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     Volume 8 Issue 71 | May 29, 2009 |

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An Authentic Performance of
Samurai Tradition

Ershad Kamol
Photos: Zahedul I Khan

Scenes from Aksho Bosta Chaal.

The last 38 years after independence has seen significant development in Bangladeshi theatre. Though professionalism is still a rarity so far, the diversity of the urban theatre practice in Bangladesh has already drawn the attention of the world. Foreign delegates of the International Theatre Institute (ITI) several times have glorified Bangladeshi theatre.

Last year is significant for our theatre for two reasons: Theatre personality Ramendu Majumdar became the President of ITI Worldwide Committee and a Bangladeshi theatre production has received an international award.

Aksho Bosta Chaal, a joint production by Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, Embassy of Japan, The Japan Foundation and Japan Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, has won the 16th Uchimura Prize 2008. In fact, this is for the first time in the history of our theatre that a Bangladeshi production has won an internationally recognised award competing with four other western countries such as France, USA, Finland and Sweden.

The International Theatre Institute in collaboration with its Japanese Centre, awards the annual Uchimura Prize, introduced in 1992 as homage to Japanese playwright Naoya Uchimura, a former president of the Japanese Centre. The Prize, worth 3000 euros, is endowed by the Uchimura family and rewards a work or activity bearing a relationship to Japanese theatre.

The Award giving ceremony was organised by Bangladesh Centre of ITI on May 23 at the National Theatre Stage of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy. As the chief guest of the programme Information and Cultural Affairs Minister Abul Kalam Azad handed over the prize.

Chaired by ITI President Ramendu Majumdar, Japanese Ambassador Masayuki Inoue, Shilapakala Academy DG Kamal Lohani and General Secretary of Bangladesh Centre of ITI Nasiruddin Yousuff delivered speeches.

Aksho Bosta Chaal is the output of a 10-day workshop on Samurai style conducted by Japanese instructor Shinji Kimura, in which talented young actors from different troupes of Dhaka performed.

Set against the backdrop of the transitional period of 'Shogunate era' to 'Meiji' resurrection, Aksho Bosta Chaal features a chaotic scenario of the post 'Boshin War' (1868-69) when the legendary Japanese warriors, popularly known as Samurai, had to constantly struggle to be financially solvent. As a result, like many other Japanese domains, people of Nagaoka became corrupt.

The protagonist of the play, Kobayashi Torasaburo, the chief counselor of Nagaoka, instead of distributing 100 sacks of rice to the poor Samurai, decides to establish a school. His logic was that the Samurai could not get rid of poverty with the small amount of rice, but if a school is established it would solve their crisis in the long run.

In fact, the play deals with a noble theme: Education can make human beings enlightened. And only the enlightened human beings can keep alive a dream even under the harshest of circumstances. Professor Abdus Selim has translated Aksho Bosta Chaal from the English version of a Japanese written by Yuzo Yamamoto. Golam Sarwar is the director of Aaksho Bosta Chaal.

"We are really proud of the achievement", says Sarwar expressing his reaction to The Star, "The teamwork is our strength."

"After the ten-day workshop conducted by Shinji Kimura, I personally approached the Japanese Embassy to help us produce a play so that the participants can apply the Samurai technique in a theatre performance. They agreed with the proposal", tells Sarwar on the genesis of the theatre production.

Eminent personalities at the award giving ceremony.

In fact, the Samurai technique has been followed in each and every aspect of the production: Directorial composition, acting, costume, make-up, set and light design. "Japanese Embassy again helped us during the final stage of the production by inviting Shinji Kimura for a few days for our technical assistance. It's to be mentioned that Kimura also directed the play for his troupe Suwaraji Gekien in Tokyo. Watching our technical show he became very happy", Sarwar adds.

Faiz Zahir and Junaid Eusuf are the set designers of the play. Thandu Raihan is the light designer and Ahsan Reza Khan Tushar is the music composer.

Set designer Junaid Eusuf, who also plays a major character in the play, says, "Our intention was to design a realistic set keeping the 1870s Japan on mind. And Kimura helped me a lot to overcome the hurdles to perform in a Japanese character."

The Japanese Embassy to Bangladesh hopes to continue such supporting role in the theatre sector. Japanese Ambassador Masayuki Inoue says to The Star, "I'm really impressed by the production performed by Bangladeshi actors. We want to continue such initiatives in Bangladesh by organising training conducted by the Japanese experts for the Bangladeshi theatre practitioners."

In fact, the achievement of winning the Uzimura Prize will encourage the theatre practitioners in Bangladesh to produce more quality theatre performances to keep the momentum going.


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