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DHAKA |Tuesday | 26 October 2010 | 11 Kartik 1417 BS | 17 Zilquad 1431 Hijri
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Sara ZakerOn a path less traveled→ Sun Culture Desk
 Sara Zaker is one of the few women who rose to limelight through the theatre and has remained loyal to it, resisting the lure of the more glamorous and profitable media. One of the most successful actresses in theatre and television, she is also an established entrepreneur, and a caring mother. .

Surprisngly enough, Sara Zaker never even considered a career in the media. Perhaps, the most famous character she ever played is that of Alachi Begum from the drama Ayomoy. Throughout the years, many of her colleagues have left the stage to perform in films or television. But for her, the stage is her life, and even to this day she still loves to perform in theatre. Her favourite characters in theatre are Chamila from Dewan Gazir Kissa, Ersha from Sot Manusher Khozey and The Third Witch from Macbeth. Recently she is working with Nagorik Theatre on a play titled Kathal Bagan.

Sara Zaker talked to us about the present scenario of our theatre. She also placed her views on the current problems our theatre is facing and its future.

In these modern times, the old system of our theatre persist…

I personally think we have some dedicated leaders in our theatre. These people have pioneered the theatre movement in Bangladesh and are still performing well. They earn next to nothing, but for them theatre is life. Such is their devotion, that sometimes they forget to eat, but they never forget the time of rehearsal. It is very positive. But even to this day, we are following the traditional practices in our theatre. We need to appreciate and apply newer methods.

Theatre does not depend on issues…

Before liberation, our greatest issue was to free our country. People from all cultural fields had come together under the single banner of freedom. But after liberation, issues such as informing the new generation about 1971 and helping them understand our culture sprang up. Then in the ‘90s, the most important issue for the theatre was democracy. These days, we do not have such pressing issues, but the theatre is still active. What I am trying to say is: the theatre does not depend on issues. Its work is not only to explore social values, but also to entertain people. Perhaps, its biggest task is to keep the audience happy.

We need a more professional approach towards theatre…

I think we need a more professional approach towards theatre if we want to improve. Even today, most people consider their work in the theatre a hobby. These people hardly make any money from the theatre, and have other jobs that pay. In fact, many invest their own money to finance their theatre groups. However, in other countries the government often provides subsidies and other forms of support to the theatre. As a result, their performers are much more focused as they do not have to support their theatre career through other jobs. But in our country, the government hardly has any provisions to support the theatre, and the only other sources of financing are the NGOs. But personally, I do not support taking money from them; we do not want someone to dictate terms to us. For professional theatre, we must have government support as well as encouragement from sponsors.

I am worried about good writers and future leaders…

If you ask me, I am really worried about the future of our theatre. After Abdullah Al Mamun, Selim Al Din, Syed Shamsul Haq and Mannan Hira, we did not get many good writers. We need new concept, new ideas. We need some really good leaders in theatre, because those who started the theatre movement in our country are now too old to carry on; some of them are no longer among us. So finding new leadership in theatre is of utmost importance. We have already seen some new and talented writers and directors emerge in film and television industries. We need exactly that in theatre as well.

Losing great performers…

Great actors and performers had entered the theatre scene in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, but very few of them have stayed for long time. Those who have left cannot be blamed; it is not really possible for a theatre activist to maintain a normal family or social life in this country. This is really unfortunate as far as our audience is concerned. However, we still have a hope, as there are some new and talented actors who are willing to take stage acting as a profession. So I would say this is not that big a problem.

There is audience for theatre…

We do have audience. Even today, a good number of people come to see the stage plays. There are admirers of theatre all over the country. True, the number of those admirers is not sufficient, but it is increasing very slowly. But the real problem is, we do not have a place big enough to accommodate a large number of audience. The number of theatre halls in the country is quite low. It gives me much pleasure that we have foreign crowd among our audiences. Our performances on stage are appreciated and admired all over the world.

To improve the present condition of theatre…

A lot of things need to be done in order to improve the present condition of our theatre. The government needs to step in. Policies must be set to establish new auditoriums exclusively to stage plays. We also need the government to provide us with the necessary financial back-up. Leading corporate houses can help in this regard as well. It is a little problematic though; the corporate houses would always look for a big fan base, which, unfortunately, the theatre does not have when compared to film industry or television media. Also, I personally like to address the newcomers: they need to understand that theatre demands a lot of patience and dedication, and it is not the place for those who want quick rise to stardom.

I am not perfect for television…

I am often asked why I am not regular on television or films. In my opinion, I am not good enough to work on television. Same goes for films. That is why I do not work on television much. This is not something I miss. Also, I am very busy with my job, and it is quite hard for me to take time out for the camera. I am very happy with my theatre work. Personally, I think the present condition of television media is very good. There are lots of young artistes, writers, and directors. They are very good at what they do. I like how they work. There are new faces in films as well, both in front of and behind the camera. Some say that foreign television channels have captured quite a large number of viewers and for this reason the local channels are suffering. I do not subscribe to this idea. I think there is a fixed audience who regularly watch programmes on the local channels. The real problem is airing too many advertisements in those programmes. The channels have little or no choice, as the sponsors want their products promoted as much as possible. Something must be done in this regard, so that both the audience and the sponsors are happy with what they get.
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