May 20, 2013 | 01:22 AM (BD Time)
20 May, 2013 Monday
Pioneer playwright Nurul Momen
Dr. Faisal Mahmud:
(From previous issue)
He was the writer of the first Satirical Essay book of Bangladesh 'Bahurupa' published from Calcutta in 1948.The articles compiled in this book, were written over the earlier ten years and were either published in journals and newspapers or being broadcast from Radio in his own voice. In its preface, the famous Indian critic Shajanikanto Das wrote, "I read these pages at a single breath. This powerful writer has fulfilled our hopes. As his soul is ever awake, his eyes sharp; so is his ability exceptional, to express the profound feelings of inner mind in a lighter vein. The language is razor-sharp and hard hitting. If Steele or Addison (Sir Richard Steele & Joseph Addison, outstanding essayists of the Augustan Age) were born in Bangladesh in this age, they would have written in the same manner. I'm proud to present this book."Some other famous humor books by Nurul Momen are Adikkheta, London Probashe, Ha-jo-bo-ro-Ia, Forbidden Pleasures and others.
In 1948, he went to England for higher studies (on being granted a long leave from DU), graduating in Law from London University. While in London he, along with his friend NAZIR AHMED, started the weekly Bangia programme from BBC. Nazir took charge of News, while Momen was looking after literary programmes. He used to conduct a popular children's programme called 'Kakoli'. The famous opening lines he uttered were, "London thekey dadavai bolchi (its dadavai speaking from London)".He also worked as Education Officer at the Pakistan High Commission in London for a year. His translation of 'Rupantor(The Transformation)' and other English plays by him made him famous in the mainstream theatre scene of London. He took part in 'Death of a Salesman' and other plays on London stage. He once bought a villa and decided to settle there to make Bangia theatre more exposed to international drama-scene. If he had settled there, he definitely would have become internationally famous.
On his return, he rejoined the University of Dhaka. On 21s1 February 1952, just a few months after his return, he and his student, language-activist Toaha was standing on University playground when the heinous shootout took place. Nurul Momen and Toaha were both stunned and shocked.
Nurul Momen later vehemently protested the incident. For the rest of his life, he began a new writing on 21s1 February, to pay respect to the martyrs.
He introduced actresses on stage for the first time staging his 'Rupantor' at Curzon Hall where 'Rijia' was played by a female student. Sabera Mustafa. Razia Khan and Dilara Zaman were also introduced by him. Besides teaching, he served DU in various capacities. He was house tutor and Provost at Dhaka Hall and Fazlul Huq Hall (provost. 1957), Dean of Law Faculty (1963), Proctor of DHAKA UNIVERSITY and Treasurer.
In January 1954, a conference of Vice-Chancellors of Commonwealth Universities was held at Dhaka. An original English verse-play written and directed by Nurul Momen "We are Brothers All" was staged at Curzon Hall in their honor.
The plot revolved around 'Dr. Bashir', an absentminded nuclear-physicist busy with his laboratory. It shows the scientific foresightedness of Nurul Momen, when even in the west nuclear-physics was only in its inception. After watching this play, the VC of Quebec University went on the stage on behalf of all the attending VCs and said, "We knew that Rabindranath Tagore was a genius from this part of the world, but we did not know that Nurul Momen was another such."
In 1955, Malcolm Muggeridge, the world famous critic and the erstwhile editor of famous British satire-magazine 'Punch', commented on Nurul Momen after watching his comedy 'Underneath the Law', which was written only in English, "I Malc Muggeridge, who so often finds that a play which purports to be amusing, isn't; found this play immensely amusing. This, from the editor of Punch, is high praise. Nurul Momen has pioneered the theatre of East Pakistan (Bangladesh) into a modernism which could very well be compared to European theatre." Peter Archer, a famous British theatre personality, has commented, "What Nurul Momen did for modern drama in East Pakistan (Bangladesh) has bestowed him with the honor to be the Father of Theatre of East Bengal."
When Dhaka TV began in 1964, he wrote its second play 'Andhokartai Alo'. He was the compere and presenter of first quiz and magazine show on TV, 'National Bank Quiz'. In 1965, he acted in 'Nemesis' on Dhaka TV. He wrote and directed about 100 plays for Radio, TV and stage, especially Curzon Hall of Dhaka University.
He protested against the Pakistan government's directive to ban TAGORE SONGS on Radio and TV in 1967. He also protested against the move to reform the Bangia alphabet. replacing it with Arabic or Roman script. [According to the Vol. 2 of Bangladesher Shadhinotajuddher Dolilpotro (The Documents of the Liberation war of Bangladesh), Edited by Hasan Hafizur Rahman, and the Daily Azad of Wednesday February 22, 1961,] On 21s1 February, 1961, the "then Proctor of Dacca University Nurul Momen along with other speakers at a largely attended symposium in Curzon Hall, strongly protested against the then Pakistani government's negligence towards Bangia. He drafted, wrote and read out a Six-point resolution which was unanimously passed by the huge audience comprising mostly students by raising their hands. The Six-point demands were: - (1) Early completion of the construction of Shaheed Minar.
(2) Declaration of 21 st February as government holiday.
(3) Introduction of Bengali in all spheres of national life and administration. (4) Activisation of Bangali Academy in promoting the language.
(5) Introduction of Roman script in Bengali or any new language not to be tolerated.
(6) Pucca construction over the graves of the victims of police firing at Government cost.
The symposium (organized by the Dacca University Central Students' Union) was rounded off by a cultural programme (directed by Nurul Momen) featuring some Bengali songs eulogizing the Bengali Language and the Day. (According to the Daily Azad) the final item of the evening was a jeebontika (drama sketch) written and directed by Nurul Momen. The play depicted the oppression of the Pakistani regime over the Bengalis from 1948 to 1961.
He challenged Ayub Khan that Bangia language and Bengali litterateurs are more competent than Urdu litterateurs, claiming that no Urdu litterateur could learn and write in Bangia in a stipulated short time. As a result of this challenge, Nurul Momen learned Urdu in three months and written & published a huge satirical essay in Urdu 'Mayne ye Khab kiun Dekha (Why did I dream it)', in the largest Urdu language daily of Pakistan, 'Jung'.
In 1966, he wrote a symbolic costume-play for children 'Thik Cholar Poth'(The right way to go). mimicking the autocracy of Ayub Khan. In this play the autocrat Owl is challenged by other timid animals under the leadership of Jackal. The word 'autocrat', was used twelve times in that play, which was a great act of courage under martial law. It was not broadcast from Dhaka radio. Later Rajshahi radio transmitted it.
Nurul Momen did not believe in the ideology of united Pakistan and that is why he supported the WAR OF LIBERATION in 1971. As a playwright. he exposed the inconsistencies and conflicts of his time in his plays through satire and farce. Among his major plays are Rupantor, Nemesis, Jodi Emon Hoto, Noya Khandan, Alochhaya, Shotkora Ashi, Ainer Ontorale, Rupolekha, Bhai Bhai Shobai (a play with only male characters). Eituku ei Jibontate (a play with only female characters), Underneath the Law, We are Brothers All, Is Law An Ass, At the Alter of the Law and Jemoan
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