By far, Celebrating Life is the only competition in Bangladesh dedicated to bringing out the unsung talents from across the nation in terms of films, photography and lyrics. It is also one of the most monumental competitions for artists; not only in terms of size, but also in terms of the prize. A simple yet pragmatic practice, the initiative has proven to be a success over the years. Nurturing the youth and helping them restrain from radicalism, this year's theme “Youth in Change”, promised to do that and much more. With all the previous success of Celebrating Life, this year's gala night was yet another milestone set in the field of cultural contests.
The grand gala was held on the 22nd of November, 2016 at the International Convention City, Bashundhara. Even before the execution of the event, the enthusiastic crowd was abuzz and it definitely added to the aura of the arena. The occasion brought along citizens from different walks of life, who all shared a common cultural interest. The event was dedicated to Faraaz Ayaaz Hossain, the youth who set an iconic example by sacrificing his life to save his friends' during the Gulshan terrorist attack. He “celebrated life” in his own heroic manner and is now a symbol in Bangladesh and beyond.
With the mesmerizing choir by Rezwana Chowdhury Bannya, Ferdous Ara and Sadya Afreen Mallick, accompanied by the dance performances of Samina Hossain Prema, Abu Nayeem and Rachel Priyanka, the audience was truly enthralled. To add to the hype, prominent personalities, thespian Ferdausi Majumdar, renowned composer Alam Khan and veteran cinematographer Reza Latif were honoured with lifetime achievement awards during the gala. When they were on stage, it was soon graced by the presence of many legendary figures from the entertainment industry like Runa Laila, Babita, Ferdousi Rahman, Aly Zaker and Sara Zaker along with the chief guest, Minister of Cultural Affairs, Asaduzzaman Noor, CEO of Standard Chartered Bangladesh, Abrar A. Anwar and the Editor of The Daily Star, Mahfuz Anam.
The iconic Bobita did not miss the opportunity to say a few words on behalf of the legendary Ferdausi Majumdar. She mentioned that on her visit to Kolkata with Satyajit Ray, he praised Ferdausi Majumdar mentioning his willingness to work with such a versatile actress. Even Aly Zaker stated that the chemistry he shared with Ferdausi Majumdar during the plays Tempest and Macbeth were remarkable and Sara Zaker said that she always looked up to Ferdausi Majumdar and appreciated her calibre. Runa Laila also stole the mic to say a few words on behalf of Alam Khan and in the process, perhaps stole the hearts of the audience
with her mesmerizing tone when she was requested to sing a few lines from one of Alam Khan's composition. Runa Laila stated that he was a true gentleman and never harsh with anyone and that she was truly grateful to have worked with him.
In his speech, Asaduzzaman Noor, said the government alone cannot take the responsibilities of making the country great; the responsibility to bring up a better generation of tomorrow also rests on families and educational establishments, where the youth spend majority of their time. The Minister also stated, “We cannot merely hold today's youth accountable for the rise of militancy. Someone somewhere is cultivating an environment where it can grow, and we have to find that”. He ended his speech on an emotional note, reciting a poem about the Holey Artisan attack.
The CEO of Standard Chartered Bank Abrar A. Anwar mentioned that a nation's development is not complete with just economic advancements. He also added, “Cultural development is an integral part of a country's development. We want to contribute to that, and this initiative is just an effort from us in that direction.”
Mahfuz Anam in his speech said, “Patriotism can be expressed in many ways, but to do it through arts is special. Our struggle now is to build this nation. No matter how much personal success we achieve, if we don't have successes as a nation, it will not bring us prestige.”
After the speech, all the winners of Celebrating Life 2016 were acknowledged with the accolades, much to their joy. To add fuel to their ecstasy, there was a rather entertaining line-up of artists waiting backstage. The concert began with a marvellous entry by Tahsan, who took the stage by storm with his hit numbers. After him came Arnob and Pantho Kanai who also mesmerized the crowd with their unique vocals. Next was Joler Gaan who had a rather entertaining start to their slot. They rocked the crowd with their exclusive “patriotic” touch. The last band to perform was Chirkutt, and did they start with a bang! Their intro with sitar was astounding and to cheer up the crowd, the lead singer Sumi, started singing from amongst the audience as she walked and graced the stage.
Even though the clock struck late into the night, the enthusiasm of the audience prove otherwise. The sheer energy from the crowd in the hall, along with the flamboyant tunes, set a new benchmark in the successful history of Celebrating Life. With an ever so eager number of participants, the anticipation for the upcoming Celebrating Life is already gaining momentum. With a theme that will be announced soon, as promised by the CEO of Standard Chartered Bangladesh, Abrar A. Anwar, we can only hope for the very best in our future endeavours.
By Minam Haq