Lifetime Achievement Awards
“Never look back on your own culture”
Of all the great personalities in the media of Bangladesh, Mustafa Monwar stands out. The word artistic or imaginative does not do justice to the man's talents and accomplishments. He is truly a beacon of inspiration for artists of Bangladesh and its neighbouring countries. Currently in his early 70s, Mustafa Monwar remains energetic and outspoken as ever. He is a puppeteer, artist, director and producer of television programmes and author of screenplays; and above all, he is a man who loves Bangladeshi culture and tradition.
The Daily Star and Standard Chartered Bank are honored to name him the Lifetime Achievement Winner of Celebrating Life 2010 in the Film/Television category. He has been awarded numerous times for his many contributions to Bangladesh and its people. He has received the 'Ekushey Podok' and the Joinul Abedin Gold Medal for his outstanding contribution to painting. For his powers of visualization and crafty use of stage design in television productions, Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray lauded Mustafa Monwar.
Mustafa Monwar has been involved with the Bangladesh television for the last 25 years, first as producer and later as program director. Notun Kuri was his invention. 'Rokto Korobi', 'Streer Potro', 'Mukhora Romoni Boshiporon', 'Mukto Dhara', 'Nodir Onek Naam' 'Dak Ghor', etc. are some of the dramas that represent his best directions. He thinks the level of the dramas have fallen since single dramas are produced less nowadays; although, a few young directors have brought changes in drama production.
Working with children is Mustafa Monwar's source of joy and inspiration. He started a children's program based on puppets called 'Moner Kotha' which has been aired on television for 15 years. Since, he believes that our country's folk tales, poems and songs are losing their grip on the public's thoughts; he has tried to revive them through his puppet show. He said “To the young generation, I say never look away from your own culture. If you are unaware of your own culture, you will not be able to understand how rich our culture is.” In a country where literacy is low, and rural students do not have proper access to educational resources, a puppet show that puts forth strong messages and social values carries a strong positive impact.
“Rabindranath understood perfectly well how rich and diverse our culture is. If we read his novels and writings properly then we will see how complete and cogent our culture is. Some people say that our culture is being influenced by the western culture. But if we are aware of whom we are, being exposed to other cultures should not be able to alter our culture itself. Learning and being a part of other cultures should not necessarily cause a change in our own ways of life,” he added.
Mustafa Monwar was very appreciative about way The Daily Star and Standard Chartered Bank is trying to highlight the Bangladeshi culture and traditions through Celebrating Life Contests. He believes that the competition and its outreach activities have the power to make the understanding of our culture stronger in people's mind. He expects the new generation will carry on the Bangladeshi cultural values and traditions and pass them on to generations yet to arrive.
“Photography is an International Language”
There existed a time when viewing a photograph right after taking it was not only impossible, but unthinkable as well. Forty-nine years ago, the idea of a photograph was non-existent to Rashid Talukder. He was mesmerized and curious to how it was possible to capture something on paper, that was identical to what one could see. He was a student in Class Six of Loknath High School in Rajshahi, when he first saw a photograph. This happened while he was walking home from school one day, and happened to notice photographs being put out to dry in the sun by the street. The curiosity that rose in him that day, led him to crave to become a photographer. He went home and told his elder sister, whom he used to call 'didi', about his heart's desire. She was not interested and let the idea drop.
Talukder was still determined in pursuing his dream, so he approached his father with the idea of him learning photography. It was a confrontation of sorts as his father was furious about the idea of a Stationmaster's son becoming a photographer. One has to keep in mind, forty-nine years in the past was a time when Muslim religious views were quite extreme and cast photography as sin. On top of this, almost all the photographers of that time were of the Hindu religious background, which had made the thought even more unacceptable to the respected Stationmaster, whom every one called 'Boro Babu'. Upon relentless and constant badgering, his father caved in and allowed Talukder to start learning photography on the condition that he kept up his grades in school.
The hurdles didn't end there. At that time, there existed only two studios in the area where Muslim photographers worked. They were the Majeriya store and Star Studio. Star Studio was owned and run by Motaher Hossain. Hossain was not interested in Talukder's dreams, and didn't bother at all the first few times when Talukder approached him about learning photography. Ultimately, Talukder's persistence paid off as Hossain caved in as well. He told the relentless boy to bring over a guardian so that he may talk to them in regards of his apprenticeship. His 'didi' came to his rescue and kept the appointment with Hossain, and thus began Rashid Talukder's career in photography. It took him 4 years to become a photographer under his 'guru' Motaher Hossain's teachings.
Rashid Talukder defines photography as an international language that is understood by everyone. He said, very few people can speak different languages, but no words need to be spoken by a photograph yet its message is comprehended just by looking at it. The veteran has retired after his wife's death, but still loves the art as he says, “If you don't love photography... it will not love you”. What he wanted to say, as he explained later was that, the art and creativity has to come from within a photographer, as if they possess a third eye dedicated only to the art of taking pictures.
He is personally proud to have won the Celebrating Life 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award for photography, as this is the 77th Award that he has received for his career as a photographer. He owes all of this to his 'guru' and his teachings. Talukder remembers how his 'guru' had once told him to preserve all the negatives of all the photographs he had ever taken, even if they were not good in standards. And he has done exactly that. Drik Gallery has now taken up the initiative of preserving more than 200,000 negatives of photographs that were captured by Talukder. He is happy that his work, his history is being preserved like this, and sad as well as others from his time had not done the same. He is also saddened by the fact that many historical moments from the liberation war of 1971, captured on film, will never be available again as they are either lost or destroyed due to lack of proper preservation.
Hasan Ameen Salahuddin
“I live to write”
Mohammad Rafiquzzaman is proud to say that he lives to write; yet he is in no way arrogant in what he does, but rather strict about principles and values. I was lucky enough to have witnessed this man's passion and sense of morality through an interview that lasted no more than thirty minutes. But the impression that this man left on me, starting from the very beginning of our meeting, will live on in my memory forever.
Nervous as I was, I had made the dreadful mistake of writing his name by replacing Mohammad by 'Md.' in my notebook. I am sure if it was any one else, they would have pointed out the mistake and a shadow of scorn would have masked their face. Instead, he gently stopped me, took the pen out of my hand and while writing down his name in the proper form taught me a very valuable lesson. He said that it was his father's decree that Mohammed was his title, and thus should not be insulted by the use of a shortened form. According to his father, shortening it to Md. portrays a false sense, such as being a managing director, but of what? There might not be much else in a name, but it is the first basis of a man's identity.
Mohammad Rafiquzzaman's drive to write started at a very early age in the form of writing poetry. While studying in school, he was surrounded with friends wanting to enter the music scene. They had all the talent they needed in terms of creating good music, but lacked the most important of ingredients to compose songs: the lyrics. Thusly his peers prompted him for his talents with the pen. But Rafiquzzaman was lost. He had no idea of writing lyrics with the proper metres, rhythms and beats. But he would not allow his spirit to be quashed, for he had always loved music. He started off with making parodies of songs, and ultimately started to grasp the structure of song-writing. His talents were noticed, and he ended up providing material for the radio. He was enlisted for the Bangladesh Betar in 1965. He graduated from Rajshahi University with an Honors degree in the Bengali Language and Literature in 1966. A year later, he successfully pursued his MA in the Bengali Language and Literature, and in 1968 he was producer to quiet a few programs on the radio. He gradually climbed the steps and became an Assistant Director in 1973.
Rafiquzzaman's principles and values were not granted to him; he had earned them through a strict code he followed. This stumbled upon him one day through a line of a song: 'tumi eley onek din-er porey, jeno brishti elo'. It was not only song, but it was poetry for the most part. The depth in those words had captivated him. He went back home, and took out his diaries three of them all filled with hundreds of lyrics. With a heart filled with no emotion at all, he chucked them all into the fires of the stove in his mother's kitchen. Flabbergasted, his mother had asked what he was doing and why? The only answer he would give was that those were nothing worth preserving, they had no poetry in them, and they were not worthy to be called songs. To this day he follows this code with conviction that if a song cannot stimulate the senses like a poem, is not a song at all. He also is very passionate about the structure of rhythms and beats in a song. He has no tolerance for mistakes in these areas.
Referring to the great Kazi Nazrul Islam, he said that even Nazrul did not alter the structure that Rabrindanath Tagore had left behind, as it was perfect. But these days, the upcoming musicians even though they write superb lyrics lack the basic education great song writers before them have left behind. He said, it is okay to experiment in the cause of structuring a new style and bash out the flaws in the process, but not right if the experiments are just for the sake of experimentation without goals. He added these to be reasons that figures such as Tagore and Nazrul are immortal and their songs will pass through the ages, but songs fabricated in this generation will get be buried with the current generation.
It was a matter of pride for Celebrating Life 2010 to award Mohammad Rafiquzzaman as the Lifetime Achievement Winner in the Lyrics Category. And it was an even bigger honor that he expressed the competition to be a source of joy to him that has enabled him to be a part of the hunt for deserving talents who write from their hearts. He said that this platform was creating artists and art and believes that it will continue in this endeavor.
Hasan Ameen Salahuddin
(R) thedailystar.net 2009