Quintessence of stage creativity
With the slogan, Aai Natoker Ongone, seven new plays, written by young playwrights and directed by young directors, were staged throughout Nagorik Natya Sampradaya’s Notuner Utshab 2019 at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, from November 29 to December 5. We chronically complain about the severe dearth of original plays for our stage, and that in turn, makes us sadly reliant on translations. But this festival clearly endorsed that if incentivised properly, our theatre sector can shine. Nagorik Natya Sampradaya not only undertook and sponsored the project, but also meticulously implemented it. Aly Zaker, Sara Zaker and their team deserve praise for accomplishing this cultural mission and being productive mentors of the event, which was a quintessence of stage creativity.
Kalo Joler Kabbo, the opening play of the festival, is a subtext story, adapted by Pantho Shahriar from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. He metamorphosed Shylock into a Bangladeshi shipbreaker, Bhangari,and set the story inside a huge broken ship. In spite of the implicit disintegration in the storyline, the set, props, lighting and music, the play had a lasting impact on the audience. The cast was remarkably rich with actors like Asaduzzaman Noor, Aupi Karim, Pantho Shariar, Mahfuz Reezvi and Mostafiz Shaheen.
For the biographic play, Radharomon, produced by Shunamganj Proscenium and Bondhon Theatre, the playwright and director Shameem Sagar focused upon the Baul songs composed by Radharomon. With its vast canvas and pervasiveness, the play had a compelling appeal throughout its run. The use of bamboos, local fabrics and a lantern was aesthetically pleasing. With a mix of traditional and contemporary musical and choreographic notes, the play was one of the highlights of the event.
Aakashe Phuiteche Phul - Leto Kahon, written by Dr Ratan Siddiqui, directed by Hridi Haq and produced by Nagorik Natyangon Bangladesh, is a historical and political collage through Leto Gaan, a modification of jatra, combining mingling discourses, songs, dance, and music. Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam had his association with this genre for a long time, which came as a relevant reference in the play. Haq used the scope and space for musicals to full effect in the story. Though the set, light, props, costumes, and music were brilliant, as Leto is has reached its phase of extinction, some of the acting and gestures appeared to be too raw and out of place, for those who are unfamiliar with the genre.
Sayedur Rahman Lypon directed Aruproton, an earlier version of Tagore’s famous play, Raja, on behalf of Porishor. Lypon retold the tale in his own way, by splitting the storyline and putting plenty of Tagore songs in between scenes, which went very well with the temperament of the play. However, many critiqued it as a transformation of a serious play into a musical.
Khoabnama, an acclaimed novel by Akhteruzzaman Elias, was adapted for the stage by Mohammad Showkat Hossain for Prachyanat. The director of the play, Kazi Toufiqul Islam Emon, gave visual shapes to the stream of consciousness narratives in the play, laden with surrealistic images and abstractions, which was challenging for him. The set and light, apart from the costumes, acting and dialects, were good, but the play did not achieve the full effect.
O Mon Pahiya, produced by Monipuri Theatre, constructed and directed by Subhasis Sinha, focused on the deepest desires of the human heart. The play built a bridge between myth and reality by means of the group’s inimitable teamwork and a mix of Monipuri and progressive choreography. The set had its root in moirang motif, the costumes were exploratory, and use of light was engaging.
The last play of the festival, Lottery, written by Siddique Ahmed and Aunup Aich and directed by Mostafiz Shaheen for Mongoldeep Foundation, featured visually-impaired actors, who did wonders on the stage. The dramatuge Sara Zaker, light designer Nasirul Haq Khokon, set designer Junaied Yusuf, music composer Shimul Saiful, designer Joyita, props designer Monira, chorographer Farhad, and other members of the Mongoldeep team, deserve a sweeping applause for their effort.