Rosy Siddiqui is one of the most admired theatre artists of Bangladesh. She emerged as the Bijli of ‘Janmabhumi’ and is still casting her magic on the audience with her charismatic acting. Her recent stage drama ‘Panchanari Akhyan’ has earned praises across the country.
An unbidden beginning
I spent my early childhood in Khidir Bazar of Old Dhaka. My father was an employee of TNT; after my grandfather's demise, we left that home and moved to TNT colony. Back then, we did not have this confining flat culture. We were more openhearted and unbottoned in terms of exchanging culture and expression. I used to perform in every function of our vicinity. In school, my participation in every program was a must, no matter what the occasion was. During my school days, I was a multitasking girl. From singing to dancing, from actively participating in Girl Guides to acting in stage drama, I was always equipped to jump into all kinds of extracurricular activities. I was also apt as a badminton player. I played badminton in Victoria and even took this to the national level. Debate was another subject of interest to me. My long term association with Kochi Kacha and Shishu Songstha brought me several moments of delight among which sitting in the lap of Ziaur Rahman was one. Then I had to take a short break from all these due to my SSC exam. After the break, I returned as a theatre artist to the circle of culture and art where I believe I was born to be. Momtaz Uddin Ahmed literally handheld me and introduced me to the light and love of stage, art and acting. He was more than a mentor; I consider him as a father figure even today. My journey with Arambagh Theatre lasted till 1993. Then I joined Dhaka Theatre.
Bedrocks and barriers
I had many siblings and our mother was always busy looking after the household and my younger brothers and sisters. My elder sister Reba was like my guardian. She could get to the bottom of my heart and read it out. My leaning towards stage was not undisclosed to her. She used to take me to all the rehearsals and cultural functions taking the responsibility of bringing me home. My parents were also very well disposed to my passion. I am extremely fortunate to have had them as my family since I faced little to no obstacle from them in my entire journey with theatre and culture. Even though I was very adorable and folksy, my attire and attitude had got myself a 'tomboy' image. Most of my friends in the locality were boys and I often indulged in all the unwomanly activities which included minor scuffles with my friends. My relatives objected to my association with the theatre. They always took displeasure in my decision of being a theatre artist. Some of them even raised question on my profession. It was quite unfathomable to them that a girl could stay outside the home even after evening.
Staged in a dream
The first stage drama I performed in was Shat Ghater Kanakori. It was a production of Theatre Arambagh. After a couple of years, I joined the Dhaka Theatre group and went ahead with my journey of acting in stage dramas. Chaka, Joiboti Konyar Mon, Ekattorer Pala, Prachyo, Bonopangshul, Ponchanari Akhyan and a lot of other plays have been some of the most significant and noteworthy performances of my career. The best thing about acting in stage plays is the versatility with a sense of satisfaction bestowed upon the artists. My character in each of the plays was original and creative. No two characters played by me can quite be compared with each other. I could always imbue my soul with many different kinds of characters I wanted to portray on the stage.
Lights, camera, action
In 1993, I signed up for Goutam Ghosh's Padma Nadir Majhi. At that time, I was very naive and unacquainted with terms like 'scene', 'shot' and so on. Since my childhood, I had got into a habit of being pampered. Goutam Ghosh was exceptionally affectionate towards me and his wife catered to my whims. I still remember how I used to whine to Khuku boudi and she hand-fed me. Anyone who was present on the set of Padma Nadir Majhi, can testify to that. After two more years, in 1995 I appeared in Love Story: Premer Golpo as a full-fledged actor. This film was a huge success and I again came into the limelight overnight. But it was a phase when a series of obscene movies repeatedly tarnished the entire environment of our cinema industry. My family did not approve of me venturing into the cinema industry any longer, after Love Story. In 2007, I made a small appearance of ten minutes in Made In Bangladesh which won critical applause. In 2012, I acted in Common Gender which had a very appealing and off-the-beaten storyline. My last movie was Shankhachil, another project of Goutam Ghosh. Initially, it was planned that I will star in that film, later on Kushum Sikdar played the centre character since she was more conforming to the script and storyline. A few days ago, I worked in another film produced with the help of government grants.
Selim and I were supposed to perform in Banga Mela, Virginia. Incidentally, at that time, Selim went to London to stage The Tempest of Shakespeare in a show. He became sick in between and had to get admitted in LabAid after returning to Dhaka. Selim is a very honest person and breaching a contract is against his professional integrity. He called Harun bhai and asked him to make a script as soon as possible for my solo drama. I was still unaware of what Selim was planning. Within three days, Harun bhai made the script. Both Selim and I had firm belief in his capability of creative writing. I started rehearsing the characters in full swing, sometimes till midnight. Two days later, I flew to Virginia and there I was born once again. My audience seemed so bewitched and pleased that I felt overwhelmed. I was interviewed by a number of journalists of different news agencies, six hours at a stretch. Its initial name was Kohen Narigon, some characters in the play have been added later on and the play was renamed as Ponchanari Akhyan. There have been 68 shows of Ponchanari Akhyan till now. I hope to make it to the 100th.
Pathos of fate
My journey as an artist has been of bliss on the most part. There have been little drawbacks of fortune at times which I have embraced as learning experiences. I learned dance from Shibli Mohammad for a very short period of time. Despite my knack for dance, I could not continue with it. In the cinema industry on the other side of Bengal, Rituparno Ghosh is still reigning with glory and glamour, portraying characters of diversity. But our film makers and producers are still confined to the threshold and orthodox idea of making films with teen heroines. Unfortunately, most of the young faces who are embarking upon the entertainment industry are not worthy of being known as actors let alone artists. I have been associated with many drama schools like Gadhar Pal and Swapno Rong. I always teach my students, even an entire life is not enough for an artist. Art requires wholeheartedness and a lot of perseverance. If an actor cannot surpass a decade, they have never learned art. Some people just come and go, their footprints get washed away over the lapse of time.
My blissful nest
I got nominated for the National Film Award in the best actress category for my first commercial film Love story. In Glasgow, London, I attended a drama festival and won the first prize for my performance in Tothoibocho. In that festival, people from different cities and countries had joined, the legendary actor Soumitra Chatterjee was one of them but again, I am thankful to God that I won the first prize that day. Also, as I often say, in the Virginia Banga Mela, I got another life. I received subtle and not-so-subtle, critical and not-so-critical responses from people of different contemplations of life for Ponchanari Akhyan. That love and admiration is unmatched and no award can ever redeem that whole other level of satisfaction.
Respite from reality
I enrolled in Dhaka Theatre hand in hand with Selim. Rabeya Khatun, mother of Faridur Reza Sagar was our matchmaker. Ours was a love marriage and somewhat a result of some peoples' affectionate conspiracy. Producer Sheikh Riazuddin Badsha, director Habibul Hasan and many other associates of ours always plotted to bring us together. The script writers used to create scenes for us to romance on the pretext of portraying our characters. We had to face many a struggle to convince my family but we came out stronger and now are happily married for 24 years. We have two daughters around whom our world revolves. I do not get much time to put my feet up. These days, I am reading Hasan Azizul Haque a lot. His stories make me stand before the reality of truths and distortions.