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    Volume 11 |Issue 29| July 20, 2012 |


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Book Review

Sayeed Ahmed
A Rooted Cosmopolitan

Takir Hossain

Sayeed Ahmad

Sayeed Ahmad, who passed away on January 21, 2010, was a multidimensional talent. He was a playwright, art critic, essayist and an intellectual, who made significant contributions to our culture. A great conversationalist, he could easily reach people with his keen sense of humour and polished aestheticism. His intelligence, analytical abilities and ready wit made instantaneous impressions on internationally recognised dramatists, writers, poets and intellectuals. He was a cosmopolitan in every sense, but was deeply rooted in Bangladeshi culture.

Recently Bangla Academy has published a collection of his writings titled Collected Works of Sayeed Ahmad.

The book is divided into different sections including drama personalities, music, painters etc. There are also sections on his plays, short stories and essays. Most of the articles in this collection had been published in different newspapers, literary journals, brochures and different national and international periodicals at different times. Although the writings are in English, Bangla Academy has decided to print the cover jacket and the title page in Bangla.

In his lifetime, Sayeed got the chance to meet many global icons of arts and letters. He intimately exchanged his views and experiences with them. Sayeed's major exposure to contemporary western art, theatre and music took place when he went for his MA at the London School of Economics in 1954. He loved to hang around with people who belonged to the world of art and literature, but most of all he just loved to keep company.

In his chequered career, Sayeed got introduced to theAmerican playwright Arther Miller when he visited Beijing in 1991. Sayeed was amazed by the humbleness and simplicity of Miller. He wrote two articles describing his plight for holding progressive views.

Samuel Beckett is another legendary figure, whom Sayeed met in 1968 at his house in Paris. And Beckett highly praised Sayeed for his three plays – The Thing, Milepost and Survival in the absurdist genre.

Collected Works of Sayeed Ahmad
Edited by Hasnat Abdul Hye
Bangla Academy

Sayeed Ahmad got a chance to enjoy Nobel Prize-winning English playwright Harold Pinter's play Mountain Language as a jury member of the Prix Futura Festival in West Germany in 1989. He was impressed by the work and meticulously wrote on Pinter as well as some of his outstanding works – The Room, The Comedy of Menace and The Birthday Party. Pinter's characters were taken from the working class. They often faced difficulty in communicating with one another. Some of his plays focused on the middle classes as well. People are often unable to overcome their complexes and fears in those plays.

In the section of personalities, the readers will get to know Sayeed's account of Bangladeshi filmmaker Khan Ataur Rahman, Nobel Laureate writer Gunter Grass, intellectual Edward Said, Greek poet Stavros Melissinos, English actress and singer-songwriter Joyce Grenfell, Chilean Nobel Laureate poet Pablo Neruda and other celebrated personalities. His meetings with them often resulted in building lasting relationships.

Sayeed first met Edward Said in Stockholm in 1991 at the Conference of Intellectuals. Said received him very warmly and was happy to learn that he was a delegate from Bangladesh. They talked of liberation movements in different parts of the world, especially the Palestine cause of which Said was a great proponent, and Bangladesh's national struggle.

In the section of painters, Sayeed discusses the works of a number of the then West Pakistani artists and East Pakistani artists. In his writings, he comments on their themes and styles. Sayeed closely observed the painters' lifestyle and he visited most of their studios. As a result, he interpreted their themes, thoughts and technical aspects with authority. However, after independence of the country, he also wrote on many national and international exhibitions. In the segment, “The Young Artists -77 Exhibition” brings the readers to the newly independent states and the then artists' creative expressions. The readers will get a glimpse of the artists' creative expressions in the newly independent state. During that time, most of the artists tried to establish their personal hallmark. Some of them started experimentation in themes and techniques. They charged themselves with new visions and ideas.

The articles of the section “Music” feature a number of illustrious musicians' lives and their contributions to our sub-continental music. He wrote on the eminent musicians of the subcontinent. In these articles, he focuses on their struggles and hardships. He also highlights their gharanas, devotion and thoughtful nature. Apart from classical music, Sayeed also was a lover of other genres of music like Tagore, Nazrul, folk and others.

Sayeed was born on January 1, 1931 in Dhaka. Among his most provocative plays are Kalbela, Milepost, Trishna-e, Ek Din Protidin and Shesh Nawab. His plays have been translated into English, French, German and Italian. The plays were staged in the US, Italy, Germany, India and Pakistan. He delivered lectures at prestigious universities and theatre academies across the world.

Sayeed was well known to the BTV audience for his series called Bishwa Natok, in which, he introduced world famous plays to the Bangladeshi audience. The Sayeed Ahmad Foundation for Culture and Arts (SAFCA) recently arranged the publication ceremony of the voluminous work at the Bengal Café in Dhanmondi. Eminent intellectuals and theatre personalities of the country were present there.

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