All India Bengali Short Drama Competition: Reliving History

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‘Biranganer Bayan’, Staged at 11th All India Bengali Dramatic Short Competition, Promotes the Cause of Women in War

Pieces with a universal theme appeal to audiences regardless of the country. In accordance with this, “Biranganer Bayan” was recently staged at the 11th All India Bengali Short Drama Competition by Shobdo Nattaya Charcha Kendro from Bangladesh.

Directed by Debashish Ghosh, it features only one actor Rowshan Jannat Rushni, who is also the playwright. It revolves around the true story of Halima Begum, a freedom fighter (biranganer), who was raped in an attack by the Pakistani army and the Razakars in 1971. From her, Rowshan weaves d other stories of atrocities against women and children. Happy with her appreciation, Rowshan believes that “women’s submission is contextual and people care about it everywhere. This has happened in the past and continues as is evident in Iraq and Myanmar.

Genesis of the story

The story began in 2013 when there was a mass movement, Gonojagoron Moncho, against a judgment sentencing a war criminal to life imprisonment instead of death. “This has led many theater practitioners to write and direct plays on the subject. I was given the responsibility of writing one. Starting with the downside of the lack of material on the matter, I read all the books, articles and interviews available and wrote a 25 minute piece on Halima. It turned into an hour-long show as other women showed up to share their stories with Rowshan while watching the play. “These tales that I have woven into the room and present them through Halima.”

Playing many characters, Rowshan does everyone justice by reflecting their feelings through fine emotions and dialogue. These include men, women, children, Mukti Bahini volunteers, members of the armed forces and the common people. “Thanks to the director and the practice, I was able to modulate the voice according to each character. Plus, I worked on facial expressions and body language to convey the right kind of emotions. What is remarkable is his effective use of a dupatta to represent fire or weapons. The play culminates with Rowshan motioning for a member of the audience to hand over a flag. “It is a symbolic act to hand over the responsibility for the fight for gender equality to the next generation,” she explains.

The lighting used is simple and effectively brings out the meaning of day and night. Other recorded sounds of bomb shootings and explosions and songs are played to set the mood. This is complemented by the digital banner in the background showing war scenes from Mujibur Rahman and Bangladesh.

With the subject close to her, Rowshan hopes the play will ensure that war criminals are tried and punished, and that young people realize the sacrifices people made for their independence. “Last but not least is my sincere hope that all Biranganers are recognized and rewarded. In 2016, 40 of them were identified and helped, but there are still many more.


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