The lesser-known identities of Murtaja Baseer | The Daily Star
11:00 PM, August 25, 2009 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:00 PM, August 25, 2009

The lesser-known identities of Murtaja Baseer


"When I was in class X in 1948, I started writing short stories. I was a student of Bogra Coronation Institution. During that time, I also wrote a play for my class," says one of the leading painters of the country Murtaja Baseer.
Many are perhaps not familiar with Baseer's other identities. Baseer is also a poet, short story writer, novelist, researcher, numismatist and filmmaker.
"I had published a collection of short stories called 'Kanch-er Pakhir Gaan' in 1969. Noted scholar and dramatist Shaheed Munier Chowdhury reviewed it on television," recalls Baseer.
"Munier Chowdhury told me, 'Your skill in narrating conversations is very good. You should write plays," Baseer continues.
Murtaja Baseer is by nature a shy and reclusive person. His poetry is innovative and original. His perception and discoveries form his poems.
"In 1950, I was in jail for involvement with the Communist Party. Abdullah- Al Muti-Sharfuddin, Ali Akshad, noted politicians Bari and Monu Miah were my cellmates. We were in room no 14. During the five months in jail, I wrote poetry. When I'm in jovial mood, I like to paint. When I'm depressed, I like to write," Baseer says.
Baseer's first published poem was "Parbe Na." The poem delved deep into patriotism and socialism. It was included in "Ora Pran Dilo," a compilation of poems on Language Movement, which was published from Calcutta (now Kolkata) in 1952. The cover was designed from a linocut of Somnath Hore, a veteran Indian painter-sculptor. Baseer did not write a single poem for 20 years after that. But his soul was always searching for inspiration.
Reading Baseer's poetry is like undergoing an emotional journey. As a poet, he is a modernist in the whole sense. His style is unquestionably unique, expressive and easily comprehensible. When readings his poems, one feels the yearnings of a lonely soul, unbound sorrow, the vacuum in a melancholic heart. Baseer's poems are voyages into fantasy.
During the Liberation War, Baseer left the country for Paris with his family. Baseer stayed in Paris till June 1973. While in Paris, he studied mosaic and etching at Beaux Arts, a recognised institute. During that period, he wrote 18 poems. Most of the poems are themed on romanticism, patriotism and individualism.
In 1973, Baseer returned to Bangladesh and joined Chittagong University as an assistant professor.
"In 1974, I wrote three poems while working on a mural at Rajshahi University. After that, I was continuously writing poetry. In 1976, my first book with 40 poems, "Trasarenu" came out from Pranamichhil publication house in Dhaka. My second collection of poems, "Tomakei Shudhu" and third book "Esho Phire Anashua" were published in 1979 and 1985. My next volume of poems "Shada Elegy" is waiting to be published," states Baseer.
Baseer has also written novels and was acclaimed for his meticulous style and unique choice of themes. In 1954, he got admitted in an art appreciation course in Kolkata Ashutosh Art Museum. During the time, he wrote a novel, titled "Ultramarine." The novel was based on the contemporary life of Kolkata and the prevailing social dilemmas. Afterwards he wrote two more novels -- "Mitar Shanga Char Shandha" and "Amitakkhar." He has a collection of selected works, "Murtaja Baseer: Murta-O-Bimutra" (2001). He was a regular contributor of some defunct literary journals like "Dilruba," "Samakal" and "Saogat."
Baseer has also worked as a screenplay writer, art director and chief assistant director on the Bangla film “Nadi-o- Nari” in 1964, and as an art director on the Urdu film “Kaise Kahoon” in 1965.
Murtaja Baseer is a numismatist and researcher. In 1987, he received a fellowship from British Council for research on folk and traditional art. In 1988, he visited several museums in Delhi, Kolkata, Banaras and three hundreds villages under nine districts of West Bengal under the fellowship of ICCR (Indian Council for Cultural Relations). His work "Mudra O Shilalipir Aloke Banglar Habshi Sultan O Tothkalin Samaj" was published in 2004. Several articles by Baseer have been published in Journal of the Numismatic Society of India, a prestigious publication.

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