The first thought that one may have upon watching Payer Awaj Pawa Jay is that the play depicts all aspects of today’s Bangladesh, even after almost 40 years since its inception.
The highly-acclaimed production of Theatre was previously directed by late Abdullah Al Mamun. Sudip Chakroborthy is currently steering at the helm..
Sudip, who took charge in 2012, feels that the story, the characters, and the plot of Payer Awaj Pawa Jay (We hear the footsteps) resemble the present political, religious and social context of the country in an uncanny manner.
The story is based with the backdrop of a village in East Pakistan. The villagers turn to the village’s matbor (chief) as they hear the footsteps of freedom fighters approaching in the vicinity. The matbor and his associate pir try to convince the villagers that Pakistani military troops are their protectors while freedom fighters were on the verge of losing. The daughter of the matbor then discloses that her father had handed her over to a Pakistani military officer through a fake marriage and the next day the military left the village. The play ends in a double tragedy.
“In the play we have shown how the youths defeated the rajakars. In today’s Bangladesh we see the youth speaking against atrocities. The Gonojagoron Moncho is an example. Unfortunately the group who opposed the independence of the country still live in this country. Our aim is to eliminate them through the power of theatre,” says Sudip.
He also mentions the character of the pir as a representation of the opportunists in the real society, religious leaders who try to influence the masses by delivering disorting religious sermons for their own benefits.
While reimagining the drama, Sudip made some changes in the composition and casting, keeping the script intact.
“There have been changes in roles played by the artistes. For example, the role of the matborer meye was played by Ferdausi Majumdar. Now it is played by her daughter Tropa. Many of the actors have left the country. So there were changes in the casting.”
This show features brilliant stars. “Working with them was a great experience,” says Sudip to the Dhaka Tribune.
Seasoned actor Tropa Majumdar beautifully paints the character of the matborer meye, the central female role of the play.
“The character has become an iconic one. It was a very significant role in my mother’s career. Initially, I did not want to play the role because people would start comparing me with my mother,” says Tropa.
“Ultimately, you have to go with the troupe’s decision. Save for the odd suggestion about the character’s motivations, my mother didn’t try to influence my portrayal of the role. Thus what you see is the character done my way, as I see her,” she continues.
The role of the matborer meye, which is both helpless and bold at the same time, reflects the condition of most women of our society. Unfortunately, even today most women here would be able to relate to the character as they must have faced such situations at some point in their lives, believes Tropa.
“A girl who doesn’t see the light of hope and who is usually introverted, shouts out her agony to the villagers. She boldly comes out of the house and accuses her father. This is the beauty of the character. She is on the edge but still bold,” describes Tropa.
The cast and crew of Payer Awaj Pawa Jay believes that one major reason for reviving the play in this month of victory is to speak out against the recent murders related to religious extremism.
“Allah? Shey kemon? Kemon tar chehara? (Allah? What does he look like?)” the dialogue delivered by matborer meye is not an insult to religion, rather an honest question asked by a naïve village girl. She had always learnt only the things that her pir taught her, without questioning the meanings. She describes herself as a blind person who lived her life paying heed to everything her teacher taught her, trusting him whole-heartedly. Such questions can come to the mind of any person. It is astonishing how Syed Shamsul Haque wrote such a dialogue back in 1976!
“So the play, in every aspect, significantly depicts today’s Bangladesh,” she opines.
The Dhaka Tribune asked veteran artiste Ferdausi Majumdar how she felt when she used to play the role and how she feels today.
The stalwart actress of Theatre replies: “Back in my days I used to feel nervous if I could play the role beautifully, now I feel anxious for my daughter if she can carry it blissfully.”
“There have been changes made in the casting and design of the play. I like both the styles, but the first production will always hold a special place in my heart,” says Ferdausi Majumdar.
She feels that such theatre festivals should be held more often as they attract more audiences.
“The number of audience in theatres fluctuates worldwide. The bulk of theatre audiences have slightly declined lately. But the Theatre Week 2015 has dragged a good number of audiences so far. Therefore, such festivals should be arranged more frequently,” Ferdausi concludes.
The Theatre Week 2015 comes to an end today with the play Baramkhana at the Jatiya Nattyashala of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy.
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