Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Heroes of the stage...The Theatre Artists

The beauty of theatre is no less than a piece of art in fact more. A painting or a sketch is a flat piece of fine art but the theatre sets forth a dynamic piece of fine art. A fine art that boasts the congregated efforts of different artists and performers of all at one go to portray a real-like scene or fiction to a live audience. A stage drama includes various forms of arts like acting, singing, dancing, dialogue writing, orating, etc. harmonized to put together as one platform of expression. Theatre in Bangladesh has a long rich history where many eminent theatre activists have left their mark. In spite of not receiving much patronage from the formal sector, this sector has grown out of the love and passion of those who live in it.

Sajjad Shaju- Aranyak
Sajjad Shaju remembers how he fell in love with acting after watching a performance by Azizul Hakim, Tauqir Ahmed and Zahid Hassan in his home town, Sirajganj. That performance inspired him to give his a love a form in the later years when he joined the first theatre of his group Tarun Shomprodoy. It was not only acting that attracted him; it was acting in the theatre. 'I have seen that the beginning of every good actor is theatre. The root of acting lies on the stage,' he says. When he came to Dhaka in 1997 he had only one dream in mind-to join Aranyak, to become a part of this theatre group.  It took him one year to place himself amongst the Aranyak team. Aranyak being a very competitive group was not easy for him to make a mark there. His first play was 'Sangkranti' where the director Mamunur Rashid emphasized on giving the new comers a good chance.

Shaju has completed Honours in Accounting from Dhaka College but later theatre engulfed him so much that he did not pursue further studies. Aranyak was Shaju's learning group and institution. He believes that the schooling 'Mohora Kokkho' arranged by Aranyak for drama enthusiasts is a platform good enough to instil a good sense of acting and the rules of acting if one has the keenness to learn. When he had entered the scene it was merely out of love for drama and acting but only after working in the field he has realized the depth and hugeness of acting as a field.

About his inspiration he speaks of the great admiration with which he has always watched the works of Tom Hanks, Nasiruddin Shah, Nana Patekar, Mamunur Rashid, Pavel Azad and others; he has always tried to take up the good aspects of their works but his main inspiration lies in the type of character he is playing. Each and every character is special to this actor and he tries to mould himself into each and every character that he plays. 'The success of an actor lies in how much he can break himself down to embrace a character, because every character deserves a special style and I would always try not to confine myself within any particular style,' he says.

Some of his major works include Sangkranti, Rarang, Mohir Shinghashon, Bidya Sagor, etc. The best part of performing on stage for Shaju is the instance feedback of the audience. He admits to have faced a lot of challenges along the way and making sacrifices, especially because survival in this line is tough and until recently theatre was not looked upon by the society or looked upon by families as the best of professions. He feels that those who work in theatres in Bangladesh do it completely out of love. However, Shaju thinks that the side of his achievements from this line is way greater than the hardships. His biggest earning has been the lessons learnt and skills adopted from great teachers like Mamunur Rashid and his other peers. He also believes that the ability to self evaluate himself has been attained from the theatre.

 Comparing theatre in Bangladesh and in other countries Shaju says that although this sector has come up a long way the other countries have paced much faster. Even in our neighbouring country India theatre is in a much favourable state. Here it is very difficult for a theatre artist to survive only by working in this field. In the western countries theatre has grown like a commercial sector, where artists are contracted on yearly basis and there is constant income for them.
For the aspirants in this line he says that it is very important for them to have knowledge on diverse genres like literature, politics, and history and remain updated continuously. Most importantly they should come with a keen interest to learn. 

Saiful Islam Jarnal- Prachyanat
Inspired by how drama or acting could bring popularity and appreciation Saiful Islam Jarnal became interested in acting while still school in school in Habiganj in 1993. His drama career began in 1993 through Little Theatre and later when he moved to Dhaka for studies he joined Centre for Asian Theatre and later got associated with Prachyanat in 2007. 'I have seen my father and brothers act in theatres. What attracted me most to the theatre was the act of so many different people working together on a single project harmoniously. It has always amused me that how ten people from ten backgrounds and skills work on a single goal. It was the interest in working together, belonging to a fraternity that inspired me to join the theatre,' he says.

He remembers his first ever work to be in a play called 'Juta Abhishkar'. Then in Prachyanat he has mostly played substitute roles in old productions. He said that even playing substitute roles is a proof of your efficiency. The directors and seniors choose you to be a substitute actor in place of some established actor because they think you have it in you to do it successfully. Another very interesting dimension was added to his life when he was asked to teach direction at Prachyanat's school of acting.
Jarnal is motivated to work in dramas because he feels it is one of the very few ways in which social contribution can be made; he likes working for a cause to raise awareness or raising a voice against odds.  He shares that right after the Tazreen Garments tragedy we staged a street play in front of the national museum. It is great to get instant feedback from the general people, artists, and activists on contemporary issues.

He personally likes to work on conceptual and experimental dramas; he likes incorporating different medias into the drama like multimedia to add a new spark to the traditional plays. Today, he has the experience of working in three major plays of Prachynat, a few short plays and other productions.
About his achievement in the line he speaks that whatever he has earned today is all because of coming into drama. Even his education in the line of film making was inspired from his work in the theatre. Although initially his family as against working in the theatre and he had to struggle for quite some time but this world has taught him a lot from life, especially his director Abul Kalam Azad has been a great teacher and also his peers. 'What belonging to such a dynamic group of people does to you is constantly inspire you to be the best, to work or the best,' he says.

He believes that theatre in Bangladesh is no less than the theatres in Broadway or Globe in terms of the quality of artists but what they lack is the appropriate exposure and opportunity. Moreover, in Bangladesh there is still a lag in the type of appreciation theatre receives unlike other western countries.

To be a good quality theatre artist Jarnal feels that one should be committed to his work, dedicated to work till the end, and work with full concentration and an eagerness to learn. Those who would like to enter this scene should be ready to face some adversities but once they can overcome the handle the sector has bountiful opportunities to offer. 

Jubayer Hillol- Nagorik Natyangan
Art and culture always leave behind a descendant and so it happened in Jubayer Hillol's family; while none of his other siblings took the path his father had treaded for so many years, Hillol picked but the knack and ventured into the world of theatre. Growing up in Gaibandha he had always seen his father deeply involved with drama and theatre and he too got tangled with music, musical instruments and acting at a very early age mostly because of his father's inspiration.

Life in theatre for Hillol began when he was in class two only in a play directed by his father. Later on he joined Gaibandha which was the first official beginning of his career. Afterwards, after coming to Dhaka in 2000 he joined 2002 Nagorik Natyangon which was always his dream. When he joined Nagorik Natyangon it was through a test where 200 to 300 people took part and only 20 people were selected of which he stood first because he was apt in a lot of other skills like singing, playing tabla and other musical instruments other than acting. So, even today besides acting on the stage he looks after the musical productions for the drama.

Since he was highly attached to the cultural field it was tough for Hillol to think for a profession other than theatre; in the mean while he had joined a NGO but the utter love and passion for the stage pushed him to leave the job and divert all his energy to his passion, the theatre. When asked why particularly the stage, he said, 'To me stage is not just a place to portray my apt in acting or realizing my hobby but it also comes from a sense of responsibility. Plays can act as a society's mirror, to reflect what is going on in the society. Dramas can be an important tool of social movement. In the past and even today, plays and dramas have made mentionable contribution in the social development. And I feel glad to be a part of such an activity.'

Among some of his most favourite roles played on stage are in a play called Gobu Chandra Hobu Chandra, Shei Shob Dingulo where he played the role of a freedom fighter; through this role he got the chance to live the proud moments of a freedom fighter that he could not in his real life. And the list of his special characters goes on. However, he does not belong to boast of any particular style of his acting. He has named his style 'The Hillolic Style' because he has never taken any professional acting course or training from anywhere. Whatever, acting he has mastered is by his own willpower and observation. One person he has always looked up to as an idol was the versatile actor Humayun Faridi.

He believes that for anyone to be a good theatre person there has to be honesty, great observation skills, and in depth knowledge on drama and cinema. He feels that although this theatre sector has been much neglected and has grown much like an orphan but those who are taking it forward are doing it out of the undivided love and passion for it. 
To all the newcomers in the line he has to say that theatre should not be used as a ladder to fame or success. Theatre is a lifelong practice with no immediate gains.
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