A star of the golden age returns
Returning after 28 years to Dhaka, her home, Mita Chowdhury, the highly talented actress, found out that there has been a radical transformation among the women of her city as well as the rest of the country.
When you are away for such a long time the changes in a society become more apparent to you than for people living in that society. While this transformation is for the better, change has also brought about a lot of challenges.
“Our society has jumped a few stages before embarking on the road to modernity; Bangladesh is still behind in many ways; to cite one example and that in respect of gender equality, the issue of equal inheritance rights for women, going by media reports, certain persons literally foam at the mouth whenever this matter is raised. It's so frustrating that 'Nari Niti' has stalled somewhere. Although the government is trying, things seem to be moving at a snail's pace,” Mita says. She went on to state that men here aren't ready to embrace societal changes while women have been set to take off for a long time now.
Our men need to grow up! Here the role of a mother, a father or a teacher is vital. Instead of pampering a son's ego, he must be taught to respect the other gender, to learn to share chores and to accept the women in his life as equals. Why shouldn't a man take up the broom or iron, or the ladle in the home? Why should there be a sense of shame attached to what are, after all, basic skills. Children, whether girl or boy, should be made aware of the importance of being able to contribute equally to the family and society. They should also be encouraged to acquire the skills that will make them independent individuals. She mentioned that both her son and daughter were brought up in this manner and the fact that they were raised in the West had nothing to do with it. As their mother, she made it a point to get her basics right with her child rearing.
“Since Bangladesh wants to modernise, the young people should know how to cope with it. Today's parents should encourage and support both their daughters and sons to be self-reliant and to be economically independent; lack of life skills will not equip them to be well-rounded members of the modern world.”
While on the topic of modernity in Bangladesh, Mita takes on the issue of young couples in love and sheds a different light on the topic. She said she finds youngsters holding hands in public or going out on dates very much a part of an evolving society. She personally finds it very endearing and natural. But she concedes that somehow there is a lack of maturity on the part of the girls and boys here. On the one hand they find it revolutionary to boldly go out on dates but on the other hand they are not able to respect the relationship code.
“As a result some girls are getting entrapped into unpleasant relationships; I firmly believe that parents should take the initiative to frankly and openly discuss personal relationships with their children. Our society expects women in particular to be ignorant about sexual matters before marriage but the youngsters are living in the modern world and subjected to all manners of external influences. Parents have a duty to explain and at the same time listen to their children. A well-informed young girl will not be exploited or trapped in a vicious relationship. She went on to point out that those who sexually harass and assault do not always get punished because of two factors - a family's reluctance to report such incidents and the non-enforcement of the laws that do exist.
A lot of positive changes have taken place in society here. Just look at the huge number of women entering the productive work-force as employers and employees. But there is still so much more ground to cover to face the modern world out there; we have to enter the 21st century!
Avid reader that she is, she says that the poorest women are better off than the more affluent ones as they have nothing to lose. It is the educated and more well-off women who feel they have more at stake - their social standing, inheritance, children. For Mita, a woman must have her economic independence in order to stand up for her rights.
Reminiscing on the element of the golden age, she feels that people tend to view the past through a rose tinted glass. “People remember me. I can't see myself, so I have to go by what people say. It was a one channel captive audience, there was no other entertainment. It was not about quantity, rather quality mattered. But I also think that the current channels produce some good programmes. A lot has improved and there is greater variety but at the same time there is always room for more improvement. We certainly have the merit and the talent. There are times there is more emphasis on quantity rather than quality. There is a tendency to fill airtime. In a way, that is conning the audience. But the audience's intelligence shouldn't be under-estimated. Poor quality programmes will result in people turning to foreign channels - at the end of the day the people are the best judges.
“Work is now producer driven since sponsors want that new pretty face only. There is also the tendency to film a play without a script and adequate preparation for a role. Actors will lose their motivation and skill. One has to be optimistic however and I believe that ultimately real talent will prevail” she explains. “Initially I was very unsure, not knowing how things would pan out here for me after a gap of 28 years but my friends and mentors -some of whom are brilliant actors- provided me with incredible support and encouragement and I got back into the scene without too much effort,” Mita explains her stance.
Besides acting, Mita Chowdhury is involved with a breast cancer support group. She is a hands-on person and always willing to help in little ways like train new-comers or stage management and so on.
-- LS Desk
Model: Mita Chowdhury
Wardrobe: Personal, red jamdani designed by Dominic Gomes
Styling: Mita Chowdhury
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed