Published in Dhaka Live on 15 December 2010
Male model Fardeen Faisal talks to Dhaka Live about fans, fashion and why he’s not nice to strangers after midnight.
Fardeen Faisal is the son of a naval commander who took after his father by never wanting a normal job. Shortly after moving to Dhaka from Chittagong in 2002, the six-foot-two hunk quit IBM when he was talent-spotted by an advertising agency. Fardeen has since modelled in some 400 fashion shows in Bangladesh, India and the United States and has appeared in countless television commercials, billboards and magazine spreads.
“After the first ramp show I was like ‘Wow!’ I loved it and never felt scared. It’s the only place where you can show your attitude.”
However Fardeen describes the fashion industry as “tough and rude” and said that only four Bangladeshi male models have been prominent during his eight year career. “Many came, but few survived. If people in the industry decide you’re not worth it, you’ll be insulted.” And as a really, really ridiculously good-looking person, Fardeen sometimes bears the brunt of resentment. “I hear things like, ‘Fardeen is always chosen, why not me?’ But I say, ‘Come on, I achieved it through hard work.’”
When Fardeen isn’t modelling, he is busy playing football or trading on the stock market. On the whole, he avoids socialising with models. “I do my work and come home. Our life is a little bit dreamy – I’m a bit more awake.”
Fardeen’s aesthetic symmetry makes him a perfect contender for the role of Dhallywood heartthrob, but when it comes to the big screen, it’s a case of being once bitten, twice shy. In 2003 Fardeen had an experience nasty enough to merit a scene in an action film. When he arrived on set to begin shooting his seventh commercial film, Fardeen discovered that the script and cast bore no resemblance to that stated in his contract. “It was a dodgy movie and I quit instantly.” The 21-year-old was then held at gunpoint for 20 hours in an effort to “persuade” him to take part. Fardeen called a press conference the following day announcing that he was cancelling three upcoming movies and taking an indefinite break. “I won’t say that I’ll never act again, but the industry isn’t my cup of tea. Things have improved recently, but it’s still dominated by vulgarism.”
I asked Fardeen whether it feels strange to see himself on a billboard. After hesitating a few moments, he replied, “No. When I first see myself, I think about whether it represents the company well, and I scrutinise the quality of the billboard. It’s not a question of whether I look okay – there’s no way that it would work in the first place if I looked bad.” That said, Fardeen admits that he’s a perfectionist who is never satisfied with his work.
Such an assessment leaves him in the minority – Fardeen has a bounty of female fans. He described an encounter that took place the day before while he was having icecream at Move n’ Pick. He noticed a group of girls staring at him in the peculiar way people do when they identify someone famous. A few hours later, his mobile rang. The caller identified herself as one of the girls from the icecream shop and admitted that she had a tough time tracking down his number. Fardeen flashed a perfect set of pearly whites as he said, “Sometimes I get calls from Sylhet and Jessore! I’m always nice to people, but some lack a common sense of timing. I’m not nice when the phone rings after midnight.”
When Fardeen received an offer to take part in Uttaradhikar, the first celebrity reality show in Bangladesh (filmed in 2009 and based on the concept of “Big Brother,”) his first reaction was “No way! I cannot sell my privacy.” But after some persistence from Channel I, Fardeen decided that it was a worthwhile challenge. “I was worried about one thing – Bangladesh has a culture of back-biting and I didn’t want to come out with a bad reputation. Naturally, I care about that. But I didn’t want to be a goody-goody – my strategy was to be myself.” Fardeen became a finalist amongst the 10 housemates and he believes the experience taught him how to let go of small problems. “But to be honest, it was very tough to cope.”
Fardeen hasn’t succumbed to pressures from the fashion industry that could potentially undermine his positive body image. “I don’t listen to what I should or shouldn’t do.” He exercises daily and eats as much sushi as he can afford. “I am a health freak. I don’t smoke, drink or take drugs.”
In the years ahead, Fardeen dreams of opening a fashion house and grooming new models. “As a fashion industry, we are a kid. We have to make it as a teenager, an adult and an old man. I want to be part of that growth.” Ladies and gentlemen, watch that space – literally.