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Bangla literature through ages

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04th-Jul-2014       
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Mohammad Daniul Huq and Aminur Rahman :(From the previous issue)Unlike other branches of literature in this phase, plays did not flourish to any significant extent. Religious and social taboos about plays as well as various limitations in staging them thwarted the development of drama. Most plays of the time were based on historical stories, completely detached from the realities of contemporary life. Of these plays, Akbaruddin's Nadir Shah (1953) is worth mentioning. Poet Jasimuddin used folklore to create Padmapar, Madhumala and Beder Meye. Outside these two trends, Nurul Momen created Nemesis (1948) depicting a superb picture of the contemporary life. In terms of theme and structure, Nemesis was regarded as the first successful play of Bangladesh. Razia Khan's play Sambarta reflects political consciousness. Askar Ibne Shaikh is particularly remembered for writing social plays. He wrote quite a few plays based on the realities of rural life including Padaksep, Bidrohi Padma, Duranta Dheu, Birodh, Agnigiri, Anubartan and Pratiksa, all written between 1951 and 1959. Of particular interest is the thematic variety of these plays, which include historical plays as well as plays of political protest, plays based on folktales and those containing poetry and satire.It was Munier Chowdhury (1925-1971) who almost single-handedly raised the status of Bangla plays to an international level. A political prisoner in Dhaka central jail, he wrote the exceptional play Kabar (1953) based on the Language Movement of 1952. In fact, Kabar proved to be a turning point in Bangla plays. When the play was published, Manus and Nastachhele were added to the volume. Through these three plays, the writer spoke of eschewing communalism and of embracing greater humanism.Most of the post-partition essays were on subjects of literature and culture. Of the writers of this trend many were already well known before partition, such as Muhammad Shahidullah and Muhammad Abdul Hai. Some books had been published in 1928 from Paris.  These writers continued to carry out valuable research on Bangla language, literature and culture. Shahidullah's Bangla Sahityer Katha (volume 1, 1953, volume 2, 1965) and Abdul Hai's Sahitya O Samskrti (1954) deserve special mention in the essay literature of this phase.The second phase is from 1958 to 1970. The literary and cultural activities in Pakistan and especially in East Pakistan were thwarted following the promulgation of martial law by the army chief Ayub Khan in 1958. Restrictions on open politics, establishment of dictatorship in the garb of democracy and similar other measures aroused the Bengalis against the regime. The people's uprising in 1968, the students' movement in 1969 to realise their 11-point demand, the victory of the Bengalis in the general elections of 1970 but the refusal of the Pakistani junta to transfer power to them, the Liberation War of 1971, the Victory won by the Bengalis and the establishment of the sovereign state of Bangladesh all there deeply affected the social life of the people and were amply reflected in the Bangla literature of the 1958-1970 period.Fiction in the second phase, as in the first phase, was written mainly on rural life. The harsh realities of rural life in Bangladesh were the theme of Hazar Bachhar Dhare (1964) by Zahir Raihan (1933-1972). The complexities of Hindu-Muslim relations in rural life were used by Satyen Sen (1907-1981) as the theme of his Padachihna (1968). Shahidullah Kaiser (1925-1971) in his Sarem Bau (1962) depicts a realistic picture of how the onslaught and complexity of urban life were destroying the peace of the rural life of south Bengal. Alauddin Al-Azad's Karnafuli portrayed the life of class struggle on the banks of the river Karnafuli. Ahmad Safa's Surya Tumi Sathi (1968) showed the continuing struggle for existence of rural people. However, Syed Waliullah's Chander Amabasya (1964), though ostensibly about rural life, is actually about social life under the Ayub Khan regime.The shadow cast by Ayub's military rule on the life and thoughts of the Bangalis led creative writers to take to myths and symbolism to put forward their message. The crises that the Bangali middle class passed through during the Ayub rule were symbolically presented by Shawkat Osman in his novels Kritadaser Hasi (1963), Raja Upakhyan (1970) and Similarly, Satyen Sen in his Abhishapta Nagari (1967) and Paper Santan (1969) portrayed the eternal struggle of the people for existence using an Old Testament's myth. Shamsuddin Abul Kalam's Bhawal Garher Upakhyan (1963) reflected the writer's commitment to society and his progressive political thoughts.In this phase many wrote modern individualistic novels on the models of the European middle class and individualism. These novels indicate a lack of trust in values, and a want of confidence in the force of love and a strong distaste for life. The writers chose loneliness and detachment of urban individuals as themes of their novels. Of this genre, Battalar Upanyas (1959) and Anukalpa (1959) by Razia Khan (b 1936) deserve special mention. Syed Shamsul Huq (b 1935) is adept in writing such novels. Quite a few of his novels show his deliberate attempts at employing Freudian theories. His most well-known novels are Deyaler Desh (1959), Ek Mahilar Chhabi (1959), Anupam Din (1962) and Simana Chhadiye (1964).Zahir Raihan's Shesh Bikeler Meye (1960) was apparently a romantic love story but it really portrayed the complicated life of the rising Bangali middle class of the time. Alauddin Al-Azad's Teish Nambar Tailachitra (1960) and Shiter Shes Rat Basanter Pratham Din (1962) primarily showed the individual man's crisis and mental agony. Similarly, the psychological conflict of a couple who are artists is portrayed in Ahsan Habib's novel Aranya Nilima (1961). Rashid Karim's Prasanna Pasan (1963) is a faithful documentation of the crisis in the life of the urban middle class. Shawkat Ali's Pirgal Akash (1963) portrays the coarseness of the urban middle class, its immoral craving for riches, and its lust for sex. The novel Ghar Man Janala (1965) by Dilara Hashim (b 1943) is a tale of the struggle for existence of the middle class and their sense of frustration.The effects of post-1947 politics in East Bengal also extended to creative literature. The reputed novels that realistically reflected the ways of contemporary politics and the nationalistic movements for liberation include Shahidullah Kaiser's Samsaptak (1965), Alauddin Al-Azad's Ksudha O Asha (1964), Sarder Jayenuddin's Anek Suryer Asha (1967), Zahir Raihan's Arek Falgun (1969), Zahirul Islam's Agnisaksi (1969), Satyen Sen's Uttaran (1970) and Nidsandhani (1968) of Anwar Pasha (1928-1971).The genre of the Bangla short story flourished in the then East Pakistan as new writers emerged who, like the already active writers, began writing on themes close to life. The writers faithfully reflected through their short stories the problems faced by the rural poor. Such works included Shahed Ali's Eki Samatale (1963), Sarder Jayenuddin's Bir Kanthir Biye and Nayan Dhuli. Many others chose, alongside village life, the complexity of urban middle class life, their hope and despair, desire and ennui, etc. The books that particularly reflected the life of the urban middle class were Abdul Gaffar Choudhury's Samrater Chhabi (1959), Krishnapaksa (1959) and Sundar He Sundar (1960), and Syed Shamsul Huq's Shit Bikel (1959), Rakta Golap (1964) and Anander Mrityu (1967).Alauddin al-Azad attempted to depict the social realities outside the usual rural-urban scenario from the viewpoint of dialectical materialism. Most of his stories showed the ugly consequences of class struggle. Jege Achhi, Dhankanya (1951), Andhakar Sindi (1958) and Yakhan Saikat (1967). Borhanuddin Khan Jahangir attempted to view life from the Marxist angle. Most of the events and characters of his stories in his books Durduranta (1968), Abichchhinna (1969) and Bishal Krodh (1969) were drawn from the life of the urban middle and upper middle classes.Even in this phase some poets used Islam as the primary inspiration of their work. Among these writings were Farrukh Ahmad's Hatem Ta'yi (1966), Raushan Yazdani's Khatamun Nabi-in (1960), Talim Husain's Shahin (1962), Sufi Zulfiqar Haider's Fer Banao Mussalman (1959). During the 1965 Indo-Pak war, patriotism, national pride and communal hostility formed their themes of poetry. But after the war, this trend waned, yielding place to humanistic thoughts that transcended communal feelings. Simple romantic love, nature and man became the main themes of poetry of this time. This trend manifested itself most prominently in Syed Ali Ahsan's Uchcharan (1968), Shamsur Rahaman's Bidhvasta Nilima (1967), Muhammad Moniruzzaman's Bipanna Bisad (1968), Hasan Hafizur Rahman's Antim Xarer Mata (1968), Al Mahmud's Kaler Kalas (1966), Shahid Qadri's Uttaradhikar (1968), Fazal Shahabuddin's Akabksita Asundar (1969), Syed Shamsul Huq's Biratihin Utsav, and Abdul Mannan Syed's Janmandha Kavitaguchchha (1966). Some other books worth mentioning are Muhammad Mahfuzullah's Julekhar Man (1959), Kader Nawaz's Nil Kumudi (1960) and Mahmuda Khatun Siddiqua's Man O Mrittika.Another genre of poetry that flourished at the time expressed the fatigue, failure and despair of contemporary life. Two books of this category are Shamsur Rahaman's Pratham Gan Dvitiya Mrtyur Age (1960) and Raudra Karotite (1963). Some other similar books of poems are Abdul Gani Hazari's Samanya Dhan (1961) and Suryer Sindi, Syed Shamsul Huq's Ekada Ek Rajye (1961), Syed Ali Ahsan's Anek Akash (1961) and Ekak Sandhyay Basanta (1962), Hasan Hafizur Rahman's Bimukh Prantar (1963), Al Mahmud's Lok Lokantar (1963) and Ahsan Habib's Sara Dupur (1964).Another genre of poems of the time reflected the thoughts and sentiments of the poets on East Bengal's history, heritage and nature. Patriotism was the primary burden of those poems. These sentiments are clearly visible in Sanaul Huq's Sambhaba Ananya (1962) and Surya Anyatara (1963). The reflection of Bengali nationalism in the poetry later was but a continuation of this trend. Many poets of the time were also influenced by Marxism, including Alauddin Al-Azad and Husne Ara who regarded poetry as a weapon for social change. Manchitra (1961) by Alauddin Al-Azad and Michhil (1964) by Husne Ara espouse the cause of oppressed people.Bangla poetry of the time gradually moved towards a concern for the masses. Even without being votaries of any particular political or social ideology, poets attempted to voice the collective feelings and sentiments of the masses of East Bengal. Syed Shamsul Huq's Baishakhe Rachita Pamktimala (1969), Shamsur Rahaman's Nij Basbhume (1970), Al Mahmud's Sonali Kabin and Nirmalendu Goon's Premarshur Rakta Chai (1970) bear testimony to such thoughts. The basic themes of these poems were the misery of the common people, craving for national independence, oppression and repression of the Bangalis as a race and the people's protests against all this. The poets attempted to portray the dreams of the masses beyond the misfortunes of individuals. The Bangali people's uprising of 1969 prompted this changeover. The uprising also effected a change in the vocabulary of the poems as the people were daily getting to know such terms as 'misil' (processions), 'dharmaghat' (strike), hartal, slogans, 'sandhya-ain' (curfew), police, military etc. Easily those words found their way into the poetry. Enriched by such vocabulary, the Bangla poetry reached the close periphery of the life of the masses.(to be continued)

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