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     Volume 2 Issue 96 | November 30 2008|


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Third Theatre Festival at Dhaka University

Nadia Sarwat
Photos: Mumit M

AS part of their academic curriculum, the students of the department of Drama and Music of Dhaka University regularly stages plays that not only prove the theatrical accomplishments of the students, but successfully add some outstanding productions to the theatre world of the country. In the last few years, theatre festivals by the department have been hailed with a lot of fervour by both the students and other theatre enthusiasts. The third central theatre festival of Dhaka University bears out the fact further. Organised centrally, the 10-day festival was held from November 8 to November 18.

One of the major attractions of the festival was a Jatrapala, with which the festival opened its curtain. The department recently included this ancient indigenous theatrical form in their curriculum. Before staging the Jatrapala, the honourable vice chancellor of Dhaka University, Dr. S M A Fayez, formally inaugurated the festival. Dr. Sirajul Islam Chowdhury was the chief guest of the event while Dr. A F M Yousuf Haider Choudhury, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Professor Syed Abul Kalam Azad, treasurer, Dr. Sadrul Amin, Dean. Faculty of Arts, were present as special guests. Dr. Israfil Shaheen, Chairman, Department of Theatre and Music, presided over the inauguration.

“Shah Jahan”, the Jatrapala was an adaptation of the Dwijendralal Roy Tragedy (1909) with the same title. The students worked almost for two months to adapt the style of a jatra. Eminent Jatra artistes including Jotsna Biswas, Sultan Selim, Rikta Sultana and Milan Kanti Dey instructed the students.

On the occasion of including the medium in the academic curriculum of the department of Drama And Music, the artistes also conducted a month-long workshop. The play has enough elements to keep the audience enchanted till the end. The story which follows the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan's imprisonment by his own son Aurangzeb and the relationship the former had with his devoted and brave daughter Jahanara who accompanied her father till his death, the young performers were quite successful in retaining the flavour of traditional 'jatrapala' performances.

Julhaz Miah in the role of Emperor Shah Jahan, Amitabh Roy as Aurangzeb and Mohsina Akhter as Jahanara delivered convincing performances. The comic duo Dildar (played by Shandra Nandini) and Pyara Begum (Priti Elizabeth) entertained the audience with their gestures and witty conversation. Dr Israfil Shaheen and Sudip Chakaroborthy, lecturer, Department of Theatre and Music coordinated the performance.

A total of 17 productions of the Theatre and Music Department were staged throughout the festival. Apart from renowned Bengali productions, some world-renowned works will be staged at the festival. The productions included -- Rabindranath Tagore's Raktokarobi, Syed Shamsul Haque's Irsha, Ramnarayan Tarkaratna's Chakkhudan, Girish Karanrd's Nagmandol, Maxim Gorky's The Lower Depths, Anton Chekhov's The Bear among others.

Chhyaheen Kaya, a translation by Abdar Rashid of the play Men without Shadows by French philosopher and playwright Jean Paul Sartre was staged on November 13.

The play was directed by Belayet Hossain, a fourth year student of the department. Characteristically typical of Sartre's writings, this play reflects the essential absurdity of human life and the existential crisis of individuals.

The play began with François, Lucie, Canoris and Henry, members of a revolutionary group captured after a disastrous attempt to liberate a village. Chhakkhudan, a 30-minute play written by Ram Narayan Tarkaratna (1822-86) -- a contemporary of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar -- was the first performance of November 14. Subarna Huda, a fourth year student directed the play.

Ishrat Kabir, in her traditional Hindu housewife attire was satisfactory in her role of Basumati. In her brief but significant role as the Naptey Bou, Nadia Afrin managed to entertain the audience. Mosharraf Hossain played the husband. Farzana Choudhury designed the set.

The Stronger (1890) by Swedish playwright August Strindberg which was staged on the third day. Sharmin Akhter Lima's direction was quite successful in sustaining tension through a monologue by the character, Mrs. X. Sonia Rahman performed the character with her brilliant expressions, which needed to shift quickly from sarcastic to frustrated, jealous to compassionate and complacent to desperate. Sumaiya Binte Raihan played the character of Miss Y, the target of all the accusation by Mrs. X.

Silence except an occasional word or two, Sumaiya also maintained her consistency in the portrayal of Miss Y, who at the end of the play seems to bag the triumph of the bitter confrontation.

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