Sayeed Ahmed passes away
Sayeed Ahmed, an iconic figure whose dramaturgic and critical exploits bore all the signs of the ingenious personalities who were behind the nineteenth-century thrust towards modernism, passed away on January 21, 2010. He had been unwell from age-related illnesses for sometimes and was admitted to a local hospital, where he breathed his last.
As a dramatist his major contribution was the introduction of the 'absurdist' frame of reference in the local practice; as an art critic his intervention made prominent the pioneers of Bangladesh at a time when critical writings were few and far between; as a translator of world classics he infused the local theatre with verve related to what many may dub as avant-garde sensibilities.
One of the grandees of the last century, linked to the khushbash or culturally-incline elites who once traversed the arenas of the arts in this clime, Sayeed, also known for his eloquence and erudition, had begun modestly with a career in London as a musician for BBC. He was the last of the rashangyas, or the connoisseurs of good taste, one whose interest lay in the entire spectrum of the arts – from music to theatre to fine arts to literature.
His stint as a teacher at the Department of Theatre in Dhaka University; his writings on drama and arts – those that were encapsulated in numerous books; his regular contribution to leading newspapers and journals; all this frames a strong testimony to the cultural achievements of the Bangladeshi Bangalees. His 'Bishwa Natak', a televised programme, where he directed and presented world classics, made him a household name.
Sayeed's entry into the theatre has been acknowledged by Syed Jamil Ahmed, an exponent of location-specific and reflexive mode of theatre, with due admiration: 'More promising rhizomes cropped up in the 60s when Sayeed Ahmed wrote 'The Thing' (1961), 'Milepost', and 'Survival' (1967)'. These works were subsequently translated in French, German and Italian.
Born on January 1, 1931, in Dhaka, Ahmed grew up to be an international figure courtesy of his wide interest and activism. His plays – 'Kalbela' (1962), 'Milepost' (1964), 'Trishna-e' (1968), 'Ek Din Protidin' (1974) and 'Shesh Nawab' (1988) were staged in the US, Italy, Germany, India and Pakistan.
Most of his plays were initially written in English, and were later translated into Bangla by himself.
Ahmed received the Bangla Academy Award in 1974 and the Legion d' Honneur from the French Government in 1993. He has delivered lectures at prestigious universities and theatre academies in Brazil, China, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia, Morocco, Norway, Thailand, Turkey, USA and Russia.