Volume 2 Issue 83| May 22, 2010 |


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From Chandpur

Raiyanul Jannat Roja, An Icon

Zahidul Naim Zakaria

BORN in a family of eight siblings who were all culturally aware, Raiyanul Jannat Roja of Hajiganj (Chandpur) learnt about the importance of art and culture in life from an early age. By nature, she was a people person, always finding ways to play the host and make people feel at home. Roja was involved with singing and recitation since she was a little girl. She studied at Hajiganj Pilot High School and finished her SSC from there.

Roja's sister's classmate initiated the Hajiganj Theatre in 1992 and back then, Roja used to play most of the female lead roles in the plays that would be enacted. But, after her SSC exams, Roja had to relocate to Dhaka to continue her education. She joined Khilgaon Model College, where she became associated as a singer with Abbas Uddin Academy. By this time, Roja's leadership skills had developed and she was active in student politics. Her sense of responsibility had set her apart from her contemporaries. Her experience with politicians convinced her that political leaders in our country, in general, are quite culturally aware and feel that restoring and promoting cultural activities are important for the greater good of the nation. By the time she finished her HSC a few years later, she has already gained much attention as a singer, stage actress, political student leader and coordinator. Roja went on to obtain a Honours in Social Work from Tejgaon College in 2003 and a Masters in Social Work from Jagannath University in 2005.

Her reputation carried her name through the districts of Bangladesh and she received an invitation from Comilla Protibimbo Theatre to organize a road drama which would involve eight shows in one day. Roja accepted Protibimbo Theatre's invitation, but redesigned the eight shows to fit in two days instead of one. This show brought significant changes in Roja's life. First off, she met her husband who was involved with the Comilla Theatre, and second, she became connected to a cultural club that had been affiliated with Gram Theatre since 1989. Roja got married to Azharul Haque Mizan on 13 February 1998.

Roja decided to set up another group of theatrical enthusiasts, and named it College Theatre Chuara. In 1999, Gram Theatre organized a massive congregation in Comilla and as part of it, Roja's first play, Attohonon, was staged at Comilla Town Hall. Since then, she has never looked back or even considered a different area of work. She became associated with Himu bhai and Selim Al-Deen of Gram Theatre and in Roja's own words, “Selim sir had really taken care of me. I have spent countless days studying drama with him.”

Drama, acting and being a playwright are not Roja's only vocations, she is also a budding entrepreneur. She has created a retail channel and brings Khoddor and Batik (well-known cloths from Comilla) products to sell at a shop named Joytun Fashions in Jatrabari. She also spearheads Desh Kalyan Shongstha, an organization that she established in 2006 which focuses on activities that augments social welfare. Furthermore, she currently holds the position of 'Coordinator' of Gram Theatre for Chandpur, Comilla and Brahmmon Baria. The first theatre group she was associated with, Hajiganj Theatre, was brought under the umbrella of Gram Theatre about a year ago.

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