With much festivity and glamour, Celebrating Life 2017 Gala lived up its promise of a star-studded event. The night began with a soothing performance by the flute ensemble Aaroho lead by Murtaza Kabir Murad. The harmonized symphony embraced the audience with a warm welcome. Soon came to the stage the model-actress Swagata, the emcee of the event, to open the ceremony and greet the audiences present in the hall. Out of nowhere, the actress Nima Rahman appeared on stage, to host the event as well. The confusion between the two emcees led to a slight dispute, only to be halted just in time by the appearance of Rafi Hossain, the Festival Director of Celebrating Life. He made it clear to both the emcees that they were both chosen to host the event, to represent the theme of “diversity”. Since Celebrating Life is a showcase of both the young and the experienced, the emcee combination of Swagata and Nima Rahman served to demonstrate that theme in a rather unexpected yet humorous manner. The applause from the audience certainly indicated the success of such a demonstration.
The two emcees then addressed to the stage Mahfuz Anam, the Editor & Publisher of The Daily Star, for his welcome speech. “A nation can be built in many ways, and culture is an important part of that. A song or a film can invoke emotions in us, and make us see things in ways we didn't think of before,” said Mahfuz Anam. “There are lyricists, film-makers and photographers hidden in the nooks and crannies of Bangladesh, and through this 10-year long initiative, we have given birth to many of these young talents,” he stated the purpose of Celebrating Life. He then discussed the importance of holding onto cultural practice and that we as a nation should emphasize more on the field of creative arts. “There are countless creative artists in this country, and with the help of Standard Chartered Bangladesh, we have been able to put more emphasis into cultural arts. Furthermore, we also honor actors, musicians, singers, photographers, and many other renowned personalities who have tirelessly contributed in these fields with the Lifetime Achievement Awards,” said Mahfuz Anam.
Special documentaries created in honor of the three Lifetime Achievement winners were displayed once the welcome speech had ended. Featuring the works and contributions of Nasir Ali Mamun, Suchanda and Sabina Yasmin, the documentaries paid tribute to these three esteemed personalities as they were eventually welcomed to the stage. The Chief Guest Mr. Hasanul Huq Inu, MP, Hon'ble Minister, Ministry of Information, Government of People's Republic of Bangladesh, and Abrar A. Anwar, CEO of Standard Chartered Bangladesh, were requested to join them on the stage as well. Thus began the Lifetime Achievement Award ceremony, with the awards handed by the Hon'ble Minister Mr. Hasanul Huq Inu, MP. Of course, the award ceremony could not be completed without a few words from the winners themselves.
“The path to being an actor was certainly a long and difficult one,” reminisced Suchanda, the Lifetime Achievement Award winner for Film. “My biggest achievement was being able to not only act, but produce and direct films that have been considered significant in the film scene of this country,” continued the timeless actor, “and of course, the love I have gotten from all my fans have made all these much more worthwhile.” Sabina Yasmin, the Lifetime Achievement Award winner for Music, began her speech by expressing gratitude to The Daily Star and Standard Chartered Bangladesh for hosting an initiative like Celebrating Life.
“I wholeheartedly thank the organizers for giving me such a huge honor. This really means a lot to me,” said the exuberant singer. “While photography in itself is a rather popular practice in Bangladesh nowadays, portrait photography remains to be rather overlooked, and its practice hasn't been that emphasized yet,” said Nasir Ali Mamun, the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award for Photography. He then thanked the organizers for bestowing him with the honor and recognizing his hard work in the field of portrait photography. “With all this love and support, I can hopefully keep moving forward with more future projects in store,” summed up the veteran photographer.
A few other esteemed cultural personalities of Bangladesh were present to share their experiences with this year's Celebrating Life Lifetime Achievement Award recipients. Among them were Syed Hasan Imam, Gazi Mazharul Anwar, Monirul Islam, Alauddin Ali and Mustafa Monwar. They also expressed their thoughts on the current music and film industry, as well as what is needed to improve the practice of cultural arts in Bangladesh. Moreover, they further welcomed Suchanda, Sabina Yasmin and Nasir Ali Mamun for their noteworthy achievement. It was certainly a gesture of respect the esteemed recipients wholeheartedly appreciated.
After honoring the Lifetime Achievement winners, finally began the award ceremony of the Film, Lyrics and Photography competitions. For his newest short film Paperfrogs, Nuhash Humayun grabbed the prize for the Best Debut Film. Salma Moon soon followed with a first-place prize in the Lyrics contest, with Zahangir Alam and Hirendranath Mridha being the first and second runners-up, respectively. Afterwards, the winners of the Photography contest came up on stage. Hasan Mahmud Prottoy was awarded the first place, while Md. Khalid Rayhan Shawon and Ahmad Raquib followed him as the first and second runners-up in the Photography contest. The first, second and third-place awards were given by the Hon'ble Minister Mr. Hasanul Huq Inu, MP, the certificates were handed over by Abrar A. Anwar, CEO of Standard Chartered Bangladesh, and prize money in the form of a cheque was awarded by Mahfuz Anam, the Editor & Publisher of the Daily Star. There were a number of participants being named the Honorable Mention, for which they were given a crest and a certificate as well. All the winning entries of the Photography contest were also granted a place in the 2018 Calendar to be prepared by Standard Chartered Bangladesh.
“There aren't too many events in Bangladesh which honor esteemed cultural personalities, but the need for such initiatives are paramount,” stated the Chief Guest Mr. Hasanul Huq Inu, MP, Hon'ble Minister, Ministry of Information, Government of People's Republic of Bangladesh. “A successful nation cannot be built without nurturing culture, so I appreciate this initiative that The Daily Star and Standard Chartered have taken.” Abrar A. Anwar, who has always played an important part in making Celebrating Life a success, of which the last three years were under his tenure, also came up to the stage to thank the Chief Guest Mr. Hasanul Huq Inu, Mahfuz Anam, the Editor & Publisher of The Daily Star, and everyone involved in making Celebrating Life a success every year. “The theme this year, diversity in Bangladesh, is something we try to encourage in our organization. Diversity is everywhere, and it shows beauty in just about everything around us,” stated Abrar A. Anwar. “Commercial activity isn't enough. Sustainable relationship with the community is critical for our success as well,” he further added.
The night eventually wrapped itself up with performances by esteemed singers, as well as promising young musicians. Rezwana Choudhury Bannya took the stage with her wonderful Rabindra Sangeet. Shafi Mondol followed with his famous folk songs and after him Adit, Dola and Bammy shook the stage with the song Ruposhi Bangladesh, a rendition of a winning entry of the Lyrics contest. A chorus team lead by Sandhi consisted of talented young singers which included Joy Shahriar, Wakil Ahad, Nadia Dora, Joyita, Aanchal, Nandita and Sadi. They sang Lokkho Praner Binimoye, also based on another winning entry. Celebrating Life 2017 Gala came to a close after an exciting performance by Xefer.
It is often said how young talents in this country are overlooked by the general populace due to the lack of a proper platform. Individuals attempting to develop a career in experimental film-making, photography or lyric-writing are seldom able to properly express themselves due to a notable lack of opportunities. Celebrating Life, starting from 2008, arrived on scene to remedy this issue. With its 10th year being successfully celebrated through the prestigious Celebrating Life 2017 Gala, it is now clearer than ever that Celebrating Life will keep going on its path to success and glory for years to come.
By Shams Rashid Tonmoy
Winner of the Best Debut Film of Celebrating Life 2017
Nuhash Humayun for Paperfrogs
Winners of the Lyrics Contest of Celebrating Life 2017
Salma Moon (1st Place)
Zahangir Alam (First Runner-up)
Hirendranath Mridha (Second Runner-up)
Sejuti Lima (Honorable Mention)
Md. Golam Rabbani (Honorable Mention)
Moniruzzaman Palash (Honorable Mention)
Rana Masud (Honorable Mention)
Hijol Jobayer (Honorable Mention)
Winners of the Photography Contest of Celebrating Life 2017
Hasan Mahmud Prottoy (1st)
Md. Khalid Rayhan Shawon (First Runner-up)
Ahmad Raquib (Second Runner-up)
Pankaj Sikder (Honorable Mention)
Shamim Shorif Susom (Honorable Mention)
Neamul Hasan (Honorable Mention)
Salim Rahman (Honorable Mention)
Pranesh Chakma (Honorable Mention)
Mofrad Hossain (Honorable Mention)
Muhammed Shaiful Islam (Honorable Mention)
Md. Hasan Koraishi (Honorable Mention)
Sabina Akter (Honorable Mention)