Revisiting 9 months of the Liberation War with ‘Battle of Bangladesh’
Echoing gunshots and rattling rifles took over the stage as marching, helpless, and unaware Bangla speakers first encountered the brutality of the Pakistani Army on March 25, 1971. Amidst fluttering lights, roaring grenades and the dead, some were silenced and some still left with a couple of breaths. They were lying, drenched in blood. This is how Bangladesh Ballet Troupe's dance drama "Battle of Bangladesh" began at the National Theatre Hall of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy.
The dance recital was first staged in 1972 on the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's 'Joliot-Curie Peace Award' event.
Written, directed and choreographed by Ekushey Padak and Shilpakala Padak awardee Amanul Huq, the play projected the nine-month long journey of Bangladesh's Liberation War.
"Through this dance recital, we want to spread the spirit of the war into the new generation and reignite the patriotic spirit," he shares. Forsaking the necessity of words, the 32 performers performed through their facial expressions, travelling from March to April and finally, ending with the victorious celebratory dance in December.
Travelling through the period, the dancers went on to project the culture of Bangladesh. They presented people from various walks of life by beautifully taking one role at a time in a domino effect, be it a farmer, a fisherman, a blacksmith, a potter, or simply just a bunch of adolescent girls looking to enjoy a swim in the nearby pond, chit chatting and giggling as they walked joyfully along the green relishes of 'Polli' Bangla.
The ambience soon takes a turn when three military officials with dreadful eyes, dressed in khakee uniforms, enter the stage. Their stamping toes resonate with the flow of the journey as frightful incidents are reborn on the stage – a mother's agony for losing her only child, a daughter's scream as her father gets shot down right in front of her eyes, and a Biranganona's cry that merges in darkness as not a soul is left for her to rebel.
Supported with light and sound by A K Borhanuddin, the chief adviser of Bangladesh ballet troupe, the play's music compliments the altering mood of the overall story. With limited prop use, the focus of the audience stays fixated on the performers' faces, body gestures, and their stage positions.
"Amanul Huq is one of the pioneering figures in theatre, building up his legacy on themes like patriotism, responsibilities that each Bangladeshi should not hesitate to take up on their shoulders, and preaching the history of our liberation to the younger generations," he mentions. "This production plays a vital role in his mission, and leaves not just his audience but also his peers from the Bangladesh Ballet Troupe a lot to learn from."
The choreography, especially during the Victory Day act, teleports the audience back into a joyous mood.
"We are a free country with our own culture, economy, and social values which are different from other nations. We have to establish our own cultural values, embedding the spirit of liberation in our hearts. Keeping our motto for this year's Ganga Jamuna cultural festival, we are pleased to have the opportunity to showcase this production for the 104th time," adds Amanul Huq.
"Battle of Bangladesh" looks to recreate the historic significance of Bangladesh's struggle for liberation. The production successfully strikes a chord with its spectators, especially the ones who are willing to dive into the roots of Bangladeshi culture, and explore its sacrifices.