Pantha Shahriar, an actor-scriptwriter-director is a multi talented person who has been working in theatre and entertainment world for nearly 3 decades now.
Originally, a management post- graduate, the passionate theatre professional talks about his journey in theatre, Nagarik Natya Sampraday, and many more in an exclusive conversation with Dhaka Tribune Showtime’s Nazia Adnin
Tell us how you got involved with theatre
I was inspired by my father who was and still is involved with theatre. I was born in Chittagong. I saw my father was active in the theatre scene in Chittagong. For some reason, I was interested to perform in theatre since my childhood. You know when you are a child, you have a dream to be a doctor, engineer or be in any other profession, but I always wanted to be in theatre.
Since, my father was involved with theatre; I never faced any obstacles from my family. Right after school life, I got involved with theatre in Dhaka. I started working in theatre regularly when I was still in college.
When did you join Nagarik Natya Sampraday?
In 1995, I joined Nagarik Natya Sampraday. Prior to joining Nagorik, I was a member of Drama Circle. Our dream was to make our living from theatre. But it wasn’t possible to survive by only performing in theatre. Around 1996, package dramas began on TV, which gave us a ray of hope.
We thought maybe our main source of livelihood could be what we love to do. And interestingly, Masum Reza, Giasuddin Selim and I, we were the first generation who could think of making a living by writing dramas. Over the years, writing script professionally became my main source of living.
How many dramas did you write for TV so far?
So far, I wrote around 200 single and one-hour dramas, and around 30 long series.
Tell us how you became a director on stage?
Like I said before, I have always had a passion for theatre, and a zeal for directing theatre productions. I never directed for TV; I tried out acting on TV for a short period, but I figured that wasn’t my cup of tea. It is difficult for professional actors to spare time for stage.
When I was a student, we used to direct plays at various schools to earn our pocket money. Infact, I met my wife, while directing the play, “Tasher Desh” for Sunnydale school. She was the choreographer of that play and later became my wife. I also directed a couple of dramas for St Joseph Higher Secondary School.
As I always had an interest to be a director on stage, so I prepared myself by working in different sectors of theatre including light, set design, make-up etc. Around the year 2000 or 2001, Nagarik organized a workshop and I directed a few productions for the workshop. Nagarik practices this culture to prepare the seniors members for direction if they want to choose to be on that path.
In 2010, with a new batch, we did a full phased production which became a regular production of our troupe. It was Ghashiram Kotwal by Vijay Tendulkar. It became a successful production back then. Later, I directed two more plays and created a platform titled, Agantuk. Tropa Majumdar, my wife and many other theatre activists were part of it. As most of us were from different theatre troupes, our idea was to create a platform where all of us who share the same zeal and mindsets, could work together
In 2013, I directed Andhakarer Mithen for Agantuk. In 2016, I directed Dhollesori Opera. In 2018, Nagarik wanted to revive its popular play, Galileo. And I directed the revamped version of it.
So far, I have directed around 5 or 6 mainstream theatre productions.
How do you split time between script writing and directing for stage?
You know you always have to split time for many things. If I don’t write, my source of income will stop. I try to balance my time for script writing and directing for stage, depending on the situation.
Things have changed in terms of quality of scripts. How has the current situation affected your writing?
Of course, it has affected us badly. It is difficult for us to write about something very light. On the other hand, a producer can’t make a drama properly with a lack of budget. Secondly, these days, most TV dramas don’t need any script.
You acted and directed in Kalo Joler Kabbo. How difficult is it for you to act and director simultaneously?
It is very difficult. It is better not to act in the same production while you are directing it. However, sometimes we have to do it due to the situation. But the load is really heavy when I direct and act simultaneously.