Cultural Affairs Ministry officials say that the event is going to be regularly held
The maiden edition of Bangladesh International Theatre Festival, an initiative of the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, opened at the National Theatre auditorium in Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy yesterday with promises of more such events in future.
Shilpakala Academy Director General Liaquat Ali Lucky, giving the welcome speech at the inaugural ceremony of the festival yesterday evening, called the occasion “memorable.”
"This is the first time that the Ministry of Cultural Affairs is organizing an international theatre festival here. It has been organized in a very short time, but the sincere cooperation and dedication of everyone involved has made it possible," he said.
The seven-day festival will end on Wednesday. A French production "Oh My Sweet Land," and an Indian production of "Macbeth" will be staged today. A Bangladeshi production "Zaitun Bibir Pala," Chinese play "F CK," Nepalese play "Jhialincha," Vietnamese play "Kim Tu," plus a Russian light puppet show," will be staged on the subsequent days of the festival. A seminar along with a masterclass will take place at 3 pm on June 22 as part of the festival. The entire festival is free for all.
Planning Minister MA Mannan, who was the special guest at the event, congratulated State Minister for Cultural Affairs KM Khalid for taking the initiative and organizing it within a short period of time.
“I am certain that this is a happy occasion for every thespian out there, and we will most definitely enjoy the festival," the planning minister said.
State Minister KM Khalid, the mastermind behind this initiative, said he wanted to bring more attention to the age-old art of theatre in the modern life, where most people’s lives and entertainment revolves around digital devices.
"I have noticed that there are members in every family who have become too engrossed in the world of their mobile phones. Then we hear complaints about the sorry state of our culture,” he said when explaining what inspired him to undertake such a monumental task.
However, the idea did garner some concerns from some people about unfavourable reactions, the state minister further said.
"Some people expressed concern that staging this festival may cause vandalism in protest the next day. I said to them, I want vandalism,” he said amid loud applause. “I want people to be so interested in theatre, that they will resort to buying tickets from black market to watch plays.”
The ministry is organizing the theatre festival with the fund left over from the previous budget allocation for cultural affairs, Khalid further said.
Dr Md Abu Hena Mostofa Kamal, acting secretary at the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, admitted to having doubts whether they would be able to successfully organize the event.
“A month ago, when the state minister shared the idea of this festival with me, I was sceptical about how we would arrange such a feat in such a short time. However, when we saw his passion and enthusiasm for the project, I was afraid to say no to anything. Everyone involved worked tirelessly for this festival's success, and here we are, finally," he said.
Among others, veteran theatre activist Ramendu Majumdar, honorary world president of the International Theatre Institute (ITI), Nasiruddin Yousuff, another famed theatre activist and president of ITI Bangladesh Centre, and internationally renowned Indian playwright and theatre director Ratan Thiyam were present.
The Bangladesh International Theatre Festival will be organized biannually, alongside the Dhaka International Theatre Festival (DITF), which is organized by the International Theatre Institute (ITI) Bangladesh. The ministry will continue supporting the DITF too, the ministry officials said.
The inaugural play
The festival began with the staging of dance drama "Mayar Khela," by Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore.
The play was staged beautifully by Dhriti Nartanalaya, amid loud cheers from a full-house theatre.
As soon as the curtain rose, in the dark we could see three "Mayakumaris" – dream maidens conceptualized by Tagore – in white winged costume spinning mesmerizingly. Soon they were joined by more mayakumaris, who entered the stage from right, left, and also aisles in between the seats of the audience. As soon as the colourful lights were lit, a small stage on the left side towards the back of the main stage became visible, and a full orchestra of musicians and singers were seated there — just like a jatra, the traditional theatre production in Bangladesh.
The story of "Mayar Khela" was told with soulful singing and quaint music from the orchestra. It is about a love triangle between Pramada, Amar and Shanta. Amar, who is in a relationship with Shanta, gets tired of the relationship and tries to discover more in the world out there. He finds Pramada, who rejects his affections.
Amar reconciles with Shanta, but in an emotional twist, Pramada also seeks out Amar, hoping to return the love that he professed before. The dance moves by each character was graceful and full of meaning, and the actors did an excellent job of bringing depth to their story-telling with not just masterful delivery of the dialogues, but also through their facial expressions.