Harun," adds the director. "All the actors fit perfectly into their characters. The biggest strength of this series is the powerful acting. The characters were portrayed very realistically."
Since the story takes place mainly at night, there were certain challenges of conducting a shoot. "We usually get around 16 hours per day on a regular shoot. Since we had night shoots, we had limited time and it was a challenging experience for the entire cast and crew," shares Nipun.
The series was shot for five days in Dhaka and a location outside Dhaka for fifteen days at a stretch. "In those fifteen days, we bonded like a family, we stayed at the same place, eating and working together every day. It was an enjoyable experience for all of us."
The story of "Mohanagar" had a particularly slower build-up than other Bangladeshi series. "I love working on slow rush projects. The slower the build-up, the more engaged the audience will get," says Nipun. "Even Hoichoi was concerned if the audience will accept this slow build-up story or not, but I was adamant with having a slow burn."
As the audience seems to accept and enjoy this slow build-up, Nipun asserts that oftentimes we take audiences for granted. "We think that people will only like or watch things of a certain pace, or a certain kind of story. But the truth is, if you try your best to put quality content out there, they will accept it."
For Nipun, the positive response to "Mohanagar" is also a source of encouragement, as he believes that the audience base is expanding, and people are eager to watch different types of stories on screen.