Oxford-based theatre troupe Theatre Folks’ Jamuna is a poignant portrayal of a woman’s suffering and struggles during and after the liberation war. Theatre Folks, which consists mainly of expatriate Bangladeshis, staged the play at Natmandal of Dhaka University on Friday and Saturday and at Studio Theatre Hall of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy on Sunday and Monday. Earlier the play has duly earned acclaim from critics and audience at Oxford, Birmingham and London.
Jamuna is inspired, as its writer Selina Shelley says, by the life and struggles of renowned sculptor and war heroine Ferdousi Priyabhasini. Shelly stresses that the play, however, is not Priyabhasini’s story; rather it takes ‘bits and pieces’ from her.
Indeed, Jamuna is not of one woman’s life and struggles, it is a tale of thousands of women who suffered and struggled during and after the country’s war of liberation.
The play revolves around its central character Jamuna, a sculptor, who is going to hold her first exhibition. Shelley, who played Jamuna, took care to look like and even speak like Priyabhasini.
In a very pertinent way, says its director Mohammad Ali Haider, Jamuna is symbolic of the country too. As Jamuna uses useless woods and logs, and gives life to what is thrown away, the country also came to its own life after the devastation of war.
Jamuna faces an aching dilemma about whether to disclose her past and what inspired or invoked her artwork or keep them secret.
Jamuna asks the reverberating question -‘If I tell my true story would you be so proud’- to her daughters, who are proud for their mother’s achievements. This is the heart of her dilemma.
Should she tell how art and life are intertwined, in fact, synonymous, that both of them have come out of debris?
Jamuna, at last, lets herself out and tell the fate she had to undergo and accept; that she was sexually abused by occupation army, that her elder daughter is a war child and, most importantly, she has taken recourse to art with the ‘desire to have Durga’s power within’.
The powerful play ends with reconciliation, with fought-back tears Jamuna and her daughters embrace each other in the last scene.
The stage for the play was decorated with a few sculptures by Ferdousi Priyabhasini, continuous emotive music on traditional instruments enhanced the overall ambience.
Selina Shelley, who enacted the role of Jamuna, was majestic. Other actors Syed Manzurul Hussain, Adita Hasan, Onindita Sarker, Sadia Ahammed, Arnila Guha Nolok and Soma Ferdoush were impressive too.
-With New Age input