Chat Baharul Islam, theatre personality from Assam, talks about the right way to create interest in theatre
“Iplay the role of both the old and the young man on stage for this play — Aakash — to be staged as part of Qadir Ali Baig Theatre Fest. Originally written by Bhabendra Nath Saikia, this play is in Hindi and directed by me. The 85-minutes-long play is a comic representation of the male dominated society. In brief the story is about an anonymous letter which reaches the girl’s parents warning about the boy who their daughter is to marry. The writer mocks the male-dominated society who nurtures ‘it is common in a man’s life’ through this play,” explains the director/actor.
A product of NSD, Baharul wasn’t looking to take up acting or directing as a child. He was more into sports and academics and the only association that he had with theatre was through plays staged by his school friends during Deepavali.
“Acting wasn’t anywhere in the realm of things. So it took me a while to decide and take it up to pursue. It wasn’t easy in the beginning at home but all’s well now,” says Baharul
Baharul however is disappointed with commercial theatre which is a big success in Assam. According to him they have become ‘too commercial.’ The reason he say is the lack of Assamese movies. Assamese movie industry is in such a sorry state that it needs to be revived and in the absence of movies, most of the actors from the film industry have joined commercial theatre.” The audience loves these shows because they are glitzy and cater to the galleries and the theatre too works with double screens and elaborate colourful sets which fill in the cinema void,” adds Baharul.
“If Assamese movie industry was as prosperous as the Telugu movie industry the problem in attracting the right audience wouldn’t have been there,” he says. This is also a reason why Baharul has consciously stuck to theatre and didn’t get lured by the fame and money which movies can fetch him. Baharul adds that another reason for the lack of appreciation is the wrong connotation of the word ‘ natak .’ “Theatre in Assamese language is natak and natak is also used to explain ‘acting in a wrong way’. Anybody does a mistake, we say natak kori ase (he is acting). This perception has to change ‘natak’ isn’t wrong, the way we perceive things is,” he explains.
The positive feeling which he is getting however is coming from the schools and educational institutions where drama is included as an activity. “Teach them young and teach them right. We also have a small auditorium in our house where plays can be staged; schools make use of the premises. This shows the positive attitude for now and hope that things can change for good,” he says.
PRABALIKA M. BORAH