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Selim Al Deen

Selim Al-Deen (সেলিম আল-দীন) (18 August 194914 January 2008) was a Bangladeshi playwright and theatre artist. He was the founder chairperson of the Department of Drama and Dramatics at the Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh. He died on Janurary 14, 2008 in Dhaka after a cardiac failure. In the post-Tagore era, his contribution to Bengali drama is considered matchless

Early life

Selim Al-Deen was born to Mofizuddin Ahmed (father) and Firoza Khatun (mother) in Shenerkhil village of Sonagazi upazila of Feni in 18 August 1949. 1949. He was the third of their seven children, named Mainuddin. He assumed this pen name later. . His school life started in 1954. He travelled with his father to different parts of the country and received education in many institutions as his father was doing a transferable government job in the department of Customs and Excise. In matriculated in 1964 as a student of Manglakandi High School and in 1966 he passed I. Sc. as a student of the Feni College. In 1967 he got admitted into the Dhaka University for studying Bengali literature. But later he moved to the Karatia College, Tangail and graduated as a student of that college. Later he came back to the Dhaka University and obtained his M. A. degree from the Bengali Department. In 1995 he obtained Ph.D. from the Jahangirnagar University, Savar. His first job was in an advertising firm as a copywriter. However, in 1974 he joined the Jahangirnagar University as a Lecturer. He married Begaumjadi Meherunnisa Parul the same year.

Debut into the world of Drama

He was attracted to reading literary works at a very young age. As he turned on to admit into the Dhaka University in 1966, he decided to become a career writer. In the early years, Selim Al-Deen wanted to be a poet and published some of poems he composed. But soon he realized that poetry was not his cup of tea. It was his renowned teacher and a playwright Munier Chowdhury who encouraged him to focus attention on drama. First he started reading plays and study the life of playwrights. Then he started to write plays himself. He wrote his first drama in 1968 while still a university-student. His first Radio Play was Biporit Tomosay (tr. 'On the other side of Darkness') was broadcast in 1969. He wrote a play for Bangladesh Television styled Librium which was broadcast in 1970. His first play for the thatre was Shorpo bishoyok golpo (tr. Story about snakes') was staged in 1972

His close study of European culture is reflected in his initial plays. His earlier works including Sharpa Bishawak Galpo, Jondis o Bibidho Balloon, O Mul Shomoshya, Karim Bawali’r Shotru o Mul Mukh Dekha, Charkakrar Documentary were cast in European format.

However soon he realized that the tales of rural farmers is no less heroic than the Herculean feats of Achilles or Prometheus. This realization changed his mindset and diverted his attention to the lives of his countrymen.

Later career

Selim Al-Deen carried out extensive research for his doctoral dissertation in which he proved that the history of Bengalu drama is older than that of European drama. He moved earth and heaven to collect data in support of his thesis. During 1977 to 1979, Selim Al-Deen studied Bengali Jatra which prompted him to write his first unique drama Kittonkhola. Success of Kittonkhola instilled him enormous confidence that using tradition as the foundation was pregnanat with success.

His subsequent works, namely, Bashon, Atotai, Saifulmulk Badiuzzaman, Keramat Mangal, Hat Hodai and Chaka followed the pattern of Epic realism which he inaugurated in Bengali culture. He also brought out the folklore tradition called Kathya-natya to his dramas like Joiboti Koinnar Mon.

Realization that Bengali drama was lagging far behind other branches of Bengali literature, Selim Al-Deen did not divert his attention away and continued his focus. He started experimentation in forms and styles to explore different possibilities. The early nineties saw Selim Al-Deen focusing on a new style derived from folk traditions. In Jaiboti Konya’r Mon, the ‘kathya-natya’ style was used. Kathya-natya was traditional of play that was being ignored for a long time. He resorted to the same format while composing Hargaaz.

Dhaka Theatre

Selim al Deen was one of the founding members of Dhaka Theatre which is a leading theatre group of the country and rendered vital contribution in advancing the progressive drama movement. Notably, Dhaka Theatre staged almost all of Selim’s plays. He and his fellow artists run the theatre movement across the rural Bangladesh to popularise the culture in rural areas of Bangladesh.

Achievements

Since 1980s, Selim Al-Deen has played a pivotal role in the theatre movement of Bangladesh. Apart from his active involvement with Dhaka Theatre, his fundamental contribution was introduciton of a novel sense of direction to modern Bengali Drama, based on tradition. Selim Al-Deen has also been one of the key organisers of Bangladesh’s village theatre movement. He took the monumental task of creating the only [[dictionary
on dramatics available in Bangla. Having been awarded almost all national recognitions possible in the field of theatre, Selim Al-Deen’s work is studied at many universities across the world. Several of his plays have been translated into other languages. They have been staged outside Bangladesh too. In fact, he is one of few Bangladeshi writers to have his plays staged by West Bengal troupes. Dramas and works of Selim Al Deen is translated in many languages and is in the syllabus of many universities around the world. He helped to build the Dramatics department of Jahangirnagar University and involved there as a teacher for 30 years.

Selim Al-Deen secured mass popularity when his plays were broadcast through television. Some of his TV serials like Granthikgan Kahey, Chhaya Shikari and others have won plaudits from the TV audience.

His play Nishwora Bhalobasha aired on Bangladesh Television January 2 of 2005 was achieved immediate popularity. The main casts were Shahriar Nazim Joy, Dipa Khondokar, Mamnun Emon, Kumkum Hassan and Anuja. The play revolves around Shombrita and Shukriti, two sisters of opposite temperaments. One day Opu, one of their relatives comes from overseas to stay in their house and plans eventually to marry a Bangladeshi girl and settle here. Shukriti's mother wants her to marry Opu. Meanwhile Shombrita falls in love with Opu. Opu cannot understand why Shukriti's mother is more interested in the marriage of her younger daughter. The play takes a dramatic turn when Shombrita leaves the house without notice. The play was directed by Nayeem Imtiaz Nayemul.

Books

Apart from individual books, plays of Selim Al-Deen have so far been collected in four volume 'collected works'. His first book was titled Shorpo Bishoyok Golpo ebong Ananya Natak (tr. Story about Snakes and other Plays') was published in 1973. Other books include Jaundice and various balloons (1975), Bashon (1985), Keramatmangal (1988), and Nimojjan (2004). He published two poetry collecitons, Kobi O Timir (1990) and Swapna Ramanigan (2007). His only novel is titled Amrita Upkshan. He compiled the seminal teatre dictionary 'Bangla Natyakosh'. and his complete works`Rachona Shomogro-1 & 2'(2005-06), compiled by Saymon Zakaria. His plays are included in the textbook curricula of Dhaka University and Jahangirnagar University and in Jadavpur University and Rabindra Bharati University in India.

He was also the founder of Fusion Theory and New Ethnic Theatre

Awards

  • Bangla Academy award for literature in 1984.
  • Kathak Sahitya Puroshkar in 2002.
  • Nandikaar Puroshkar in 1994.
  • Best Tele-playwright Award in 1994.
  • National Cinema Award for best dialogue in 1994
  • Khaleqdad Chowdhury Sahitya Puroshkar in 2001
  • Ekushey Padak in 2007
  • Alokta Sahitya Puroshaker in 2007.
  • Munier Chowdhury Sammanona by Theatre in 2003

Ronger Manush

Based on unmixed rural settings, Ronger Manush was written by Selim Al Deen jointly with Masum Reza. This is a 111-episode TV play produced by NTV. It achieved matchless popularity across rural Bangladesh for use of truly rural context together with colloquial dialect. The theme song of Ronger Manush become a household hit since the serial began in 2006.

Chaka in New York

At the auspicies of Barnard's Minor Latham Playhouse, Selim Al-Deen "Chaka" (Tr. The Wheelwas staged at Barnard College auditorium in New York Cityon 13, 14 and 15 November of 2003. Chaka was translated into English jointly by Jamil Ahmed and Steve Friedman. Directed by Denny Partridge it was a grand success. Cast: Ian Anthony,Ann Cheung,Samantha Debicki,Ariana Getz ,Oscar Olivo, Lindsay Strachan,Chloe Waters-Wallace,Matt Wilstein andJessica Valadez.

Movie

Kittankhola was made into a film in 2000. Directed by Abu Sayeed, the film was adapted from the stage play written by Selim Al-Deen. Featuring Raisul Islam Asad and Naila Azad Nupur, the film brought to light the lives of jatra artistes and their struggles to make a living off the dying performing art. It is considered one of the best Bengali films.

Death

Selim Al-Deen breathed his last at around 2:00 pm (Bangladesh time) at Labaid Cardiac Hospital in Dhaka on January 14, 2008 after being admitted to hospital following a cardiac attack on 11 January. The same day he was scheduled to be flown to Thailand for a better medical care. He had been suffering from heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney and diabetic problem. He was given life support as his condition deteriorated quickly and became critical.

After janaza at different places, he was laid to eternal rest at 5:57pm on 16 January, 2008 (Wednesday) at a graveyard near the Jahangirnagar University central mosque.

Unfinished projects

As many as six plays written by Selim Al-Deen are available which remain to be staged. Before death he was working on a new play styled Haar-Haddi (tr. Pile of Bones) that remians unfinished. He conceived of establishing a World Cultural Centre in Dhaka, his dream project, that has not been materialized.

TRIBUTES to Selim Al Deen

                                    By-Mohammad Shahidul Islam

Epitaph

Stranger! Approach this golden stage with gravity! Ask him, why to die, who will tie; Theatre!

An Ode to Chaka

Sunlight gives us dream to wheel life; Innocence has brought up the lamb in heart Methakhali; the village of immortal nature Frequently cherished to the bull The Maya in two wheels plays cacophony of time, proof of society. Two wheels monitor the cloths of nature: The mellow morning, manly noon, hasty afternoon beckoning the twilight, inviting night for morning again Wheels of weal and woe?

Life and death desire leg and wheel Lifeless body on wheels wanted to love life Dead body goes mocking to the pleasure of life The beloved body is scaring, ghostly Dead body is meaningless, meaningful to nature The charitable nature loves dead body; This once jinxed her, Legs can not move with dead body Is it wheel’s pleasure? Attention! Mystic wheels are looming!

Selim Al Deen

Silence of nature falls in Evening, mummy stops Lullaby, baby cries for Insomnia and Milk

All quiet in the Lab Aid,

Dramatic future Ends, we mourn, your Eternal works inspire to found New Selimism.

Email: mohd-s-islam@myway.com

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