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     Volume 7 Issue 45 | November 14, 2008 |

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Ramendu Majumder

Ramendu Majumder
Making it All Happen

Ershad Kamol

Ramendu Majumder is one of the pioneering theatre personalities of the neo-theatre movement, which generated after our Liberation War. He is also a great organiser and knows how to make things happen. Under his leadership Bangladesh Group Theatre Federation, a common platform of theatre troupes in Bangladesh, was formed. Later, he initiated to open the Bangladesh Centre of International Theatre Institute in Bangladesh. Over two decades Ramendu Majumder has successfully led ITI, holding several high posts. As recognition of his leadership Majumder has been elected as the president of the International Theatre Institute (ITI) Worldwide Committee.

Majumder is the second Asian to hold the helm position of ITI, an international non-governmental organisation (NGO). ITI was founded in Prague in 1948 by UNESCO and the international theatre community. ITI aims to promote international exchange of knowledge and practice in performing art forms (drama, dance, music) in order to consolidate peace and solidarity between people.

Ramendu Majumder has been elected the president at the 32nd ITI World Congress that was held in Madrid, Spain, last September. He will serve as the president of ITI for the next two years. Prior to becoming the president, Majumder had held the Vice President's post of the institute on three occasions. He has been the Vice-President post of the Institute on three occasions. He is also the current president of Bangladesh Centre of International Theatre Institute (BCITI).

On the reason behind the success an enthusiastic Ramendu Majumder tells The Daily Star, "It's because of the wonderful performance of BCITI and my personal activities as well. When the immediately passed president proposed my name for the next president every member of the 20-member executive committee supported it. I really enjoyed it when theatre activists in Bangladesh who congratulated me, claimed that it was their success."

In fact, Majumder's personal interest motivated him to form the BCITI in 1982 and he was the founder general secretary of the organisation. Professor Kabir Chowdhury was the founder president. Subsequently, Ramendu Majumder became the president and Ataur Rahman was elected as the general secretary of BCITI. This duo is still leading the centre and successfully introduced Bangladeshi contemporary theatre amongst the foreign audience using the platform of ITI.

Many ITI delegates including the former presidents and general secretaries visited Bangladesh several times and watched Bangladeshi theatre performances during the executive council meeting held in Dhaka. Everyone appreciated the current trend of Bangladeshi theatre practice and labelled it as a 'theatre of passion' since professionalism has not yet been introduced in Bangladesh.

"BCITI is considered as one of the five most active centres in the world", says Majumder. "It has successfully created a positive image of Bangladeshi contemporary theatre abroad. Moreover, the centre has published World of Theatre, an annual report of theatre activities of the world in English and French, eight times from Bangladesh."

"In fact the strength of the centre especially its publication amazed the other ITI delegates. So far, World of Theatre has been published only 10 times. It's to be mentioned that our centre has published it eight times." he adds.

On Ramnedu's interest for ITI activities theatre personality Ataur Rahman, general secretary of BCITI, says, "He has played an active role to develop theatre activities in several Asian countries such as Nepal and UAE. Ramendu becoming the president is recognition of his great leadership quality. As a theatre leader he is popular internationally."

But many challenges are ahead for Majumder being president at a time when Unesco has decreased logistical support for ITI. The organisation is now facing a fund crisis to initiate it's regular programmes as well as new programmes. Most of ITI activities are Europe-centric. And most of the mainstream theatre activists in the world are not directly involved with ITI.

"Unesco does not give us any support except allowing us to use the office at the Unesco head quarters in Paris. Even the rich countries do not donate as much as they use to do at the earlier stage. The alarming thing is that of the 95 centres of ITI only about 40 centres pay their membership fees regularly", he adds.

As the president of ITI, Majumder's first challenge will be to revive the inactive centres of the ITI as well as to increase the funding. Majumder has also chalked out a plan to reach the goal during his recent visit to China to attend a strategic meeting. It was the first formal meeting of the newly elected executive members. The strategic meeting was a part of a theatre festival titled 'Theatre of Nations' in which 36 troupes from 17 countries participated.

Majumder remarks that the ruler of Sharjah donated a big fund, but not enough to run huge programmes. "We have decided to look for sponsorships", he says. "Simultaneously we will try to activate all the centres of ITI so that they also donate regularly. Minutes of the strategic meeting will be finalised at the upcoming meeting in UAE in January."

"In fact, we have to work a lot to make the ITI activities updated to cope with the current scenario of world theatre, as theatre all over the world is in turmoil. For that we have to work together. At the same time I will try to get the nations, who are out of the ITI platform, to be members", he adds.

Majumder further plans to promote the traditional performing art forms. In his words, "We know much about western theatre. But, we have little idea on the diversified presentation style of traditional art forms of different ethnic groups. My vision is to bring these traditional art forms under the focus on ITI."

Theatre practitioners in Bangladesh are expecting that the current ITI president will help boost Bangladeshi theatre. At least technically, our urban theatre is weak in terms of direction and design. Theatre activists in Bangladesh hope that Ramendu Majumder using the ITI platform, will help our theatre practitioners to make up for these flaws through training under the guidance of foreign experts.

Chairman of Bangladesh Group Theatre Federation M. Hamid expresses his satisfaction at the selection of ITI's president: "We are proud of his success. It will take our theatre one step ahead. Moreover, it will enhance the image of the country and its culture amongst foreigners. At the same time we hope the current president will help us to improve."

Majumder, meanwhile is already busy planning the next step. "I've already talked with a Chinese theatre designer who will come to Dhaka soon to train the light designers in Bangladesh", he says. "I'll always try to arrange such workshops to be conducted by the expert foreign artistic directors and designers. They will train up our directors and designers."

"At the same time I'll invite expert theatre directors to work with theatre departments and theatre troupes to produce quality theatre performances", he adds.

Ramendu Majumder also hopes to support the theatre departments of the public universities through the ITI platform. He explains: "Theatre departments of the public universities in Bangladesh can take the same facilities that Delhi based Indian institute National School of Drama (NSD) is taking. I'll always help them to use the ITI platform.

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