Postcard from Khulna
Saba El Kabir
WE are happy to report that the 12 district festival tour of Celebrating Life 2009 is currently in full swing. After visiting Bogra and Rongpur in May, we took a brief hiatus in July. We have recently returned from our trip to Khulna and in the upcoming months, we are going to up the tempo of these district tours until the finale show in Dhaka in October. For those of our readers that are still in the dark about Celebrating Life, despite our most zealous efforts to ensure the contrary, this is a competition organised jointly by the Daily Star and Standard Chartered, Bangladesh. It is a composite competition, inviting entries across three categories, film (documentary and fiction), photography, and lyrics. It was first organised in 2008, and after the overwhelming amounts of response we received last year, we were obligated to have it again this year. Participation this year again was very encouraging, in terms of both numbers and content. Judging has already begun, but we have found that one of the tradeoffs of a truly democratic and impartial judging system is the speed of decision making; those who have participated, please bear with us for the moment and keep watching this space.
The idea behind this year's 12 district festival tour was twofold. First, we were so proud of our winning entries that it was entirely impossible for us not to give in to urge to show off the talents we have come upon. Second, we wanted to share the spirit of Celebrating Life, the celebrations and the festivities with not just Dhaka, but the nation at large, but having to tamper our ambitions with the logistical possibilities, we have decided on a list of 12 districts. Of course, with the task of spreading the celebrations and festivities we needed some expert help, and we are extremely lucky to have the likes of Fahmida Nobi and Tazeen Ahmed, our merry band of musicians, and the dance crew lend their collective star powers to our plight.
After the festivals in Bogra and Rangpur, we went to Khulna on the 21st of July. The day long festival kicked off with the screening of winning documentary films of Celebrating Life 2008. Unfortunately, attendance turnout to the screening tended towards the low. When we asked the locals about the turnout, inclement weather was mentioned, as was the date being a working day. All fair comments. However, this correspondent caught whiffs of a rather more devious suggestion doing the rounds among the crowd: documentaries are not exactly classical Bollywood fair. None the less, the movies were played out for a relatively small but appreciative crowd.
The film screening was followed by a roundtable discussion chaired by Mahfuz Anam, Editor of the Daily Star, and attended by eminent personalities of Khulna from all walks of lives. Later in the afternoon, Mahfuz Anam inaugurated a weeklong photo-exhibition, consisting of selected photographs from last year's Celebrating Life at the Khulna Press Club. The attendance was enthusiastic and many aspiring photographers were seen taking photographs of the photographs.
In the evening came the main attraction of the festival, the concert headlined by Fahmida Nobi. It kicked off with a musical performance by a group of Khulna based artists, and they left the stage with the audience clamouring for more. Queue the dancers, and their usual lively performance of beautifully choreographed dance routines based on tunes from Celebrating Life 2008. By the time the dancers finished with their routine, the audience were ready for the expecting the star of the show, which is exactly what they got, right after hosts of the evening, our very own Rafi Hossain and the lovely Tazeen Ahmed, joined by Mahfuz Anam on stage, took the opportunity to propagate the Celebrating Life credo: celebrating life begins with celebrating self. It was evident that the audience took this message to their hearts.
The loudest cheer of the evening was inevitably reserved for the entrance of Fahmida Nobi. The crowd was already worked up by the by the previous acts, but the power of her popular melodies, her inimitable voice and her ability to draw the entire audience as a singular into her performances sent the audience on to new highs on the night. The night hit fever pitch when she had the entire stage flooded with member of the audience, dancing and grooving along with her songs. By this point she was quite literally running the risk of bringing the house down. The band was also in fine form, asserting their identity in each of Fahmida Nobi's songs, but not overwhelming the audience with their energy and their gusto.
Next up for the Celebrating Life Festival Tour is Rangamati, and if Khulna, Bogra or Rongpur is anything to go by, you might want to book you tickets in advance.
(R) thedailystar.net 2009