Life is a wonderful journey if you think positively, love affectionately and work efficiently. This is what a 68-year-old actor-playwright-stage director had been doing all his life. Born in a leap year in 1948, he has come to be known as the man of the theatre, “natoker Mamunur Rashid.”
Rashid’s long career and tidbits of life come alive in the coffee table book Mamunur Rashid-Theater er Pothe (Mamunur Rashid-A walk with Theatre). It is neither an autobiography nor a dried-up narration of his life in the field of theatre. It is a lively account, written by two of his colleagues, of how a man dedicated his whole life to the vocation of acting, of how he tried to change the division-ridden, inequal society of Bangladesh through the medium of stage play.
Published by Bangla Publications, the book brings out how Rashid made phenomenal changes into the field of drama in Bangladesh. In 1982, he went to Toronto, Canada, as a representative of the International Theatre Institute from Bangladesh. In the process of travelling and working around different parts of the world, Rashid got the chance to get acquainted with indigenous communities of Latin America, Australia, Greenland and the Red Indians and gathered knowledge over their lives. His love and inquisition for indigenous people is found in the play Rarang, a signature project of Rashid’s theatre group Aranyak. The play outlines an overall picture of the Santal community.
The book will enlighten you on how the “Mukto Natok” came into being with the initiative of Rashid. Mukto Natok is a kind of play where illiterate people act based on their real life experiences, without any script. Under a project of Proshika NGO, Rashid introduced the genre by employing some women labourers. That is how the Bangladesh Mukto Natok was born. Rashid introduced another short-lived trend where efficient and well-known theatre and television actors would come to work in a stage play for remuneration.
Rashid did not show any reservation against applying the knowledge and experience that he gathered during his stint with foreign theatres. He also directed two Chinese plays in Hong Kong, which were translated by Safdar Hashmi, a communist playwright and director, best known for his work with street theatre in India.
Is art a commodity or not? – that debate is also neatly presented in one of the sections in the book. It also presents you with a glimpse of the making and un-making of many prominent theatre groups such as Podatik, Theatre Art Unit, Nagorik Nattya Sampraday, Nagorik Natyangan, Prangone Mor, Prachyanaut.
The biographical sketches were not overlooked by the writers. In 1973 Rashid got married to Tuli and till date Tuli remains the inspiration behind his creative endeavours. However, the writers are apt to point out that Rashid roamed across the country and the world and so did his love for women.
The bi-lingual book with charming photos collected from Rashid’s family albums, different newspapers, Aronnok’s archive, current and previous members of Aronnok is also a treat to the eyes.
Faiz Zahir and Hasan Shahriar, two friends of Rashid, have done the job of compiling the dynamic life of this legend following the proposal of Adib Rashid Mamun. The English version is done by Shahidul Mamun while Sohel Pranon made the illustrations thus making the book visually pleasing. The book, published in March this year, is available at Tk1000.