Vol. 5 Num 536 Tue. November 29, 2005  

Theatre Awards
Plaudits for talent

November 27 is the birth anniversary of Martyr Muneir Cowdhury. To mark the day, Theatre, a leading theatrical troupe of the country, conferred two awards Martyr Muneir Chowdhury Award and Zakaria Smrity Padak to Nikhil Sen and Aminur Rahman Mukul respectively at Mahila Samiti Stage. Theatre personality Abdullah Al Mamun handed over the awards to the recipients, while Ramendu Majumdar delivered the welcome speech. The Editor of The Daily Sangbad, Bazlur Rahman was the chief guest while theatre personality Ataur Rahman was the special guest. Professor Kabir Chowdhury was chairperson at the award giving ceremony.

The Martyr Muneir Chowdhury Award was introduced in 1989 in memory of the martyred intellectuals during the Liberation War. The aim is to honour the senior theatre activists or organisations of the country for their lifetime achievement in theatre. Mohammed Zakaria was the first to bag the prestigious award in 1989.

The Zakaria Smrity Padak was introduced in 1997 to encourage promising theatre activists of the country. The award is instituted in memory of the late pioneering theatre activist Mohammed Zakaria, who made a tremendous contribution to theatre since 1944. Ahmed Iqbal Haidar, a theatre actor-director and organiser of Chittagong, was the first to receive the Zakaria Smrity Padak in 1997.

The Daily Star talks to the awards winners.

Nikhil Sen
The award is a landmark for Nikhil Sen, as it is the first time that a district level theatre activist is being honoured for his contribution to theatre.

He is the founder member of the Barisal Shilpi Sangsad, formed in 1951. In 1953 he formed a theatre troupe named Barisal Theatre.

Since 1941, he has dedicated himself to cultural activities, especially theatre and recitation in Barisal. To quote Nikhil, "Most of the theatre activists as well as recitors in Barisal are my disciples. I am the chief of Barisal Natok, a local theatre troupe. So far I have directed 28 stage plays, of which Manoj Mitra's Shajano Bagan, Momotaz Uddin Ahmed's Nildarpan and Mamunur Rashid's Ora Kadam Ali got plaudits from the audience."

What is his reaction to the latest award? Nikhil says, "Earlier I received many prestigious awards like the Bangladesh Group Theatre Federation Reception in 1999, District Shilpakala Academy Reception in 1996 and others. However, none of these awards is as prestigious as the Martyr Muneir Chowdhury Award. This will be a boost to my cultural activities even at this age."

Commenting on the current theatre scenario in Barisal, Nikhil says, "As many as 11 theatre troupes like Kheyali, Shabdabali, Barisal Natok and others have been regularly staging plays. Like in other districts, a shortage of halls is the major problem in Barisal. The only theatre hall Ashwani Kumar Hall is not an ideal one for staging plays. Moreover, audience turnout is low inspite of the fact that there is a sizeable number of artistes. If they had better infra structural support as well as training they could have done even better."

Aminur Rahman Mukul
Young talent Aminur Rahman Mukul is the winner of the Zakaria Smrity Padak-2006 for his contribution to theatre. Besides the prestigious Zakaria Smrity Padak, earlier this year Mukul has received two more awards -- Tanusree Padak provided by Natyadhara and SM Solaiman Smrity Padak awarded by the Theatre Art Unit.

Asked for his response, Mukul, the head of Palakar, an alternative theatre troupe, said, "It has had a mixed impact on me. This year I have won three awards. Understandably people in Bangladesh ask why I have been awarded three laurels in a year. However, I believe the awards will force me to contribute more to theatre."

What's the secret behind winning three awards in a year? In Mukul's words, "I believe the secret behind receiving the awards is my organisational skill related to my troupe Palakar. Besides BGTF based mainstream theatre practice, Palakar has successfully introduced the 'studio theatre' movement in Dhaka without taking any funds, which I believe, is a contribution to our theatre movement. Studio theatre is practiced only in few universities, but Palakar has taken the concept to the masses. I am still learning and I am not yet satisfied with my endeavour in theatre."

So far Aminur Rahman Mukul has directed 12 full-fledged stage plays for different district level troupes including Dhaka City. Of these plays only Mangula is a Palakar production. Others are the productions of different district level troupes. "I have directed plays produced by different district level theatrical groups, including those from Chittagong, Sylhet, Khulna, Tangail and Sirajganj. In Dhaka, besides my troupe Palakar, I have directed plays produced by Dhaka Natya Niketan and Theatre Centre," says Mukul.

Mukul is also a playwright. He writes street plays and studio plays. His street play, Tair Alir Buke Miju Munshir Pao, a satire on contemporary politics, has won appreciation.

In addition, Mukul has designed the set and light for different productions. Mukul says, "My set design for the play Sampannyaya, a Uttaradhikar production, has got appreciation. So far, I have designed the set for nine plays, including Nurul Diner Sharajibon, when Nagotrik Natya Sampradaya reproduced it. Besides, I have done the light design for four stage plays."

Award winners Nikhil Sen (R) and Aminur Rahman Mukul at the event. PHOTO: STAR