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     Volume 8 Issue 79 | July 24, 2009 |

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Remembering the Maestro

Ershad Kamol

Photo: Nasir Ali Mamun

Urban theatre took a remarkable turn after the country was liberated. Noted theatre personality Abdullah Al Mamun, ushered in what is known as the neo-theatre movement. The multifaceted talent was a successful playwright, skilled director and a master actor in our theatre. Moreover, he was an exceptional filmmaker and director cum playwright of TV plays. He had held many important positions such as the DG of National Institute of Mass Communication (Nimco) and Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy. For his remarkable contribution in almost every medium of performing arts, Abdullah Al Mamun has bagged many prestigious awards including the Ekushey Padak, National Award for best film director and screen playwright and Bangla Academy Award.

To celebrate the birth anniversary of the versatile genius, which was on July 12 last, Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy and Theatre jointly organised a weeklong Abdullah Al Mamun festival at the academy. The festival began on July 10 featuring staging of theatre performances, screening films and documentaries, exhibitions and seminars.

Nine plays written by Abdullah al Mamun-- Spordha, Shapath, Subachan Nirbashoney, Bibishab, Shenapati, Tritio Purush, Mike Master, Ekhon Dushsamay and Meraj Fakir-er Ma -- were staged at the festival.

Many of these plays are popular productions, however, a few are less popular. But all of them are social satires addressing ongoing social turmoil. The disappearing spirit of Liberation War in the contemporary society, class struggles, lack of care for the elderly, these are some of the themes he has worked with.

Three plays were staged by Mamun's troupe Theatre. The rest were staged by other troupes directed by young and prominent directors of the country giving the audience some new interpretations of Mamun's plays.

Scenes from Shapath, Bibishab and Meraj Fakir-er Ma.

Theatre's production Spordha, directed by Abdullah Al Mamun, features a common problem in the society: lack of care for the elderly people in the family life. Meraj Fakirer Ma, another production of the troupe and directed by the playwright, satirizes fanatics, who twist religious doctrines for their own benefit. Theatre also staged Mamun's play Mike Master, directed by young member of the troupe Farhad Zaman Polash. Class struggle is the theme of the play.

Directed by young director Arif Haider, Mamun's play Spordha, a Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy production, delivers an anti-war message. Most of the characters of the play are symbolic. The names of the characters in the play are supernatural: Biswa (world), Mahakal (eternity), Shurjo (sun), Batash (air), Mrittika (soil), Akash (sky), Shanti (peace) Juddho (war). In the play, an optimistic Mamun has portrayed the victory of peace over war. Young actors from different troupes and freelance actors performed in the play.

Three young directors-- Nadejda Farzana Moushumi, and Aminur Rahman Mukul have directed Mamun's plays Shubochan Nirbashoney, Tritiyo Purush and Bibishab for their respective troupes Rupankar, Department of Theatre and Music of Dhaka University and Palakar.

In the popular social satire Shubochan Nirbashoney, written by Mamun in the early stage of his career, the playwright has addressed how mere noble words have no impact on the society, since everybody has deviated from rational thought. Featuring a triangular love affair in Tritio Purush addresses the hypocrisy by some people who did not take part in the Liberation War, however, claims themselves as freedom fighters. In the play he has shown that such notorious people have taken major benefits after the Independence. And Bibishab depicts the struggles of a middle class woman. Set against the post Liberation War era, Mamun shows the rehabilitation of the Pakistani collaborators.

Centre for Asian Theatre has presented Mamun's play Shenapati, directed by Ahsan Reza Khan under the supervision of noted director Kamaluddin Nilu, which satirises the practice of the sycophancy that is responsible for the exploitation of the underprivileged class. Class struggle is also the theme of Ekhon Dushsamay, directed by seasoned director Ataur Rahman. Nagarik Natya Sampradaya staged the play at the festival.

Nagarik Natya Samproday’s presentation of Ekhon Dushsamay.

Besides staging these plays, the festival also featured screening of three full-length feature films--Sareng Bou, Dui Jibon and Ekhoni Shamoy-- documentaries and video plays made by Mamun. Two new documentaries made by the young directors-- Nadejda Farzana Chowdhury and Dildar Hossain-- on the late playwright will also be screened during the festival. Two seminars, exhibition of photographs, books, manuscripts and personal articles of Abdullah Al Mamun were also included in the festival.

Abdullah Al Mamun: Mamuner Natoke Shomoshomoy and Abdullah Al Mamun: Bekti O Sroshta were the titles of two seminar at the festivals. Dr. Soumitra Shekhar, a teacher of Department of Bangla of Dhaka University, presented the keynote paper at the former seminar.

Analysing Mamun's plays, Dr. Shekhar in his keynote paper has focused on the maestro's development as a playwright and themes of Mamun's plays at the different period. As response to the change of the society, Mamun has focused on different issues in his social satires, states the keynote paper. At the other seminar, presided over by noted theatre personality Ramendu Majumdar theatre activists of the country such as Ferdausi Majumdar, Mafidul Haque, Saleq Khan, Joitsna Biswas, Dr. Israfeel Shaheen, Zahid Ripon and others discussed on Abdullah Al Mamun, however, no paper was presented at the seminar.

Convener of the festival Ramendu Majumdar claims the festival as a success. "Since the objective of this festival is to generate interest in Mamun's plays among this generation of directors, actors, theatre activists and enthusiasts, we invited many renowned and young directors of these days to direct his plays at the festival. Their interpretations of Mamun's plays and the presence of the young people at the shows indicate that Mamun's will be practiced countrywide in future" he comments.

Actors of Theatre perform in Spordha.

On his future plans the President of International Theatre Institute (ITI) Ramendu Majumdar informs that to promote Bangladeshi playwrights internationally ITI will publish a translation of selected 10 Bangla plays by the contemporary playwrights into English.

Photos: Mumit M

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