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Monday, August 4, 2008
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Mamun and Ferdousi during the shooting of the documentary on the latter (left) and Ferdousi and Ramendu Majumdar.
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Abdullah Al Mamun is a name intertwined with the media and theatre world of our country. Simultaneously a powerful playwright, actor, director, producer and filmmaker, Mamun has shaped the theatre and TV industry in post-Liberation War Bangladesh. He is the central figure in the group, 'Theatre', and has written scripts for acclaimed plays like Akhono Kritodash, Tomrai, Kokilara and Meraj Fakir-er Maa for the troupe. Alongside enriching the theatre movement of Bangladesh, he has contributed to our cinema, with films like Akhoni Shomoy, Shareng Bou, Dui Jibon and more.

The artiste has been unwell and was admitted at the Square Hospital in Dhaka. However, his condition is improving now, according to his friend, noted theatre personality Ramendu Majumdar. Ramendu and his wife Ferdousi Majumdar, another iconic figure in Bangladeshi theatre, both have an enduring relationship with Mamun. Praying for the ailing artiste, the duo shared their fond memories involving Mamun with The Daily Star.

Ramendu recalls, “Back in 1961, when I was a first year student of English Literature at Dhaka University, I got acquainted with Mamun. A student of history, he was a year senior to me. In 1963, we joined the university theatre group, 'Chhatro Shikkhok Natya Goshthi'. I wrote the script of its first production Kritodaser Hashi (by Shawkat Osman), in which Mamun played the role of Tatari. We worked together in other plays like Dondo O Dondodhar and Krishnokumari. That was the beginning of our long friendship. Ferdousi, a student of Bangla at the time, was also acquainted with him.

“In 1964, with the advent of television, Mamun directed the first TV play Ektola Dotola, written by Munier Chowdhury. Ferdousi acted in the play. Mamun worked as a senior programme producer for BTV for a long time. The group, 'Theatre', was formed in 1974; we were the pioneers. Of the 38 plays produced by Theatre, Mamun wrote 20 and directed 22. Though he is used to multi-tasking, Mamun has the rare quality to maintain a fine balance. I guess, overwork must have played a role behind his illness.”

From Theatre's first production Subachan Nirbasan to Meraj Fakir-er Maa, Ferdousi Majumdar has been seen in the lead roles in all plays by Abdullah Al Mamun. Mamun even made a documentary on the illustrious career of the actress, which earned him a National Film Award (best documentary) in 1997. Talking about her mentor and friend, Ferdousi seemed overwhelmed with emotions and gratitude. “I never imagined that I could go on stage without Abdullah Al Mamun,” says the actress.

“Without the inspiration and help of my brother Munier Chowdhury, I would have never made it in theatre, as I came from a conservative family. When I was a college student, he introduced me to the world of theatre. Then, again, most of the credit for my reputation as an actress goes to Abdullah Al Mamun, for I learned a lot from him. In our time, there was no school or institution to impart formal training in theatre; it was Mamun who trained me,” she adds.

In Subachan Nirbasan, my first play, there was only one female character; it was almost impossible to spot an actress on stage those days. Mamun Always wrote plays keeping the limitation of the troupe in mind. He creates every character keeping in mind the actor best suited for the role. I consider myself extremely fortunate that he gave me the opportunity to get into the skin of such powerful characters. Many people have talent, but only a few get a mentor who can help them hone that talent. Mamun provides an actor with that opportunity. Indeed, the reason Theatre as a group could stage so many acclaimed plays is that all of them were well written and relatable.

“Mamun's female characters are superb; indeed they reflect his profound respect towards women in general. Especially the characterisation of a mother deserves plaudits. They are affectionate caregivers yet unyielding as a rock when needed -- not like the clichéd weeping image of a mother. They boldly confront evil, even if it's her own offspring. I remember playing the role of the mother in the play Tomrai -- when the terrorist son goes out with his loaded gun, people call on the mother for only she has the power to control her misguided son. I think our society needs such mothers to confront the all-pervading evils,” Ferdousi says.

According to the actress, “Usually every actor harbours the feeling that s/he could not put in his/ her best effort in a character. Even, if I don't act any more, I will always have a sense of achievement. And I thank Mamun for helping me earn this sense of achievement. I may be at a loss for words, trying to express my gratitude. I pray that he comes back among us soon. Theatre is incomplete without him.”

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