'All these years I wanted an adaptation of the novel on the big screen to raise awareness on Autism and open up conversations. I was very intrigued when I first heard that Mad Theatre’s Asadul Islam had adapted it into a 2-hour-long stage drama'
Dhaka’s renowned drama troupe Mad Theatre held the 47th show of their maiden play “Noddiyo Notim,” a modern adaptation of noted author Humayun Ahmed’s popular novel, “Ke Kotha Koy,” on February 4. The show took place at the capital’s Studio Theatre of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy.
“Ke Kotha Koy” is undoubtedly one of the first fiction pieces in Bangladeshi literature that beautifully dealt with, and in a way, introduced the masses of this country to the mental condition of autism and dyslexia. The story revolves around an autistic child named Komol who is also a mathematical prodigy and her private tutor, Motin Uddin.
I was a high school student back in 2006 when it was published and I first read the novel. Autism intrigued me, rather than thinking of it as a chronic mental condition. The storyline gripped me so much that I studied online for months about autism, dyslexia, autistic children around the world, and how with proper care and parenting they are turned into valuable citizens in the Western world, just like any of us.
All these years I wanted an adaptation of the novel on the big screen to raise awareness on the topic and open up conversations. I was very intrigued when I first heard that Mad Theatre’s Asadul Islam had adapted it into a 2-hour-long stage drama but never got the chance to go and experience it myself.
Finally, on February 4 during the 47th staging of the play, I went to Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy with a friend to see the play written, directed, and starred by Asadul Islam himself.
The play starts with a long and slightly monotonous monologue by its lead cast, Asadul, who plays the role of Motin Uddin, and also his fictional Uzbek poet, Noddiyo Notim. As soon as the monologue goes into the introduction of his whereabouts and what he does for a living, Asadul Islam’s excellent writing and performance draws the audience into the main storyline. From there the whole play is an absolute delight and a great educational piece on our urban Bangladeshi society.
Motin, a single and unemployed English literature grad living alone in Dhaka, lands himself a well paid job to tutor Komol who is an autistic child and the daughter of a very rich couple of the city. He develops a special relationship with this child. Later on in the play, Motin learns a dark secret about this family from Komol, which starts a whole new chain of events which was too much to handle for him.
The whole story is reenacted on stage with just three major characters from the book: Motin Uddin, played by Asadul, the autistic child Komol, played by Arjo Meghdut, and Komol’s mother Mona, played by Sonia Hasan.
A very interesting fact about the play [Spoiler Alert] is that the three characters of the play, who did an excellent job on stage, Asadul Islam, his wife Sonia Hasan Subarna, and their daughter Meghdut, are from the same family. Yet, all three characters were extremely complex, very different from each other and multi layered, but never gave away the fact that they are in anyway related to each other.
The timeline of this modern adaptation is set post 2010, yet the original book was set in the early 2000s. So the use of smartphones, internet, and modern elements were very subtly incorporated in the play by the director without hampering the main essence of the story.
The set design, lighting, costumes, makeup, and specially the modern background music, were also very modern and unorthodox compared to our traditional stage productions of Dhaka. It was all very well done and a treat to watch.
Mad Theatre did a splendid job in adapting and executing such an interesting, important, and educational novel into a play which can be enjoyed with family and friends.
More stories on these special children should be brought on stage and on the big screen. I would like to personally recommend everyone watch this play the next time it stages near you (upcoming schedules can be found on the official Facebook page of Mad Theatre) to educate yourself and your loved ones about what autism is, how special these children are to society, and how they can be turned into active citizens of our community with a bit of care and affection.
Siam Raihan is a film editor and a sub-editor at the Dhaka Tribune’s Showtime Desk