Azad Abul Kalam is a name that requires little introduction in the country's theatre scene. One of the founders of Prachyanat and Prachyanat School of Acting and Design, the stage veteran spoke to The Daily Star on various aspects of theatre schooling, youth in theatre, and more. Excerpts:
How is the Prachyanat Acting School faring?
Azad: The school has stepped into its 14th year, with the 27th batch now in training. The journey has been tough for us, as it needs adequate resources and resource persons to run it properly. We mainly depend on Prachyanat's own acting teachers, but they have their own careers and are occupied in other activities as well. We have plans to turn it into an institute, but we cannot do it right now, due to resource constraints.
Where do the students go after learning acting from the school?
Azad: Many students come and go. Some of them stay with us, while some others move into other areas. The school tries its best to guide and push youths according to their talent and expertise. Many of our former students are currently working in television, advertising agencies, theatre and other sectors as well.
What do you think is the present scenario of theatre, in terms of youth participation?
Azad: Many youths are coming into theatre and other performing arts, but there are problems. I think a majority of the bright youth are insecure about their future in regard to higher education and career. Realising the difficulties of surviving here, they go abroad. Nowadays, school students are leaning towards business studies instead of science and arts. In my time, there used to be an equal number of students in arts and science. Schools and colleges now focus more on careers, instead of nurturing knowledge. Consequently students feel reluctant to opt for the arts and performing arts, and lean towards job-oriented fields of study. There are reasons behind that though, as performing arts is not yet a wholesome career here.
How do the youth perceive theatre?
Azad: Many of those who come to theatre choose it as an interim platform. They come here, create a circle, gather knowledge and finally move out when they find opportunities. Our school enrolls students of all ages; what we consider are sincerity, efforts and passion.
Prachaynat has a reputation of producing innovative plays. What's the secret?
Azad: It's just the result of our practice; we believe in innovation. We do not want to repeat anything and try to remain up to date. This is a challenge for us. I can't say we do it as well as we want to, but we give it our best effort.
What is it that excites you the most about theatre? What are you working on right now?
Azad: I love everything about the stage. I write, direct and act. I have done numerous television and stage plays. Currently, I am working on “Tragedy Polashbari”, which I wrote on the lives of garment workers. Prachyanat will soon bring the play to the stage.
What's your take on the new troupes and productions?
Azad: Some troupes are doing really well, while the rest are terrible. As unfortunate as it may sound, I think the number of bad productions heavily outnumbers the good ones.
Any words of encouragement for those who want to join this art form?
Azad: Theatre is a lifestyle. Once you embrace it, you cannot stay away from it.