Vol. 5 Num 263 Tue. February 22, 2005  

A play on a pioneer theatre artiste

Some theatregoers have a scant knowledge of the era when urban theatre in a European form was introduced in the subcontinent during British rule. In those days, harlots performed the female characters since women from a conservative background were not allowed to act in theatre. Binodini Dasi, an actress with a dark past, made tremendous contribution to our theatre in the 19th century.

Dhaka Theatre presented the premiere show of Binodini Dasi's autobiography- based narrative Binodini, recently at the Mahila Samity Stage. It was a solo performance by Shimul Yousuff. Before the show, Nasiruddin Yousuff, the chief of Dhaka Theatre, said that through the premiere show of Binodini, the troupe commemorates the martyrs of the Language movement.

Simon Zakaria, with guidance from Selim Al Deen, Nasiruddin Yousuff and Shimul Yousuff, has dramatised Binodini. During the dramatisation, Simon has used two autobiographies by Binodini Dasi-- Aamar Kotha and Aamar Abhinoy Jibon, several poems written by Binodini and a few reference books on this pioneering female theatre artiste of the subcontinent.

Simon Zakaria has adapted these elements well. He has successfully conveyed the feelings and emotions of Binodini Dasi, in course of her performance in different characters. He has narrated some concealed facts like the struggle of the artiste throughout her life, the deception that she faced, and an overall view of the commercial theatre of that time.

Shadhu Bhasha (Formal Language) has been used as the language of the play.

Through the narrative of the artiste, director Nasiruddin Yousuff has unfolded the autobiography of Binodini. He has used a combination of narration, dialogue, dance, songs and physical movements. As it was a solo performance, for the transformation of a single artiste from one character to another, Yousuff followed the indigenous palagaan form. In some flashbacks, that reveal some remarkable performances by Binodini Dasi in the 19th century theatre, Nasiruddin has used a curtain in the shape of proscenium arch opening.

Kamaluddin Kabir has created an artistic metal-made stagecraft. A huge circle at the backstage and few figures symbolically present the inner world of the pioneer artiste Binodini Dasi.

However, the light design by Ishrat Nishat needs to be developed. It was often difficult to capture the expressions and gestures of solo performer Shimul Yousuff. Lighting cues failed to follow the acting cues. More symbolic light effects could have been used.

Shimul, clad in eye-catching attire, excelled herself in the songs, dance and choreography. She effectively expressed Binodini's emotion. However, she could not maintain equal skill while playing the male character.

Dhaka Theatre's production Binodini is dedicated to three prominent late female theatre artistes of the subcontinent-- Tripti Mitra, Keya Chakravarty and Najma Anwar.

Shimul Yousuff performs a solo act in Binodini