• Saturday, March 07, 2015

TELEVISION with a touch of heart

Faridur Reza Sagar

Continued from Vol 01 Issue 20

Lights were set up inside the studio and at least three cameras, and the cameras were on tripods. The tripods itself had many tweaks to make life easier for the cameraman.  If any situation arrives that EFP (Electronic Film Production) cameras were not able to be used on a tripod, it could've been carried on shoulder for shot-variations.  Cameramen today find it an easy task to use shoulder-camera but it was a challenging matter back in those days; it was even a matter of joke for some. Ahsan Nawaz Babu and Samir Kushari proved how much variety of shots can be caught on camera if carried on shoulder.

Ahsan Nawaz Babu with Family
Ahsan Nawaz Babu with Family

Following their footsteps, later, another renowned cinematographer Anwar Hossain Bulu presented the viewers a drama written by Tanvir Rana and Directed by Mustafizur Rahman. Samir Kushari performed another dare – he shot drama for fifty minutes straight without ever pausing the camera. During those fifty minutes: set-designs were being changed and characters were changing. For the whole fifty minutes Samir Kushari carried his camera around to different characters on the play without ever stopping the camera. Viewers were amazed to see such a feat.
Samir Kushari proved his bravery again with camera on the day of Ramna Botomul bombing during the Chayanaut event. After the blast, when people were scattered around in fear, Samir Kushari, with his life on the line, never stopped his camera. He managed to capture rare footage of that dreadful incident. He was praised for his courage – Abdun Noor Tushar, in his programme 'Shuveccha' interviewed him regarding the issue. Encouraged by him, cameramen of satellite TV channels; be it a drama or news, never backed off in fear of danger. Other cameramen too were present on the Ramna Botomul bombing. Many of them were hit by bomb splinters, but none stopped their camera. Many were hit by policemen's baton – they had their hands broken, but saved their camera with those broken hands. Much live shocking footage was seen on many TV channels. A similar praise is due to those cameramen too.
It was a challenge for drama actors when shots were taken with only one camera. In studio-shot cameras, delivery of one dialogue was enough for the actors. On the other hand, in outdoor shooting, one dialogue has to be done more than once because the same scene is taken from different angles. To get the facial expression of the second artist, dialogue had to be repeated.
It takes a lot from both artistes and the cinematographers. Even so, Ahsan Nawaz Babu and Samir Kushari used to take time to bring variation to the scenes. Babu has now passed away and is buried in the USA and Samir Kushari is working at BTV. I am sure that Samir remembers that the very first name that used to appear on the end - credits was of the outdoor cinematographer. Viewers always notice the first name after a drama ends. Directors' names still come at the end of credit line. We see the opposite on package dramas – director's name first and outdoor cameraman's name last.   
Since variety was brought into drama through outdoor shooting, a need was felt to do the same for musical programmes. A decision was made to have outdoor shooting of Runa Laila singing. Several meetings were held between technical team and producer/director. The meetings were about: how to lip-synch, which tape recorder to use or spool recorder should be used. There was research whether the singer lip synch will be visible or if there are any possibilities of lag in synch – most importantly, the discussion was about how to bring about variation. Cinematographer Ahsan Nawaz Babu shot five songs. Every day, he used to watch the recorded songs with a VTR. He was the one who figured out that a song had to be recorded three to four times – the singer changes costume few times. Variation in musical programmes came through that process.
To bring the variety in musical programmes, television cameramen and directors have been giving their best for the last forty years. At DIT studio, Mohammad Abdul Jabbar and Zeenat Rehana performed a song that had the word 'sea' in the lyrics. Mustapha Kamal Syed used artists to draw white waves on a black board. That art of the wave was showed in between the songs.
Programmes titled 'Songs in Drama' are often on TV nowadays. But it is hard for many to realize how hard it was for to match lipsynch during the early days of television.
Respected artiste Ferdausi Rahman is still running programmes teaching children to sing. She has been doing it for quite a while with efficiency. It was probably Khan Ataur Rahman who came up with the idea that TV programme can be used to teach singing. For a long time, he hosted and directed the show 'Esho Gaan Shikhi'. Famous singers like Sabina Yasmin and Shahnaj Rahmatullah were discovered through that show. Ferdausi Rahman is still hosting the show with child singers today, with the same the level of dedication and affection Khan Ataur Rahman hosted used to direct the show. The programme included puppets to bring a touch of modernity and most of all to engage children even more. There are many stories about puppets in TV programmes. Mustafa Monwar is the pioneer in the art of puppetry.
During the East Pakistan period, on a special day, a decision was made that Ferdausi Rahman will sing songs of different languages. There was no option to pre-recording songs in those days – neither the video nor the audio part. As director of the programme, Mustafa Manowar was wondering how to bring a change during different languages in one studio set. He himself began to draw different artworks according to language and lyrics. During the live telecast, while each song was about to end, camera zoomed into Ferdausi's face while sets were being replaced behind. Even today, if such idea is even presented to any art director, he will just laugh it off. But, on that day viewers watched Ferdausi Rahman singing songs in Bangla, Urdu, Punjabi, Pashtun, Sindhi, Chinese and Russian in one studio set with backgrounds changing according to the language on the spot.
The very first song Ferdausi Rahman sang for television was Oi je neel holo aaj she shudhu tomar preme, oi je batach bashi holo shudhu amar preme. Renowned lyricist Abu Hena Mustafa Kamal wrote that song, who directed many more musical programmes later. That first song was composed by the famous musician Anawar Uddin Khan. The then President of Pakistan inaugurated television, and Ferdausi Rahman performed that song, with a microphone on the greenery of DIT building's lawn. It was December, wintertime in Bangladesh. Ferdausi Rahman was wearing a red Shawl. At 7:00pm, when she stood in front of the live camera, that red shawl wasn't there. The director told Ferdausi to keep her eye on the camera, and the cameraman, Rafiqul Bari told her, only that camera is on-air that has its red light turned on.
Ferdausi Rahman must've followed those instructions. She must've felt that she was singing directly looking at the viewers, and viewers looking at her too. No furrowed eyebrows and no signals to the instrument players.
We should feel extremely thrilled thinking how Ferdausi Rahman felt that day and how much tension she had to digest performing the first time on television.
There are many technological advances today, but the heartily dedication of the artists and staff of the yesteryears made each programme appealing to the viewers.
to be continued... .............................................................
The writer is Managing Director, Channel i
Translated by Zia Nazmul Islam

Published: 12:00 am Saturday, January 11, 2014

Last modified: 5:24 pm Thursday, January 16, 2014

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