Good news for drama buffs. After a long hiatus due to the Covid pandemic, the popular Ganga-Jamuna Cultural Festival has returned to Dhaka.
Commemorating the birth centenary of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the golden jubilee of independent Bangladesh, the festival was inaugurated at the National Theatre Hall of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy (BSA) on Friday by State Minister for Cultural Affairs KM Khalid.
However, noted music composer, freedom fighter and Shwadhin Bangla Betar Kendra artiste Shujeyo Sham could not join the inaugural ceremony due to illness.
Former Minister for Cultural Affairs Asaduzzaman Noor, legendary thespian Ramendu Majumdar, ‘Mancha Sharathi’ Ataur Rahman, Dhaka Theatre president Nasiruddin Yousuff, and BSA director general Liaquat Ali Lucky also joined the inauguration ceremony as special guests.
Ganga-Jamuna Sangskritik Utsab Parshad’s member secretary Akter Uzzaman delivered the welcome speech at the inaugural ceremony, which was presided over by Parishad convener Ghulam Quddus.
The guests then inaugurated the 12 day-long festival, lighting Mangal Pradeep. The organisers also paid tribute to cultural activists who passed away during the pandemic by holding a photography exhibition at the venue.
Inaugurating the festival, KM Khalid said, “After so many devastating and frustrating days, it feels great to welcome back this kind of grant festival and audiences. From our Ministry of Cultural Affairs, we want to sponsor active cultural organisations. To ensure adequate support to the appropriate organisations, we will prepare a list and hand it over to cultural icons after proper evaluation.”
On his part, former Cultural Affairs Minister Asaduzzaman Noor said, “We should not compromise when it comes to ensuring the quality of our theatre productions. Before we give out incentives, we need to make sure that the groups and performances are of high quality. To ensure high-quality products, we must be critical of our own work, especially after the long break.”
Echoing similar sentiments, Nasiruddin Yousuff said, “After an 18-month hiatus, we returned to the stage tonight to present quality productions in front of the audience. Though we were unable to work for a long period due to the pandemic, we must now work diligently to recover. A number of demands have been made to the government by cultural activists, which I hope will be met shortly.”
None of the Indian cultural groups is participating in this year's festival due to the pandemic, so their local counterparts will be carrying the stage. At the inaugural ceremony, the guests paid respect to late theatre personality Amalesh Chakraborty, who initiated the Ganga-Jamuna Cultural Festival in Kolkata.
Enthralling the audiences, a group performance of the National Anthem was presented by Bangladesh Gana Sangeet Samannay Parishad artistes at the ceremony. It was followed by a special dance recital, presented by Spandan and choreographed by Anik Basu.
A minute of silence was observed in honour of those who passed away during the 1971 Liberation War and the pandemic.
After the inauguration, Theatre Bailey Road presented Syed Shamsul Haq's renowned play 'Payer Awaj Pawa Jay' at the National Theatre Hall auditorium. Originally directed by late thespian Abdullah Al Mamun, the rendition is directed by Sudip Chakroborty.
In addition, Aranyak Natyadal presented 'Kohe Facebook' in the Experimental Theatre Hall, written and directed by legendary thespian Mamunur Rashid, while Shilpakala Academy Dhaka presented 'Janaker Mrityu Nei' at BSA’s Studio Theatre Hall, written by Abdul Halim Aziz and directed by Soron Saha.
The 9th edition of the Ganga-Jamuna Cultural Festival will showcase 36 theatrical performances by 36 different theatre groups from Dhaka and beyond. Music, choreography, and recitation will be performed by 44 music recitations and dance troupes in the auditorium, and the festival will showcase around 3,500 artistes from 140 noted and promising cultural groups.
In addition to these performances, 12 street plays alongside the presentation of 11 recitation groups, 12 music groups, 11 dance groups, 10 children's groups and solo recitals and solo music performances will be showcased on the open stage every day from 4 pm to 6.30 pm every day while the stage play will start at 7 pm.