Vol. 5 Num 523 Wed. November 16, 2005  

Jahanara Ahmedís four decades on small screen

To TV viewers Jahanara Ahmed is synonymous with a mother figure. Not only does she by and large play the roles of a mother, she has the attributes of gentleness, compassion and a maternal instinct towards her co-actors.

According to Jahanara, "I really enjoy this persona. To be frank, I established the image intentionally. When I received numerous offers to play the role of a heroine, my children were growing up. I didn't want them to see me as a heroine engaged in romantic conversations with my heroes or dancing and singing with them. So, I chose to act as a mother."

Jahanara joined Bangladesh Betar in 1962 through a live programme Jibontika. After a few days she acted in her first radio play directed by Kazi Khaleq. After the launching of BTV in 1964, she was selected as a TV announcer. However, she refused the offer, because of poor technical support. Later, she acted in a TV play directed by Mominul Haque as the central character of that play. And that was the beginning. After that play she has acted in many popular serials and plays on TV, including Shokal Shondhya, Shangshaptak, Shuktara, Ramer Shumoti, Purono Baksho, Ashamapto Kahini, Amader Shontanera, Kuhelika, Chokher Bali and Bela Abela.

Reminiscing on her career, Jahanara recalls acting in the TV play, Interview thrice over: once when the BTV programmes used to be telecast live from DIT Bhaban, the second time a few days later. Finally, in the late 1990s she re-enacted the part for the third time because it had earned huge popularity.

Going back down memory lane, Jahanara still feels melancholy when she recalls the death of her co-artiste Altaf. "It was in the late 1980s. In the play Kuhelika, I played the zamindar's wife while Altaf enacted the role of my employee. We had finished our shooting for the day at midnight. We were supposed to return early in the morning and begin shooting. The next morning when I came to the studio I learnt that Altaf had died the previous night." Another poignant memory is Altaf's request for a sandwich that night because he was hungry. He died at 3 am. "He could not complete the last play of his life," says a visibly moved Jahanara.

Jahanara Ahmed is also popular for her role in the comic drama series Jabbar Ali directed by Amjad Hossain. She vividly recalls the day when she first acted in this play. A feather in her cap is a compliment by director Mustafizur Rahman on her ability to speak in a local dialect fluently and clearly. Jahanara has been acting in the series for last 32 years on the occasion of the Eid-ul-Fitr.

About the recent trend of TV plays, Jahanara says, "The technical support has been strengthened and so has the quality. However, I feel that he artistes don't work with complete dedication. Sometimes they go through their roles in a hurry. This is understandable because they receive so many offers and have a packed schedule. In my view, they should take on less work to assure quality performances."

Jahanara has acted in a feature film, Dui Digantey directed by Obaydul Haque. Unfortunately she could not continue acting in films because of familial objections. Nevertheless she is a popular playwright on radio. She has written many popular plays for radio on social issues including Bashona, Badhon, Moho, Drishti, Ma, Naydanda, Chhobol, Mrittikar Alingan, Atithi and Anandadhara.

Jahanara's dream is to play the roles of a visually impaired person and a mentally challenged character. Her claim to fame, in the meanwhile, is her enactment of immortal characters on the small screen.

(R-L) Jahanara Ahmed with a co-artiste and Bulbul Ahmed in the TV play Shupatrer Shondhaney