Activists of Loko Natya Dal (Siddheswari) sing at National Theatre Stage (top), participants at the discussion programme at Mahila Samity Stage organised by Loko Natya Dal (Banani). Photo: Mumit M.
Three fractions of Loko Natya Dal organised the 27th anniversary celebration programme at the same time at different venues on July 6, which confused the audiences, even theatre leaders.
Loko Natya Dal (Siddheswari) organised their anniversary programme at the National Theatre Stage. Loko Natya Dal (Banani) organised their programme at Mahila Samity Stage and Loko Natya Dal (TSC) arranged their celebration at Imperial College Auditorium.
The programme organised by Loko Natya Dal (Siddheswari) had no discussion, rather troupe members celebrated the occasion through dance and music. A 'physical theatre' titled Banglar Mukh, written and directed by Liaquat Ali Lucky, was also staged. The final attraction of the programme was a staging of Kanjush, an adaptation of the Moliere play The Miser by Tarique Anam Khan and directed by Liaquat Ali Lucky.
The anniversary programme at Mahila Samity Stage organised by Loko Natya Dal (Banani) began with a discussion where human rights activist Sultana Kamal, executive director of Ain O Shalish Kendra, was the chief guest. M. Hamid, chairman of BGTF; Jhuna Chowdhury, secretary general of BGTF; Selina Khalek, chairperson Bangladesh Mahila Samity and Mohini Mohan Chakroborty, adviser of the troupe, were the special guests at the programme. The discussion was presided over by Eugene Gomez, president of Loko Natya Dal (Banani).
The discussion was followed by a cultural programme featuring music, recitation and staging parts of two old productions –Padma Nadir Majhi and Shonai Madhob. The programme ended with a staging of the troupe's new production Mora.
Another fraction, Loko Natya Dal (TSC) organised a cultural programme at the Imperial College Auditorium. Secretary General of BGTF joined the programme after attending the previous anniversary celebration at Mahila Samity.
The activities of the three fractions on July 6 was thoroughly confusing. A few regular theatre troupes made jokes about the peculiar situation at Shilapakala. Even the press and electronic media were in a dilemma regarding how to cover the events.
When the Secretary General of BGTF was contacted, Jhuna Chowdhury said, "It's embarrassing for the theatre activists that the division between them has become a laughing stock."
Theatre personality Tariq Anam Khan commented, "I don't support the tendency of division for personal interest. And the process of distinguishing one fraction from another by using the name of a neighbourhood in brackets demeans the status of the troupe. It should be remembered that it's not the name but the work that is important to the audience."
"Those who want to do something different should form a new troupe instead of existing as fractions. And many theatre activists forming new troupes such as Natya Kendra, Desh Natok and Prachyanat have attained popularity," he added.
Loko Natya Dal was formed on July 6, 1981. Because of the division, Loko Natya Dal now has three fractions and interestingly all of the fractions are members of Bangladesh Group Theatre Federation (BGTF), the common platform for theatre troupes in Bangladesh.
What role can BGTF play? The Chairman of the organisation, M. Hamid said, "We can do nothing unless the resolution of BGTF is changed."
"It's not a unique phenomenon. Three fractions of the troupe 'Theatre' are also members of BGTF. Interestingly all the fractions claim themselves as the mainstream. But, I feel this tendency should stop," he added.