Sayeeda Islam is popularly called “The mother of Bangladesh Stage Drama”. A dedicated theatre activist Sayeeda has a bright presence in TV and radio plays too. She has enriched her acting career with as many as 500 nights of theatre performances, 80 TV plays and 100 radio dramas. Presently on a sabbatical for health reasons, the actor talked about her career with The Daily Star.
TDS: What brought you to theatre?
Sayeeda Islam: I never dreamed of being an actor. The moment I tied the knot with theatre activist Tabibul Islam Babu, I realized that my fate was to be a member of the theatre family. From the very beginning of our marriage I realized that Babu was ready to leave me but not theatre. I used to accompany him on his theatre activities, which gradually took me to a life of theatre and eventually I fell in love with the art.
Inspired and groomed by talented actor Ferdausi Majumdar, whom I consider as my mentor, I debuted on stage in the role of Nirja Boudi in the play “Dui Bon” (Two Sisters) based on Tagore's story and that happened due to the sudden ill health of Rekha Ahmed, the regular actor of the role.
TDS: We know you have a glorious theatre life. Please share a glimpse of that.
Sayeeda Islam: I feel happy to recall the plays I took part in: “Jomidar Dorpon”, “Shaat Ghater Kanakori”, “Rakkhushi”, “Mahapurush”, “Khotobikkhoto”, “Tebhagar Pala”, “Bhuboner Ghate” and “Ghritang Pibet”. Working with legendary actors such as Mamunur Rashid, Ferdousi Majumdar, Zakaria, Ariful Haque, Keramat Moula, Shuja Khandakar, Golam Rabbani, Kazi Tamanna, Mita Chowdhury and Tarana Halim is reason enough to be happy about my theatre career.
TDS: Tell us about your involvement in other media.
Sayeeda Islam: I acted in roughly 80 TV dramas and 100 radio dramas. I was unable to take up movie offers.
TDS: You have become a mother figure in our cultural arena. How did you achieve that?
Sayeeda Islam: In the drama called “Saat Ghater Kanakori” I played the role of the mother for a long time, which gave me a maternal image. Professor Nilima Ibrahim called me “The mother of Bangladesh Stage Drama”. I enjoy being called a 'mother'.
TDS: What is special about being a female actor?
Sayeeda Islam: I always enjoyed advantages of being married to a theatre activist. However, that is not the case with all the ladies over there. There is a security concern for those who come back home at midnight after shows or rehearsals. A woman might face restrictions from in-laws after marriage. In spite of all these hindrances, women are involved in the media, which is a positive sign.
TDS: What is your observation about present day theatre?
Sayeeda Islam: We have lack of theatre venues. Meritorious people are engaged in more profitable professions than theatre, which is why we need to make theatre profitable to attract more brains to the art form. Novel writers are well-paid; theatre script writers are not, which results in lack of good scripts. Actors who have good potential are rather engaged in electronic media. The theatre movement is presently based on subsidies and we need to come out of that culture, which is possible only if government and non-government organisations come forward to patronise theatre.
The writer is a contributor to The Daily Star.