Theatre activists on Tagore
Harun ur Rashid & Ershad Kamol
Since before the Liberation, theatre in Bangladesh has been dealing with Rabindranath Tagore's plays--original and adapted--at a regular pace. Not many of the theatre groups, however, have taken part in this enterprise. Only Nagorik Natya Sampradaya and Theatre have so far come with several productions of Rabindranath Tagore's plays.
Under the direction of Ferdousi Majumdar and Abdullah Al Mamun, Theatre has produced Dui Bon and Ghorey Bairey--adapted from novels of the same names. On the other hand, Nagorik has produced the highest number of original plays by Tagore at different times under different directors. Noted actor Aly Zaker directed Achalayotan, while Khaled Khan produced Muktodhara. Detached from theatre activities since long, Abul Hayat directed two plays--Bishorjon and Rother Roshi--of which the former had huge success. At present, Ataur Rahman's Raktokarabi is having its regular shows.
Actor-directors Ramendu Majundar and Abul Hayat talk on their productions, while playwright Selim Al Deen comments on Tagore as a playwright.
Selim Al Deen
'As a dramatist, the way the British highlight Shakespeare, the Norwegian praise Ibsen or the Russian do to Chekhov, Rabindratanth Tagore should be highlighted in a similar fashion. In case of world literature, I think, he deserves a higher position,' says renowned playwright Selim Al Deen.
On Tagore's literary talent Selim says, 'We should not judge Tagore only as a poet or as a dramatist or as a short story writer individually. Rather, we should appreciate him on the whole--as a playwright, a poet, a novelist and a painter. We will be able to judge him properly only when we will be able to realise the philosophy and thought that he had expressed on civilisation through his diversified artistic pursuits. Only three writers in the world--Tolstoy in War and Peace, Goethe in Faust and Rabindranath in Geetanjali--have shown the ultimate destination of human civilisation.
'If we were a rich nation, we could have spread the works of Tagore world wide.'
To comment on Rabindranath as a playwright Selim Al Deen says, 'He is a modern playwright. He first introduced the 'Non Theatre' concept--a theatre never expresses reality, rather through a theatre the audience gets the 'touch' of reality. Tagore's characters like Raja (King), Rani (queen), Thakurda (grandfather) and others have the universal appeal that is found only in a few plays in the history of world drama. Realising this fact, the Irish have staged Tagore's several plays like Raja, Daakghar and Raktokarabi in Dublin.'
Finally, Selim Al Deen says that to overcome the present chaotic world, we should practice the philosophy of Tagore, Tolstoy and Goethe in our daily life.
The renowned theatre personality of the group Theatre explains the reasoning behind doing a Rabindranath play. 'Generally we used to do our own plays--written or adapted by ourselves. But then we wanted a little change. So, we chose Kobiguru's novel Dui Bon (Two Sisters)' says Majumdar.
But why adapt from a novel, when there are many original plays of Rabindranath Tagore? 'Tagore's original plays are a little too grave and intellectual for the general audience,' says Ramendu. 'We wanted to present something which the audience will feel comfortable to relate with. And Dui bon was a huge success: we staged 110 shows of the play!'
Dui Bon was adapted by Mamtazuddin Ahmed and directed by Ferdousi Majumdar. Ferdousi Majumdar, Ramendu Majumdar, Mita Chowdhury and Afroza Banu performed different roles at different times. The first show was staged on February 8, 1978, and the hundredth show took place on August 13, 1981.
Another production by Theatre was Ghorey Bairey--also adapted from a novel of the same title. Renowned actor-director-playwright Abdullah Al Mamun adapted and directed the play. Ramendu used to perform the role of the master. The three main characters were performed by Abdullah Al Mamun, Ferdousi Majumdar and Tareq Anam Khan.
Ghorey Bairey altogether had 52 shows.
Ramendu thinks that the practice of Rabindranath Tagore has decreased in theatre. 'Nagarik's Raktkarabi is the only production in the last few years that is still running and has recently crossed 50th show.'
Unlike Ramendu, Abul Hayat is elated that his group has so far staged the highest number of plays by Rabindranath Tagore. 'And we have always performed the poet's original plays, which are often treated as complex,' he says. 'Rabindranath is the greatest playwright of all times and we take pride in having staged so many plays successfully.'
Hayat has directed two plays of Tagore: Bishorjon and Rother Roshi. The first one had about 40 shows. Asaduzzaman Noor, Jamaluddin Hossain, Lucky Inam and Abul Kashem performed in the lead roles.
Hayat's second direction was to a workshop production, Rother Roshi, which was conducted among all the young activists of the group Nagarik Nataya Sampradaya. 'All of today's popular performers--Bipasha, Shomi, Afsana Mimi and others--acted in that play,' says Hayat.
The production, however, did not come up as a regular show as the play was of only 40 minutes. 'The duration was not suitable for a regular show of a professional theatre group. In total, the play had about four to five shows,' says Hayat.
Regarding the present situation of Rabindranath's theatre plays, Hayat hesitates to comment since he has not been involved with the theatre for quite a long time now. Yet, he says that Rabindranath has always been a good source for plays in our theatre. He recalls the memory of staging Raktokarabi under the direction of eminent Mustafa Monwar in 1970. The staging was obstructed by the then ruling junta. 'Thousands of spectators came to watch the show at the Bangla Academy premises,' Hayat says. 'Although Ataur Rahman's Raktokarabi is the only play running at present, the practice has not died down completely,' he concludes.