Actor | Producer | Writer | Co-owner or Co-founder | Entrepreneur
I'm the sole son, among three sisters, Seema, Nanty and Hanifa, to our single mother, Nilufar. Born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, we began our journey in Canada in September 1997. We grew up in poverty, living in homeless shelters the first year and a bit, as our father left back to Bangladesh and I have not seen him since. You see, he had another family we didn't know about. But truthfully, I wouldn't want our story to start any other way. My family (sisters and mom) mean the world to me, and they're truly the reason I am who I am.
My mother is my greatest inspiration, she's someone I adore, admire and look-up-to. She was always very creative, artistic, and determined- I mean, she raised three children, speaking barely any English in Canada, alone; that should tell you enough!- and as such, she's been my greatest motivator, and standard of character.
Since then, we moved to Hamilton, Ontario, into government subsidized housing in Oriole Crescent (a tough nails neighbourhood). At that point, I was being bullied, and as such, my mother put me into boxing. I remember the first day I stepped foot in McGrory's Boxing Club - under the direction of the coach, and eventually, my first father figure, Vinnie Ryan- it smelled of sweat, torn leather, and I was hooked. I boxed from 10-23 years old, with breaks in between to play (American) Football, in which I also developed a close bond with my coach, Ken Looker, who became my second father figure. From both of my coaches I learned what it meant to be a father, husband, entrepreneur and overall, role model for others.
As I aged, I aspired to become first, a fighter pilot, and when that wasn't panning out, a lawyer, inadvertently, becoming neither, and upon graduation with a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science, I ended up in acting.
But it wasn't that simple.
Overcome by fears of my inability to have a vision or aspiration for a career, I moped, and felt the pressures of the world, and to be honest, my journey through universities wasn't all that spectacular either. I was great in school but I bounced around universities, changing programs multiple times.
In the end, one fateful day, I was watching "Oprah" and Will Smith was on the show talking about the "Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho; and I picked the book up and read it. Naturally, in search of my own treasure I ended up in Egypt. At this point in time, Egypt had overcome a war and the turmoil within the country helped me understand- despite the negatives of the life we had been granted- I had so much opportunity, and potential.
Upon returning from Egypt, March 6th 2015, I began acting classes.
Needless to say, I was terrible. But I fell in love with it, immediately, and I found my sense of direction, motivation and purpose. That year I went to every class possible, my mother would drive me from Hamilton to Toronto, or my sister, Nanty would. I'd take the bus, train, whatever I could to get to these classes, and yet it wasn't enough. So finally, I packed up a car, after saving up money for a year and drove out to LA to train at the studio that Will Smith trained at, Speiser/Sturges.
I haven't looked back since.
What were the biggest initial hurdles and how did you overcome them?
I believe, like anything else, and any other industry, it's to be seen and taken seriously. An industry such as film/tv, there are so many individuals chasing the same dream, and same roles. Couple that with the factor of 'stars,' to sell the series, movies, it's an upward climb. Notwithstanding, we are at a time in history like none-other, wherein, it's not just TV or movie stars up for roles, now there are Youtube, TikTok, Instagram stars as well; it's almost next to impossible to compete.
So to be given an opportunity, I had to create my own content. It started with my short film, Prisoner of Fear. It was a film depicting mental health issues, specifically social anxiety, a topic very close to me as I had substantial issues with social anxiety, and to a degree, still do.
That film did tremendously well, and opened up several other doors. One being the door to meeting my, now, business partner and Co-Founder Qamar Qureshi. Qamar is one of the most brilliant individuals I've ever met. He sat with me on December 6th, 2018, and we discussed a screenplay I'd written, El Tigre. I showed him the pitch-deck, gave him the elevator pitch, all of it.
He genuinely seemed interested, and the following year, January 26th, 2019, we sat down once more, and at this point he had mentioned, and I'll never forget: "my investors won't get out of bed for a movie, but if you can bring me a company, something that they can bank on long-term, I can put it in front of them." That changed everything.
I went back home and I wondered what a production company might look like, what would be the name; where would it be located; what kind of films would we make?
In the end, looking right at home - Hamilton, Ontario - a city with increased tax credits for production, a community that truly supports their own, and friends willing to help, I began Red Hill Entertainment with Qamar, naming the company after the creek that Oriole Crescent backed into.
Since the inception of our company, reaching our three year anniversary on June 24th, 2022, we've produced three feature films, employed over 500 individuals throughout the pandemic, Neon Lights releasing on July 12th with one of the largest distributors of independent content in the world, and now onto our fourth, and fifth project, I couldn't be prouder!
What advice would you give to an upcoming youth or talents locally and internationally?
My advice would be this:
Love yourself. That truly is where it starts. It begins with self love and I'll explain why:
We all work tremendously hard, the more you're passionate about any given topic, subject, career, partner etc., you're going to work harder, but to understand what drives your passion, fuels your fire, or sparks your curiosity, you need to understand who you are, first. Love yourself.
While you begin these journeys, you're going to be met with insurmountable amounts of adversity, and to overcome the self-doubts, the negative feedback, the 'no's', the closed doors and all of the aspects of difficulties that life will throw at you, you will need to have a strong foundation in your own vision, and ability to execute. Love yourself.
As you prosper, you have money, and people begin opening the doors, there may be a juncture in which- and I heard Denzel Washington said this to Will Smith, "the devil comes for you at your highest of moments,"- you begin to make mistakes, and darkness will, at times, takeover. You will need to overcome it. Love yourself.
In the end, you have to be the brightest shining star in the room; you will accomplish the goals you set out for yourself, but to be able to do any of that, for the help from God and Universe, you will need to have the right attitude, coupled with compassion and gratitude. In order for any of those to be present, you will need to, first, love yourself.
That's my advice. God bless.
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