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Bangla literature through ages

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18th-Jul-2014       
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Mohammad Daniul Huq and Aminur Rahman :

(From the previous issue)
Shamsur Rahman's Octopus (1983) and Montage (1985) depict the sufferings of an individual due to internal as well as external compulsions. A trilogy on this theme was created by Abu Zafar Shamsuddin through his Padma Meghna Jamuna (1974), Samkar Samkirtan (1980) and the pre-independence work Bhawal Garher Upakhyan. Shawkat Osman's Artanad (1985) and Selina Husain's Yapita Jiban (1981) were portrayals of the fundamental sentiments of the language movement as well as of the post-partition refugee problem and the cultural conflict. A number of novels were inspired by the anthropological, historical, and cultural heritage of the land.  Among these novels are Shawkat Ali's Pradose Prakritajan (1984) based on history and heritage is a unique addition to fiction. Rizia Rahman's Bam Theke Bangla (1978) and Ekal Chirakal (1984) as well as Selina Husain's Nil Mayurer Yauban (1983) and Chand Bene (1984) encompass the long span of anthropological, geographical, social and cultural life of the Bengalis.
The assessment and analysis of the critical political situation that prevailed in post-liberation Bangladesh resulting from political instability, militarism, theological overtones and the rehabilitation of war criminals prompted the writing of a number of novels including Shawkat Osman's Patanga Pinjar (1983) and Selina Husain's Nirantar Ghantadhvani (1987). The individual and collective dreams and political aspirations of the people of the sixties form the basis for Shawkat Ali's trilogy-Daksinayaner Din (1985), Kulay Kalasrot (1986) and Purbaratri Purbadin (1986). The mass uprising of the people in the sixties is the theme of Akhtaruzzaman Elias's novel Chilekothar Sepai (1986). Anwar Pasha's autobiographical Rifle Roti Aorat (1973) is based on the liberation war. Shawkat Osman wrote four novels on the same theme: Jahannam Haite Biday (1971), Dui Sainik (1973), Nekde Aranya (1973) and Jalamgi (1976).
Poetry in the post-independence days could be described as poetry of the liberation war, for it was inspired by the war, its sentiments and experiences. Those who started writing poetry prior to liberation and continued to be active in the post-independence days include Abdul Mannan Syed, Abdullah Abu Sayeed, Rafiq Azad, Muhammad Rafiq, Jinat Ara Rafiq, Altaf Husain and Asad Choudhury. Younger poets such as Nirmalendu Goon, Mahadev Saha, Humayun Azad, Daud Haider and Humayun Kabir were far closer to life and linked more to the soil and its people. Their poems depicted more faithfully the feelings of the masses than the pleasures and sorrows of individuals.
In the free environment of the independent country, poetry, compared to other branches, became the most important segment of literature. But soon the poets, like the common people, became frustrated and afflicted with despair when they found that their hopes raised by independence were far from being realised. Their sentiments found expression in poems of Daud Haider  and Rafiq Azad. Most well-known among the books of poems on the instability and famine-stricken life after liberation were Rafiq Azad's Bhat De Haramzada, Daud Haider's Janmai Amar Ajanma Pap and Rudra Muhammad Shahidullah's Batase Lasher Gandha.
Another important theme of post-independence poetry has been love. Alongside concern for the political situation, the poets of Bangladesh also dealt with the heart's affairs in their work. The young poets as well as the older ones published books of love poems. They treated love and revolution on equal footing and worked in earnest to achieve their desired goal. At the same time, poets did not hesitate to express their frustration, anger and protest when the military dictatorship seized power thwarting the democratic process. Among the well-known poets of the decade were Khondker Ashraf Husain, Mohan Raihan, Maruf Husain and Subrata Augustin Gomes.
A group of poets in the post-liberation days experimented surrealistic poems. In this connection, Abdul Mannan  Syed's Parabastav Kavita is worth mentioning. This trend did not however last long. Some poets even experimented with breaking poetic metres to bring about changes in form. Of course, such changes had been tried in the past and continued to be tried now.
The poetry of the eighties was essentially loaded with sentiments of protest. Bangladesh was then under military dictatorship witnessing misrule and exploitation of a power-hungry coterie. The poetry of the time directly reflected the anger of the poets. In the nineties, a new awakening stirred the poetry of Bangladesh. The poets consciously started cultivating post-modern trend. They started looking back at the original heritage of the country and this movement centred round the little magazines. The modernism initiated by the poets of the thirties had little link with the poetry of eternal Bangladesh, for it was imposed. The post-modernist poets attempted to free Bangla poetry from the robe of imposed modernism and make it genuinely Bangladeshi in the true language of the country.
In post-liberation Bangladesh, those who earned repute as writers of short stories included Abu Zafar Shamsuddin, Abu Rushd, Shawkat Osman and Alauddin Al-Azad. Abu Zafar Shamsuddin's Rajen Thakurer Tirthayatra (1977) is a collection of speech-oriented short stories. Abu Rushd's Mahendra Mistanna Bhandar (1986) has a number of daring and fine short stories. In the post-liberation days Syed Shamsul Huq concentrated on writing novels and plays but his Prachin Bamxer Nihxva Santan is a book of some exceptional short stories. Abul Khair Muslehuddin and Nazmul Alam wrote short stories based on the lives of ordinary people. Sayeed Atiqullah, on the other hand, wrote symbolic short stories, as found in his book Budhbar Rate (1973).
The short stories of this phase, compared to those written prior to Independence, were far more pro-people and more concerned with politics. The liberation war, the pains of a large segment of the frustrated middle class freedom fighters, erosion in the rural and urban life and lack of peace in family life surfaced again and again in the short stories of this period. Many of the writers were themselves freedom fighters and had had personal experience of the war. The armed struggle of the people of Bangladesh against the repression and genocide committed by the occupation army provided inspiration to the writers. The first anthology of short stories on the freedom struggle- Bangladesh Katha Kay (1971)- was published from Kolkata by Abdul Gaffar Choudhury. The stories spoke of direct experience of the war. Later, some similar books published from Dhaka included Bashir Al-Helal's Pratham Krishnachuda (1972), Abul Hasnat edited Muktiyuddher Galpa (1973) and Harun Habib edited Muktiyuddher Nirbachita Galpa (1985).
A number of books of short stories reflected the new country's social instability, a downturn in law and order, moral degradation of the youth and an overall breakdown in the sense of values. Among these books of short stories are Shawkat Osman's Janma Yadi Taba Babge (1975), Alauddin Al-Azad's Amar Rakta, Svapna Amar (1975) and Abdul Mannan Syed's Mrityur Adhik Lal Ksudha (1977).
The short stories of this phase exhibited a major change of attitude with the downtrodden segment of the society finding a place as subjects alongside the people of upper strata. Many writers created a world of fiction by using this phenomenon of social polarisation. The books of short stories of this trend include Rahat Khan's Anixchita Lokalay (1972), Antahin Yatra (1975), and Bhalamander Taka (1981), Abdus Shakur's Crisis (1976) and Saras Galpa (1982), Rashid Haider's Antare Bhinna Purus and Megheder Gharbadi, Hasnat Abdul Hai's Eka Abam E Prasabge and Yakhan Basanta, Mafruha Choudhury's Aranya Gatha O Ananya Galpa, Bashir Al-Helal's Biparit Manus, Mahbub Talukdar's Arup Tomar Vani, Abul Hasnat's Parakiya, Kabosna and Baz, Subrata Barua's Kachpoka, Nazma Jesmin Choudhury's Anya Nayak, Humayun Ahmed's Nixikavya and Xit O Anyanya Galpa and Imdadul Huq Milon's Love Story.
Nevertheless the tales of poverty stricken landless peasants, their exploitation and repression by the zamindars, money lenders, political touts and religious zealots continued to be written. Hasan Azizul Huq's short stories depict the life of such people of north Bengal in Jiban Gase Agun (1973), Namhin Gotrahin (1975) and Patale Haspatale (1981). Shawkat Ali's Lelihan Sadh (1973) and Xuna He Lakhindar (1986) also deserve mention.
Akhtaruzzaman Elias's books of short stories were also published after independence, among them, Anya Ghare Anya Svar (1976), Khoyari (1982) and Dudhbhate Utpat (1985). He depicted the life of old Dhaka graphically in his stories. The social condition and the socio-political scenario painted by Hasan Azizul Huq, Shawkat Ali and Akhtaruzzaman Elias in their short stories had on one side oppressed rural life and on the other the decaying sense of values.
Drama flourished after 1971. Innovative ideas, political awareness, skill in form and use of refined language, revitalised drama. The plays of this time were based on the people's movement and the liberation war as well as the erosion in social values and the despair of the masses. Symbolism and folk heritage were also used in many of the plays. Many foreign plays were translated at this time. Those who made the drama movement forceful included Syed Shamsul Huq, Abdullah Al-Mamun, Mamunur Rashid and Selim Al-Din. All of them were connected with drama performances.
Syed Shamsul Huq's poetic play Payer Awaz Pawa Jay (1976) based on the liberation war was a valuable addition to Bangla drama literature. His Nuruldiner Sara Jiban (1982), Ekhane Ekhano Yuddha and Yuddha were important works in terms of dramatic form. Abdullah Al-Mamun established himself through his play Subachan Nirbasane.  Around 1974 he wrote quite a few successful plays on the prevailing loss of social values, despair and instability including Ekhan Duhsamay, Charidike Yuddha, Ebar Dhara Dao, Senapati and Ekhano Krtadas (1984).
Among contemporary playwrights, Mamunur Rashid has proved to be the most socially conscious. His well-known plays include Ora Kadam Ali (1979), Ora Achhe Balei (1981), Iblis (1983), Ekhane Nobar (1984) and Guineapig. Selim Al-Din experimented with drama forms and language. His talent in writing satirical plays was proved in his Sambad Cartoon and Muntasir Fantasy. His Kittankhola (1985), Xakuntala and Keramatmabgal are also well-known.
Momtajuddin Ahmed had been writing plays since before liberation days but came into prominence after independence. He showed a special aptitude for writing one-act plays and for satirical language. His two post-independence successful plays were Sat Ghater Kanakadi and Ki Chaha Shankhachil (1985).
After liberation there appeared a number of drama groups which organised regular stage performances. The groups that were particularly active were Nagarik Natya Sampraday, Theatre, Dhaka Theatre, Aranyak, Dhaka Padatik and Natyachakra. They translated or adapted and staged plays of such world famous playwrights as Bertolt Brecht, Moliere, Anton Chekhov, Shakespeare and Ibsen.
In post-liberation Bangladesh there has been a noticeable progress in research. The major themes of research include ancient and medieval literature, modern literature, Rabindra literature, Nazrul literature, folk literature, linguistics, the language movement, and the Liberation War. Those who made significant contributions in research were Sanjida Khatun, Rafiqul Islam, Anisuzzaman, Abu Hena Mostafa Kamal, Mohammad Moniruzzaman and Abdul Hafiz. Sanjida Khatun worked on Rabindranath and Rafiqul Islam on Nazrul. Abu Hena Mostafa Kamal's book had the title of Bengali Press and Literary Writing (1977).
Valuable research on folk literature has also been carried on by Abul Kalam Muhammad Zakaria, Ashraf Siddiqui, Mazharul Islam, Abdus Sattar, Wakil Ahmed, Abdul Hafiz, Anwarul Karim, Khondkar Reazul Huq, SM Lutfur Rahman and Abul Ahsan Choudhury. Those who worked on linguistics were Mohammad Abdul Qayyum, Rafiqul Islam, Abul Kalam Manjoor Morshed, Mansur Musa, Humayun Azad, Daniul Huq and Moniruzzaman.
Those who wrote essays on politics and sociology include Badruddin Omar, Abdul Huq, Serajul Islam Choudhury, Abul Kashem Fazlul Huq and Ahmed Rafiq. Ranesh Dasgupta, Syed Ali Ahsan, Kabir Choudhury and Abdul Mannan Syed have made valuable contributions in writing scholarly essays. Ranesh Dasgupta was well known as a Marxist writer. Syed Ali Ahsan wrote a host of essays on Bangla poetry and fine arts. His Satata Svagata and Shilpabodh O Shilpachaitanya contained essays of deep insight. Kabir Choudhury has introduced foreign writers and their works to Bengali readers.                                (concluded)
(Bibliography  Muhammad Shahidullah, Bangla Sahityer Katha, Dhaka, 1976; MA Hai and SA Ahsan, Bangla Sahityer Itibritta, Chittagong, 1968; Sukumar Sen, Bangala Sahityer Itihas, Eastern Publishers, Calcutta, 1970-1976; Asitkumar Bandyopadhyay, Bangla Sahityer Itibritta, Calcutta, 1982-85; Ahmad Sharif, Bangali O Bangla Sahitya, Dhaka, 1978, 1983; Dineshchandra Sen, Bangabhasa O Sahitya, Asitkumar Bandyopadhyay ed, Calcutta, 1986.)            
    -Bangla pedia

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