Ramendu Majumdar is one of the pioneers of the stage-drama movement in Bangladesh. He is one of the founders of the troupe, Theatre, formed in 1972. After almost 20 years, he directed a new play for the stage. The first screening of this new play will be held today Friday at the Shilpakala Academy.
The Ekushey Padak winner spoke to The Daily Star about a variety of topics including his latest play, life achievements, goals, and his thoughts on the current state of society.
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You’re back to directing a stage play after almost two years. How are you feeling about that?
That’s true, I last directed the play “Madhobi” in 2003. Now, in 2022, I have come back to direct “Pohela Shorbori”. I’ve spent most of my life working in theatre in some capacity, both on and off stage. The new play belongs to our troupe, Theatre. We had started rehearsals for the show before the pandemic, but today, it will finally be performed on stage for an audience. I am fortunate to have Tropa Majumdar as my co-director, and it can be said that Tropa did 90 percent of the work on this play. I am also thankful that so much importance was given to my vision for “Pohela Shorbori”.
I was excited after reading the main story of “Pohela Shorbori” and that is when I shared it with the rest of the team. Anshuman Bhowmik then translated the original story.
What was the main reason you chose to have two actors for each character in this play?
This is the first time in the history of our theatre that this has happened. Two actors have played the role of one character in a play. Because we did this, our team had to work a lot harder and longer. However, the advantage of doing this is that more actors got the opportunity to perform. At the same time, this means that even if one actor is absent or sick, the show can go on. This is a particularly big advantage in my opinion.
What is the main plot of “Pohela Shorbori”?
The main story of this play revolves around the idea that we do not value a woman’s wants and desires. Even today, we are still indifferent to what women want. The role of women is predominant in the play. If the audience even thinks about this issue for a minute as a result of our play, then our work will be worthwhile.
The audience is the lifeblood of theatre. If the audience keeps coming back to watch theatre performances, that will be an indication of our success. Whenever the audience returns to the stage, the theatre is encouraged, resulting in even more plays will take place.
How far has theatre in Bangladesh come in the last 50 years?
First and foremost, theatre, as an entertainment medium, has come a long way. In some cases, the audience has increased, while in others it has decreased. However, the reality has changed and I feel that now audiences want new plays on stage. And we must live up to their expectations. If we are truly able to fulfil audiences’ demands and give them what they want, then theatre will be able to go a long way.
‘My passion for theatre kept me working when the world was falling apart’
What level of interest does the youth have to work in theatre?
Most youngsters want to work in television. Even if you spend time working in theatre productions, many people eventually want to move to television or film. Everyone wants to grow up fast. However, art should not be a place for rapid growth.
There are others who want to learn and are very responsible. I would say youngsters need to be more enthusiastic about theatre. Because I firmly believe that the younger generation will take theatre forward. Even in our case, Tropa has done the lion’s share of the work on “Pohela Shorbori”, and that is why I believe that the youth are the future.
What is your life’s dream for theatre?
I wish I could’ve made a place for a theatre school. Then maybe I could create a theatre studio as well. I don’t know if it will happen, but I still have hope. This is my last and only dream about theatre.
There is a lot of societal unrest at present. Teachers are being beaten to death, assaulted with a garland of shoes. How shocked are you by these events?
These incidents have shocked me to my core. The incident where the teacher was assaulted with a garland of shoes is deeply shocking. How is this possible? What kind of cruel society are we living in? There should be an appropriate punishment for such heinous acts. Without punishment, there is a possibility these things will keep happening.
The teaching community needs to be more vocal on this issue. Our political parties should have played a bigger role here. As cultural activists, we have protested these incidents, but I think people from all walks of life should come out in protest of such incidents.