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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Breathing life into Tagore’s characters

Festival by Sanglap Group Theatre at Shilpakala Academy

By Nadia Sarwat

Sanglap Group Theatre, a troupe from Mirpur is celebrating its 31st anniversary with a theatre festival featuring Rabindranath Tagore's plays. Six plays by troupes from the capital and outside -- originally written by Tagore or adaptations of his works -- are being staged at the festival, which began on June 18. The plays are being staged at the Experimental Theatre Hall, Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy (BSA) at 8pm everyday till June 24.

The festival began with a rally that started from BSA. After the rally, noted theatre personality Ramendu Majumder, president of ITI, formally inaugurated the event at the Experimental Theatre Hall. The newly elected President of Bangladesh Group Theatre Federation (BGTF), Liaquat Ali Lucky and general secretary Jhuna Chowdhury were also present as special guests a the inauguration. Freedom fighter Rafiqul Islam, founder member of and adviser to Sanglap Group Theatre delivered the welcome speech at the event presided over by the troupe's president, Habibur Rahman Habib.

Praising the initiative by Sanglap, Jhuna Chowdhury said in his speech, "In-depth study and performance of Tagore's works got a momentum in the post-Liberation War Bangladesh. Tagore is omnipresent in every sphere of our cultural. But from my personal experiences, I have noticed that many young theatre activists are indifferent towards Tagore's litterateur and plays. Festivals like this would help to generate interest in Tagore among youngsters."

"Many are apprehensive about staging Tagore's play, as they find them difficult. But Tagore, who defined the modern Bengali, was very liberal when it came to staging his plays -- allowing directors enough freedom to interpret his plays from their perspectives. Theatre troupes should definitely work more on Tagore's plays without reluctance," said Liaquat Ali Lucky.

Ramendu Majumder said, "It takes a skilled director to bring Tagore's characters to the stage from the pages. As we have a dearth of original/unique plays, we can always turn to Tagore for inspiration. I'm looking forward to see more innovative, experimental productions based on Tagore's plays and litterateur by young directors."

Subachan Natya Sangsad staged "Khudhito Pashan" on the first day of the festival. The play is an adaptation of a surreal short story (with the same title) by Tagore. Samar Chattyopadhyay adapted the play while renowned actor-director Khaled Khan has directed it.

The play begins with a Muslim aristocrat arriving at a deserted rail station in a small town. The protagonist finds his way to a haunted palace. A tax collector in colonial India, he moves into the marble mansion. Supposedly, the edifice was once used as a 'pleasure palace' by King Shah Mahmud II. Wails of courtesans who were subjected to the tyranny of the king in the palace still seem to resonate in the air. The protagonist goes through some unexplainable experiences, and comes to a profound realisation. Ahsan Habib Nasim played the tax collector in the Subachan production.

Tirjak Chattogram staged "Bishorjon" on the second day of the festival. Natyalok Sylhet will stage the play "Shasti" tonight. Other plays to be staged at the festival are "Rakto Karobi" (by Prangoney Mor), "Daakghar" (by Swapnadal) and "Debotar Grash" (by Sanglap Group Theatre).

This year has witnessed three theatre festivals on Tagore's works so far -- two in Dhaka and one in Chittagong.

Source: The Daily Star.

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