Noted thespian, director and playwright Mamunur Rashid also spearheads Aranyak Natyadal, one of the most popular theatre troupes in Bangladesh. For many in the industry, the veteran artiste is a role model and is credited to have helped many find their break in the showbiz world. In a recent conversation with The Daily Star, the artiste reflects on his memories, past accomplishments and more.
“I completed my SSC from Bolla Coronation High School,” recalls the veteran. “There was a river lined by dumur trees on my walk to school, and during monsoon, flowers would be in full bloom. They looked stunning in the rains, and I was willing to get soaking wet to just catch a glimpse of such beauty.”
Mamunur Rashid, along with his friends would row out a boat into the river which overflowed the banks during monsoon. With plenty of nuts to snack on, they would stop the boat wherever they wished, to just chat and spend quality time together.
He came to Dhaka in 1963. “Back then our capital city was full of paddy fields, just like villages,” recalls Mamunur. “Life was bustling only in Gulistan and Sadarghat. Sadarghat was home to Rupmahal Cinema, where I bought tickets for the first time to watch a film in the city. My friends and I would also gather at Gulistan Cinema Hall whenever there were new releases.”
In the 1960s, he, along with his friends, spent countless evenings chit-chatting at the famed Modhur Canteen. “Before there was Nat Mondol, we bought plates of tehari at Sharif Miya's Canteen for just 8 annas, which would be split and shared between us in pairs. Sharif Miya's Canteen was home to passionate conversations between artistes, which would start from the early hours of the morning and continue till very late at night,” he adds.
When Shahidullah Kaiser lived in Kayettuli, Mamunur Rashid worked on adapting his famous novel, Sangshaptak. “I had produced the theatre adaptation of the novel,” says Mamunur. “I went to Shahidullah Kaiser's house in the morning, where I would read out my work to him. Shomi Kaiser was very young then, and I remember Jahir Raihan would also frequent the house. Each morning, Shahidullah Kaiser and I would indulge in milky, sweet chhana together. This memory is still freshly etched in my mind.”
He eventually formed Aranyak in 1972. Actors Aly Zaker and Subhash Dutt were in the troupe from the start. “We would all gather in Aly Zaker's Rajarbagh residence to catch up and rehearse,” says Mamunur Rashid.
He further spoke about some good memories with his friends. “I have been unfortunate to witness the passing away of many old friends over the years. But on the other hand, I am lucky to have a few remain with me to this day,” asserts the actor, adding that one of his close friends is Nirmalendu Goon. “The two of us, along with the late poet Abul Hossain, lived together in a tiny room in Paribagh at one point. Nirmalendu Goon penned his famous Huliya poem inside that very room.”
The three of them talked into the late hours of the night, and had walked the dark empty streets of Dhaka many times together. “Whenever I look back on my life, these are the memories that float into my mind,” says an immensely emotional Mamunur Rashid.