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    Volume 8 Issue 55 | January 30, 2009 |

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A Faulty presentation of the Bouri community

Ershad Kamol

Artistes of Theatre Workshops of Chattagram perform in Bedhuya.

Many theatre troupes these days are staging theatre performances featuring the struggles and exploitations of the minority communities. So far, three troupes from outside Dhaka have staged plays on the oppression on the tea-pickers community for the entertainment of the city-dwellers at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy. Bishwabidyalaya Theatre from Rajshahi staged Paital, Bagania Natyasampraday from Moulvi Bazar staged Bagania and Chittagong-based Theatre workshop Chattagram staged Bedhuya in Dhaka.

Interestingly, all of the three plays featuring the struggle of the tea-pickers community are written and directed by Bangalis. Of these plays, actors from the tea-pickers community perform only in Bagania. Bangali actors perform in the other two plays.

Featuring the diverse culture of different ethnic minorities such as Deshwali, Munda, Koiri, Oraon, and Bauri, both the plays Paital and Bagania unveil the stories of oppression on the minority groups and ethnic conflicts as well. On the other hand, Niharendu Kar's play Bedhuya focuses on the exploitation of a woman in a male-dominated society, rather than highlighting any communal conflict.

In fact, the suffering of the protagonist in Bedhuya is universal in any male-dominated society where men take advantage of the helplessness of women. After her separation, Jamuna stays with her father and faces many problems such as her aged father Dashoroth's inability to earn money and the continuous offers made to her by men in her community.

Jamuna is in love with a vagabond named Jishu but cannot express it. A love triangle develops when Jamuna's friend Ganga also falls in love with Jishu.

But, director Tapash Shekhor's composition is not praiseworthy. The traditional culture of the Bauri community has been distorted and wrongly represented in Bedhuya.

Costume confusion: A female artiste wearing traditional Chakma attire to represent the Bauri community.

In many of the scenes in the play the protagonist appears on stage in a Pinon, the traditional attire of the Chakma community of the Chittagong Hill Tracts. On the other hand Jamuna appears on stage in saris like Bengalis. The attire of the male characters except Jishu is an acceptable represention of the Bauri community. In one scene Jishu appears on stage like a traditional baul living in the Southwestern part of the country and renders a Lalon song, though the Bauri community lives in the Northeastern part of the country.

More offensively, dance rituals usually used in urban commercial theatre performances and films have been used to present the traditional performing art forms of the Bauri community.

Before working on a theatre performance featuring some particular community it's expected that the director do an ethnographical study on that community.

Moreover the director should know the technique of hiding 'sceneries' to distinguish one scene from another on a proscenium stage. When the set designer Moslemuddin Shikdar has created a realistic outdoor ambience of a hut at the one corner of the stage, the director should instruct the light designer properly so that the scenery does not appear prominently featuring other scenes like the protagonist's journey to her workstation to pick tea, manager's instructions to the tea-pickers and others to make believe the audience.

The actors have aptly pronounced the dialect of the Bauri community. But, what is missing in their performance is proper emotion and gesture. In most of the scenes the actors except Nazimuddin as Jishu, were monotonous. Most of these actors could not perform from the heart, rather delivered the dialogues on the stage, which is why tension of the scenes were not created properly on stage.

As part of Bangladesh Group Theatre Federation's promotional programmes to encourage theatre troupes from outside Dhaka, Theatre Workshop Chattagram staged Bedhuya at Mahila Samity Stage on January 20.

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