From my real life experience I have learned, and that too has been a real hard learning, that fraternizing with celebrities initiates a lot of mortifying situations. I am an offstage person, and when I use the term offstage I mean it denotatively, for I never be onstage although I work essentially for the stage—I write and translate stage plays. So one can rightly guess I have to mingle with stage and also television and movie celebrities – many of whom are my good friends too. I even talk to, and associate and socialize with them regularly. The irony is more often than not I have to take the brunt of fraternizing with them, and there are multidimensional hassles that I go through.
First, take the example of visiting a place with the accompaniment of a celebrity or celebrities, be it to an art exhibition, theater house or a coffee-shop. Being an offstage person as I savouringly as well as proudly indulge in chitchats and laughter with them some youths of both sexes (often some very adult females/males too), who start eying them hungrily to seize the right opportunity to get exclusive selfie-shots with their smartphones. When actually they get to do snaps, they obviously consider me either a stranger or intruder, or even perhaps a good-for-nothing sycophant. They obviously cut me out from the frame, and I feel irreparably slighted and left out.
Secondly, most of the cultural correspondents, both print and electronic, are magnetized by the big names so much so that they all hypnotically rush towards them whenever they have any opportunity, even if those celebrities have had nothing to do with the event or occasion the reporters are supposed to cover. One of my experiences was like this: this young journalist came to the premiere show of one of my very well known translated playas, Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children (Himmotima). Next morning, to my utter dismay, I found out in the newspaper both the directorial and translation credit-lines of the play were given to the big name only because he directed the play.
Thirdly, I am often asked by many theater groups to participate in seminars or discussion meetings as paper presenter or discussant. I even do moderations occasionally. But many a time I have noticed cultural correspondents conveniently omit my name as I sound disgustingly unfamiliar to them. I have even marked many reporters write the names of the celebutantes who were not even present in the seminars or meetings deliberately eliminating their unheard of names. They do it because they do not often attend these seminars or meetings personally, instead they copy the names of the paper presenters/discussants from the invitation cards or press-releases released well in advance.
Fourthly, I wish to add one of my very personal anecdotes here to log the kind of embarrassments non-celebrities often go through fraternizing with celebrities. Only last month one of my translated plays Dear Liar premiered. A reporter of a Bangla daily called me for a write up not knowing that I translated the play, only because he was instructed by the celebrity-actor of the play to do so. Obviously he was not familiar with my name. As we talked over phone it also revealed (though not very surprisingly) to me that he had no knowledge of the fact that my name had anything to do with the translator of the acclaimed legendary play Galileo by Bertolt Brecht, which has been revived by Nagorik after almost twenty years. Like most of the cultural correspondents he too was more carried away by the big names of the actors of the play – Aly Zaker and Asaduzzaman Noor – never bothering to know the name of the translator.
But there are occasional windfalls too. It so happens that out of pity many admirers of these celebrities while taking selfies or photographs invite me into their frames. But that is much more humiliating than being slighted or left out, for I suffer from the feeling of being an unbidden person all the same. But I find solace by telling myself, after all we are the celebrity makers if not the celebrities themselves, for we playwrights and translators make them speak the dialogues that help them become celebrities. One has to seek some kind of comfort someway or other, doesn't one?
The writer is a theatre activist, playwright and theatre critic. He is also a Bangla Academy awardee for translation.