Many of the theatre persons of Bangladesh left the country in 1971 for Calcutta and had an active exposure to the stage productions of the city. They came back with that experience to bring in some new rhythm and vibrancy in theatre of free Bangladesh. And Mamun was no exception. Mamun reaped as much benefits as he could while he was in Calcutta. He met persons like Utpal Dutt, enjoyed productions made by him and other stalwarts like Sombhu Mitra, Ajitesh Banerjee, Arun Mukhopadhyay and others. It is very heartening that Mamun is still in touch with those who are living. And his theatre is at the root of this linkage. Theatre has taken Mamun to many places of the world, East and West. His visits stretch from Japan and People's China in the Far East to Venezuela in South America. In between, he had been to Canada, Germany, Scotland and many other places, not to speak of the almost all the corners of his own country, Bangladesh. In all such visits, Mamunur Rashid has always worked hard to uphold the cause of theatre and in the process he himself has been a tireless learner. This pictorial biographical sketch presents before us such glimpses of his life.
The book, as I have noted earlier, is sketchy in its character. I do understand the reasons behind that. The authors were, quite reasonably, attentive to focus a little bit more on the visual presentation. So what we get is a kind of a tour of Mamun's life and work. I must say the photographs that are included within the two covers of the book are a feast to the eyes of the readers. I thank the authors for the diligence that they have shown to collect some of the rare images of theatre productions. And such images serve multiple purposes. Well, we get to know some biographical detail of the artist. Then, the pictures also present not only the theatrical productions with which he was connected, but we are also able to read the history of contemporary Bangladesh theatre. At the same time, some of the pictures reflect many important occasions of the history of our theatre. For example, Mamun accomplished a kind of a historic duty with the production of Munier Chowdhury's Kabar just after our liberation in which many of the illustrious actors including the renowned film director Subhas Dutta also took part. Very unfortunately though, no photograph of that production could be retrieved, again for understandable reasons. However, on the auspicious occasion of 40th anniversary of Aronoyak Natyadal, the group that Mamun heads, the actors could be assembled and they took part in an auditory re-performance of the maiden production of this group. I must hail all the pains that Faiz Zahir and Hasan Shahriar took to collect these invaluable photographs.
The book once again brings before us some of Mamun's committed vocation in the arena of theatre. I can remember, in the eighties, Mamun' experiment with what he called Muktonatak (Free Theatre) gave birth to sundry kinds of reactions amongst the people connected with theatre. We found more people to criticize it than those who voiced some sort of appreciation or welcome. Done a little in imitation of what the great Indian theatre person Badal Sircar initiated in what was known as Third Theatre, Mamun's experiment of inducting the common down to earth people into theatre in places where they live was something very fresh of its kind. In later days, we find some deviation in similar productions undertaken by another group. Muktonatak also initiated the theatre for development in our country. Some light has been thrown on Mamun's another venture Bangla Theatre.
The book further specially upholds Mamun's concern for and close association with the indigenous peoples of Bangladesh. Not only does the book present a short pictorial commentary on the production of Rarang, a play which was conceived and delivered on some real contemporary suppression on one of the indigenous groups in the north of Bangladesh, but we also get to know that Mamun is a very popular person with people in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. The book also furnishes information about Mamun's role as a theatre director for some other groups too. It also reports about Mamun's work on Shakespeare but somehow omits his redoing of one Ibsen play.
I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the book primarily for its comprehensive character, which is applicable not only for the presentation of one important cultural personality of our country but for the documentation of present-day Bangladesh even reporting on the breakaway of some theatre groups including Mamunur Rashid's. And then I like the book for the focus it gives to project Mamunur Rashid as an artist dedicated both to people and theatre. However, I am not happy with the fact that Mamun's refusal of Bangla Academy prize is covered in two sentences.
The pictures in the book are a treasury. The authors, I can understand, have been somehow in a problem about how to use them. The chronology has not been maintained. That takes away the reading as well as the visual pleasure at some places. The water colours used in the earlier pages to substitute the photographs are lovely. While I appreciate the enormous job that two young important theatre workers of our country has done, I must note that some errors have crept in, and it is not just typos. I feel prompted to locate at least one which disappointed me. In page 49, the caption of the picture says it is 'Kolon' radio, which it is not. In fact, this is Deutsche Welle, Koln (not Kolon) station. The word radio has not been spelt in the correct way. To make a precise comment, I have all words of praise for Bangla Publications, which has done a marvelous job. I have specially liked the cover photograph. It does immaculately presents Mamun with the blazing spirit of ancient Greek architecture with some pleasing effects of painting. I wish Mamun a long and active life.