A dear face of the showbiz industry, Azad Abul Kalam is a celebrated actor, director and playwright. In his career spanning over three decades, the multi-talented actor has presented the audience with memorable plays, dramas and movies. His role behind the spotlight has not gone unnoticed; he received the prestigious ‘Meril Prothom Alo Award’ for Best Playwright (Critics Choice) in 2012, for his TV adaptation of Muhammed Zafar Iqbal’s novel, ‘Sabuj Velvet’. This week, the noted theatre and television personality talks about his passion for theatre and his take on life.
My dear friend, Masud Ali Khan possessed many talents. He was a good actor, singer and guitarist. Back in the day, he used to live with us, and I was fascinated by his love for culture. Under his influence, I got into acting. Besides writing for a small magazine with me, Masud was also a part of the Aranyak theatre troupe. He used to share stories about stage plays with us, and I wanted to be a part of it as a scriptwriter. Later in October 20, 1985, I joined the troupe.
LIVING THE DREAM
When I started working with the theatre troupe, I was an understudy. Once, we had a show outside of Dhaka, and one of the actors couldn’t go with us. As the substitute, I had all the lines memorised, but I didn’t know much about acting. The director asked me to the play the role, and I did, even though I had no passion for acting. I thought that it would be a one-time job, and I would never have to act again. Back then, I really admired actors like Humayun Faridi, Raisul Islam Asad, and Mamunur Rashid; it was evident that they made an effort for their craft. Rather than being an inspiration, I would say that their dexterity in acting really impressed me.
THE ART OF THE THEATRE
The environment in our theatre industry has always been incredibly professional. The bell goes off at 7 o’clock in the evening, and performance begins on the dot. Each actor prepares extensively for every role. Their professional approach to their work behind the scenes is clearly demonstrated on stage. However, the issue is that there is no money in stage acting, and I don’t believe this crisis will be solved anytime soon. Theatre is woven into the very seams of our culture. This is why it deserves our utmost appreciation and respect. It is unfortunate that it is not getting sufficient patronage. I believe that the government should come forward to support the theatre industry.
THEATRE, TELEVISION, OR FILM
Theatre, television and film are three different platforms – they have their own set of skill requirements. Theatre and stage performances require long hours of rehearsal, whereas television dramas can be made in a comparatively shorter span of time, often with less preparation. Cinema is a different ball game altogether; it takes the collective effort of the entire unit to make it successful. The three fields have fundamental differences, but an actor must excel in all of them. They should have the ability to be multifaceted, and portray versatile roles in whatever medium they are exposed to.
Leisure for me is elusive; I usually do not get much time for myself because I am always working. I usually read books whenever I get some free time. Reading helps me enhance my knowledge and learn new things. To name a few writers, Subimal Mishra and Sandipan Chattopadhyay are my favourites. I also enjoy reading books by Sunil Gangopadhyay and Samaresh Majumdar.
Thinking about the things that I have not achieved or I still desire is not worthwhile. It is not possible for humans to fulfil all of their dreams; there will always be unfulfilled desires. It is the ability to understand and accept this certainty that leaves me with a sense of contentment.
Interviewed by Akand Jahid
Transcribed by Joana Nomrata Mazumder