Sazal Mahamud, better known as Sazal Kim, has made a name for himself in the Korean film industry. The actor is popular for his comical acting and cameos in Korean movies and TV series.
The Business Standard interviewed the Bangladeshi actor, who spoke about his adoption, interests in the Korean media and upcoming projects.
Adopted by Korean Parents at the age of 15
Sazal was adopted by a Christian Korean family when he was 15-years-old. The Korean couple could not speak English properly but they were adamant on adopting a child from a developing country once they were financially stable.
Sazal's sister is married to a Korean man who insisted he come to Korea for a better future. The young boy left his country to start afresh in Korea with his new family and adopted a new lifestyle.
Mispronunciation of Korean words and landing in trouble
Sazal was admitted to a middle school in Korea and the young boy shared some hilarious stories arising from mispronouncing Korean words.
"While I was walking down the road with my school friends, I saw an old woman with a dog. In Korea, we call a puppy 'Gang-aji' but as I was just starting to learn the language, I didn't know the proper term," Sazal told the correspondent.
"In Korea, we call dogs 'Gae' and 'Saekki' is a young pup. 'Gae-sae-kki'is a slang term in Korean language so when I complimented the dog, it ended up sounding like a slang," he added.
"The 'Ahjumma' (older woman) was highly offended, but thankfully my Korean friends were able to calm her down by telling her that I was a new speaker of the language and couldn't speak well," Sazal continued.
Another time in school, Sazal accidentally ended up making his class representative cry with his wrong usage of Korean words.
"There was this one time when I broke the cafeteria line to get my lunch quickly as I was really hungry. The girl who was distributing the lunch told me to get in the line. So I mimicked the others and said 'Naga' (Get Lost) to the girl. She ended up crying and telling the teacher. Later, I had to apologize to her," Sazal detailed.
Sazal's first step towards acting
Sazal's acting career started off in 2012 with a short film called "Ashock," where he played the lead role of a Bangladeshi sportsman who has been scouted as a coach for the Korean Cricket team. The movie was nominated in the "International Short Film Category" at the Busan International Short Film Festival.
After starring in the short, some agencies started to call Sazal and he soon landed the role of "Sazal Kim" in "Rude Miss Young-ae".
Importance of international artists in Korea
In Korea, multicultural families are involved in various programs in the local networks. Sazal's sister worked in the media as well.
In Korea, there is an international agency just to recruit international artists for projects.
Sazal got his big break when he was just a high school student. The international artists would get paid more compared to Korean artists. If an international artist was paid USD8 per hour, Sazal would earn around USD100 for two to three hours of work.
Debuting as an artist in "Rude Miss Young-ae"
As Sazal was a high school student, he almost missed the audition for Rude Miss Young-ae. The young boy was the last one to audition for the role and he was interviewed by eight writers in the audition round.
The next day, he got a call and was informed that he was selected to play a part in the longest-running show in Korea.
In Rude Miss Young-ae, the actor plays the role of "Sazal", a Bangladeshi worker who is a colleague of the female lead Lee Young-ae.
Sazal would surprise the audience with his behaviour that are distinctly Korean and throw around deep Korean adages that even some Koreans do not know of.
Sazal played the role for six years and his Korean fans, mostly female, would recognize him for his comical acting in the drama. The actor even decided to use Sazal Kim as his stage name due to the popularity he earned through the series.
Viral cameo in 'Special Labor Inspector'
Sazal might have gained immense popularity in Korea for his role in Rude Miss Young-ae, but his cameo in 'Special Labor Inspector" made him viral all over Bangladesh.
The actor acted as a labourer who complained to the police when his manager was not paying him properly. "The director told me to translate Korean slang terms into Bangla while acting the scenes," Sazal informed.
Sazal improvised the scene by using Bangla slangs to swear at his wicked boss. Later, when the director asked him for the meaning of the slangs, the entire crew and cast burst into laughter.
Sazal's dream of becoming a cricketer in Korea
In Korea, people have little to no knowledge of cricket. The young actor was called for the Korean national cricket team but sadly due to a lack of funds and sponsorship, the team was dispersed and Sazal had to drop his dream of becoming a cricketer.
Sazal has two upcoming projects in hand which are currently halted due to the pandemic.
His first project is a Netflix sitcom about international students living in a dormitory.
Sazal's most anticipated project is a NGO-based drama starring Lee Byung-hun, who is best known for doing popular roles in Hollywood such as "T-1000" in Terminator Genisys and "Storm Shadow" in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.
As it is a big project, Hollywood actors were also signed to the project and most of the shooting was scheduled to be done in Bangladesh. Due to the Covid-19 situation, however, the project has been postponed by a year.
Sazal is really happy with all the fan-following in both Korea and Bangladesh. The actor wants to do as many projects as he can to uphold Bangladeshi culture.
Despite facing discrimination regarding his brown skin, the actor is determined to make a name for himself in the Korean film industry.