The unfamiliar that is all too familiar

July 31, 2012

Couple of days post Humayun Ahmed’s demise, BTV aired one of his plays. The play, “Nimphool”, was first aired in 1997. Set in a typical Bangladeshi village, the story begins with a mob approaching the home of the headman, ably played by Abul Hayat. A notorious bandit has been caught. The smart-mouthed outlaw, deftly played by Asaduzzaman Noor, and his young son receive generous beatings from the mob. As happens with crazed mobs almost everywhere across the world, logical reasoning is banished, and it’s decided that the bandit will have to lose his eyes as punishment for his crimes. Humanity emerges in the form of the headman’s daughter, who provides water and food to the bandit’s young son — a child who is already being treated like a criminal by the society. As the whole village rejoices the imminent eye gouging with festivity, the headman’s daughter — consummately played by Sheela Ahmed — begs her father to stop this madness. The bandit should go to jail, she says. He is a criminal but his eyes haven’t committed a crime.
It may sound like a sombre plot, but Ahmed in his characteristic all-encompassing fashion maintained a flow that makes the audience laugh, shed a few tears and most importantly, think.
Mob violence is not something new. We read about it, and many of us have actually seen it firsthand. How many people remember the two young girls — Shumi and Piya — beaten up by a mob for stealing food last year? How many tried to the stop those who had morphed into unconscionable beasts?
Humayun Ahmed’s stories and plays attained this incomprehensible popularity because they crossed the borer of fiction/magic realism/mystery. His stories were mirrors and we saw ourselves, our greatness and our flaws in them. We saw that our mundane existence wasn’t all that mundane when we could let go of our worries for a while and get drenched in rain, willingly.
He had this ability to show us the unfamiliar, which is all too familiar.
On an unrelated note, classic TV shows, sitcoms and soap operas are continually re-aired, “Friends” for example. BTV produced Ahmed’s most popular serials — “Eishob Dinratri”, “Oyomoy” and “Bohubrihi”. Can it not bring these gems out of its vault and start re-airing them?

-With The Daily Star input

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