Mustafa Monwar is an eminent Bangladeshi artist, painter, sculptor, puppeteer, TV and radio programme director, producer, performer, and a professor of the Department of Drawing and Painting at the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka. He is currently the chairman of Bangladesh Shishu Academy.
Born on September 1, 1935, Monwar is the son of poet Golam Mustafa. He passed his matriculation exam from Narayanganj Government High School and was initially admitted to the Scottish Church College of the University of Calcutta where he studied Science. Following the advice of author, Syed Mujtaba Ali, he transferred to the Government College of Art and Craft, Kolkata, from where he graduated after obtaining best results in his class.
Monwar started his career as a lecturer at the East Pakistan College of Arts and Crafts. Later, he joined Bangladesh Television as its director general. He served as the director general of the Shilpakala Academy, and the National Media Institute. He also served as a managing director of the FDC.
During the Liberation War, he organised puppet shows at the refugee camps in West Bengal to boost the morale of refugees who had fled the conflict, and to bring back laughter in their lives. He continued to touch people's hearts with his puppet plays like Agachha, Rakkhash and A brave farmer. His most popular play, Agachha, draws a parallel between unwanted weed and the Pakistani oppressors.
Known as the 'Puppet Man of Bangladesh', Mustafa Monwar has always believed that this medium could be an ideal one to spread social messages in the country. Instead of focusing on show and pomp, he has always depended on simple designs as his puppets are made with wood, clay and cloth.
Such was the popularity of his puppet shows that American documentary filmmaker Lear Levin visited Bangladesh to make a film on his puppets. These scenes were later added to director Tareque Masud's noted film Muktir Gaan.
His teleplays include the Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare and Raktokorobi by Rabindranath Tagore. The noted Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray lauded Monwar for his crafty use of stage design and the atmospheric aspect of his television productions.
Mustafa Monwar is also working towards reviving folk stories and children's tales through puppetry. He has already showcased his own interpretations of Hans Christian Andersen's The Nightingale, and The Ugly Duckling.
The beloved pupeteer's fame has spread outside the country; he is the Bangladesh representative of the Denmark-based International Puppet Development Centre. He has received national and international awards, including one for graphic design in an All India Fine Arts competition in 1957. He received the Joinul Abedin Gold Medal for "his outstanding contribution to painting", and was awarded the Ekushey Padak in 2004.