Vol. 5 Num 715 Fri. June 02, 2006  

In search of the veritable radiance
Interpretation of Nazrul's work in our country

Last week the nation celebrated Kazi Nazrul Islam's 107th birth anniversary. To commemorate the occasion, cultural organisations put together musical soirees, recitation, dance recitals, TV channels aired special programmes, plays, films based on the National Poet's works and the Prime Minister inaugurated a public university in Trishal, Mymensingh as a tribute to Nazrul's memory.

Amidst the earnest celebration of the brilliance that is Nazrul, one wonders, as a nation have we been able to aptly evaluate the poet's work; are adaptations of his creation justifiable? Is the immense collection of Nazrul's songs, poetry and other literary works generating interest among the current generation?

Let's consider some of the films, special programmes and plays aired on TV on Nazrul anniversary. A certain play titled Rikter Bedon based on a story by Nazrul, featured soldiers of The Bengali Regiment stationed in Karbala during World War I. The central female character, an Arab, naturally is wearing a veil. However, when the veil comes off, she is seen clad in a glittering north Indian outfit complete with a tacky plastic headband. An average desert belle sporting such items is truly fancy and way ahead of her times (literally!). In another scene the female lead character and her friend are seen boogying to a very recent part Arabic/part Hindi dance number (featured in a Hindi movie). Any sane audience would be questioning the director's capabilities. Punch line: research and actually reading Nazrul's works before racing to make a TV play.

To call Meher Negar (a feature film directed by actress Moushumi) a travesty of the poet's work would not be an overstatement. Repulsive display of "acting", hideous outlandish costumes, obnoxious dance moves by a horizontally challenged actress and "questionable" renditions of classic Nazrul songs as playback made the film worth avoiding.

In a musical programme an artiste was shown holding two inch-high performers on her palm dancing away to a Nazrul classic -- all thanks to implementing mindless ideas made possible by video graph-cuts. The audience deserves better.

We have quite a few noted Nazrul exponents in our country, utilising their knowledge when making films and plays based on the poet's works should not be that difficult. Doing extensive research on Nazrul's works and the related timeline is crucial. Incorporating film or music video directors with an aesthetic sense would be helpful too.

Are Nazrul songs getting the exposure they deserve among the current generation? Veteran artistes and music exponents agree, quite a few talented artistes are emerging in the 'Nazrul Sangeet' scene, however, popularity of the genre is receding. In fact, many conclude, youngsters are not much interested in the genre. What might be the reason?

According to music aficionados of this generation there is a lack of exposure to Nazrul's literary works in academic institutions. Some flat out admit upon hearing certain songs that they had no idea these are Nazrul songs. Is it because Nazrul songs don't appeal to this generation? Recently a Nazrul song (Jaye jhilmil jhilmil dheu tuley) re-arranged by a contemporary musician created quite a buzz among the young audience who are into fusion. Different sound effects were incorporated without damaging the classic charm of the original tune. The message: Nazrul songs have the potential to regain its once thriving popularity. Talented composers and musicians of this generation should be encouraged to work and experiment with the maestro's tunes.

Some Nazrul exponents argue that this might fuel a barrage of distortion. But what some may not realise is that this prohibition in fear of distortion can also ignite alienation. Nazrul's classics are not just meant to be put on a pedestal, being worshipped by a handful. The poet who was acclaimed as the herald of eternal youth should have an audience among the young.

The day Nazrul's work adapted on screen wows the audience -- masses and critics alike, youngsters fondly hum his tunes and adequate research is done on his life and works would be the day our National Poet is given his due. Hopefully that day is not far-off.

Scenes from Meher Negar (Top) and Rikter Bedon(Bottom Left),
I am not a poet of today, nor a prophet of future,
Poet or worthless, call me whatever, I put up with anything you say.
Some say, to the future you belong,
Your place, as a poet, tomorrow will come along.

-- Amar Koifiyot
by Kazi Nazrul Islam
Translation by Mohammad Omar Farooq