Syed Jamil Ahmed : receives NSD award
In acknowledgment of his contribution to the field of theatre as scholar, director and designer, the National School of Drama (NSD), India, has recently honoured Dr Syed Jamil Ahmed with the B V Karanth Smriti Purashkar 2009.
A strong advocate of theatre as localized, improvised praxis, Jamil Ahmed's name is linked with myriads of successful productions on Dhaka stage as well as on prosceniums outside the country and especially with the Department of Theatre at Dhaka University, as he was its founding Chairman.
A student of NSD in the mid-1970s, Jamil Ahmed obtained his MA in Theatre Studies from University of Warwick (UK) in 1989 and his PhD on 'Indigenous Theatrical Performances in Bangladesh: Its History and Practices,' in 1997. Professor Ahmed returned to Bangladesh in the early 1980s to successfully saturate the local theater scene with new ideas and concepts that simultaneously drew from the local and the international theatre practices.
His strong predilection for indigenous archetypes and popular myths such as Behula-Lakshindar or Manik Pir, and his intellectual probe into localized Islamic narrative that resulted in recontexualization of 'Bishad Shindhu', and his excavation into the collective psyche demonstrated in his effort to redefine post-colonial locationality, helped develop a unique set of working principles for others to follow.
His signature brio is reflected through all his works, among which 'Bishad Shindhu', a six-hour epic tragedy, was a Dhaka Padatik production based on Mir Mosharraf Hossian's acclaimed novel; the Dhaka Theatre production 'Chaka' was based on a story by Selim Al Deen, and the productions of the Department of Theatre, 'Komolaranir Shagordighi', 'Behular Bhashan' and 'Shong Bhong Chong'.
Professor Ahmed gained international recognition with his directorial works 'Ek Hazaar Aur Ek Thi Raat, in Urdu, an adaptation of Arabian Night's Tale; 'The Wheel, English adaptation of Selim Al Deen's 'Chaka' staged in the US, and 'Pahiye' (Hindi translation of Chaka staged at NSD, Delhi).
His seminal research on the traditional theatre forms has resulted in publications which initiate a reading that takes a holistic approach to performances. 'Auchinpakhi Infinity: Indigenous Theatre of Bangladesh,' is considered to be the most authentic and elaborate document of the performing art forms in Bangladesh. His most extensive take on Buddhist performances and its politics are enshrined in 'Reading Against the Orientalist Grain: performance and Politics.'