Nazrul: The wonder of 20th century literature

International Nazrul Conference ends in the capital
While inaugurating the International Nazrul Conference at the Osmani Memorial Hall on June 24, chief guest of the programme Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina urged that Nazrul’s works be promoted globally. She also presented the Nazrul Award 2011 to National Professor Kabir Chowdhury and eminent singer Nilima Das for their rich contribution in promoting Nazrul’s literary creations.
To celebrate the 90th anniversary of the publication of Nazrul’s “Bidrohi” (The Rebel), the most outstanding of the National Poet’s creations, Nazrul Institute, joining hands with the Ministry of Cultural Affairs organised the two-day conference that ended yesterday. The prestigious conference, held at the National Theatre Hall of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, brought together scholars and delegations from USA, Netherlands, China and India.
Chaired by National Professor Kabir Chowdhury, the opening day’s event kicked off with a welcome speech delivered by Rashid Haider, the executive director of Nazrul Institute.
Poet Mohammad Nurul Huda presented his keynote paper titled “Universalisation of the Rebel” while guests of honour Dr. Peter Custers, writer and journalist from the Netherlands; Young Weing Ming, editor and presenter, China Radio International and Dr. Rachel Fell McDermott, Barnard College, New York, USA; gave in depth presentations on Nazrul at the conference.
In his keynote paper, enriched with apt quotations, allusions and references, Huda drew attention to the different layers of meaning in Nazrul’s “Bidrohi”.
“All the best works of arts are innovations in some way or other, not excluding ‘Bidrohi’ –a text that would be reinterpreted and reorganised into newer texts by the extraordinary talents of the coming generations with a view to catering to their needs. Thus Nazrul would be reborn in each of them, which is another expression of an artiste of the highest order belonging to any bend of time eternal,” he concluded.
In his brilliant bilingual speech (Bengali and English), Dr. Peter Custers focused on various concepts popularised by Nazrul like “National Awakening”, “The Muslim Renaissance”, “Firm Opposition to Communalism”, “Tolerance and Equality”, “Mysticism and Syncretism” and “The legacy of Religious Tolerence”. His paper was titled, “Kazi Nazrul Islam: Bengal’s Prophet of Tolerance”.
Terming Nazrul as Mahakabi, Custers said, “Nazrul needs to be institutionalised internationally as his poems, songs and love are not for the people of a single religion, rather for universal humanity. Nazrul focussed on religious scriptures like ‘Mahabharata’ and ‘Ramayana’ from different perspectives. He termed the exploited and downtrodden people as ‘Gods’ in his literature.”
In her presentation, (in Bangla) titled ‘Banglar Nazrul: China-r Nazrul’, Young Weing Ming said, “My Nazrul practice started with the recitation of ‘Bidrohi’. Just after reading the poem, an astonishing feeling swept my body and mind which is comparable with a volcanic eruption or Tsunami.” The speaker has been learning Bengali for the last 11 years and is now learning Nazrul Sangeet. She also elaborated on how Nazrul is finding a firm place in China. Then, she recited a Chinese translation of one of Nazrul’s poems.
In her paper titled “Ninety Years of Rebellion? The Present Legacies of Bidrohi in Bangladesh and India”, Rachel Fell McDermott, a researcher of Nazrul’s Shyama Sangeet broadly cited four legacies of Nazrul: memorising Nazrul, Nazrul’s achievements, Nazrul as the National Poet of Bangladesh and Nazrul as a socio-political critique.
“Just as Russians are obsessed with the death of Pushkin, their national poet, whose early demise in a duel has been repeatedly relived in Russian literature and imagination since 1837, so too with Nazrul: the mystery and tragedy of his life from 1942 until 1976 continue to haunt his modern-day heirs. In this sense, Nazrul’s tragic humanity is emphasised.” she said.
McDermott went on to add: “There are 130 shyama sangeet written by Nazrul which are very much different from those written by Ram Prashad and Kamola Kanta. Nazrul wrote 385 songs on Radha-Krishna and 200 Islamic songs.”
Chairman of Nazrul Institute’s Trustee Board, Dr. Rafiqul Islam presented crests to the guests while Professor Kabir Chowdhury wrapped up the discussion said, “…The sky and the air free of the piteous groans of the oppressed…Only when the battlefields are cleared of jingling bloody sabres… Yet we see the depiction of such brutality being carried out in Palestine by the terrorist Israel.”
Leena Taposhi began the cultural evening with her rendition of the song “Gagoney Saghono”. Khairul Anam Shakil’s “Parodeshi Bo(n)dhua” followed. Ferdous Ara rendered a jhumur, “Kalo Pahad Alo ” while Suman Chowdhury, Khalid Hossain and Selina Hossain respectively rendered “Pashaner Bhangaley Ghum”, “Ashiley E Bhanga Gharey” and “Shoi Nadir Dharey” .
Among the guest artistes from West Bengal, India, Ramanuj Dasgupta, Susmita Goswami and Khishna Majumdar performed “Amar Aponar Cheye”, “Brojogopi Kheley” and “Hey Namaji” respectively. The programme wrapped up with a performance by several dancers led by Munmun Ahmed to the accompaniment of the song “Aami Purob Desh-er”.
The second day’s (June 25) programme was presided over by Professor Emeritus Sirajul Islam Chowdhury. Guests of honour Professor Winston E. Langley, University of Massachusetts, Boston, USA and Professor Pabitra Sarkar, former Vice Chancellor of Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata, India presented a paper on Nazrul’s works. Professor Mohit Ul Alam took part in a discussion at the event.
Chairman of Nazrul Institute’s Trustee Board, Dr. Rafiqul Islam, presented the vote of thanks as the two-day conference wrapped up.
The cultural programme that featured on the concluding day featured rendition of Nazrul Sangeet by eminent artistes of Bangladesh and India, recitation, dance performance and staging of a Nazrul play.
A three-day (June 24-26) exhibition featuring Nazrul’s literary works and publications on the poet is being held at Nalinikanta Bhattashali Gallery of Bangladesh National Museum, Shahbagh, Dhaka. The exhibition is open between 10am to 5pm and ends today.


Courtesy of The Daily Star

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