BGTF: Promoting Theater in Bangladesh

Established in November 1982 at the University of Dhaka’s Teachers-Students Center, the main goal of the Bangladesh Group Theater Federation (BGTF) was to develop a unified organization to expand theater groups throughout Bangladesh. Today this nonprofit organization represents all active theater groups in Bangladesh, ensuring that all who make their living in the theater receive the necessary training and have access to opportunities to develop their skills. The organization also undertakes to keep theater and drama free from bureaucratic control; to bring social issues to the attention of the public through theater; to publish information relating to theater; to arrange workshops both nationally and internationally; to put in place welfare programs to benefit people working in Bangladeshi theater; and to arrange theater festivals throughout Bangladesh.

The first executive committee of the BGTF was led by Ramendu Majumdar as the founding Chairman, with Nasiruddin Yusuf as the first Secretary General, and the current committee is headed up by M. Hamid (Chairman) and Jhuna Chowdhury (Secretary General), with representatives from each of the theater groups being included in the decision making process. In addition to the aforementioned goals, the BGTF is committed to protecting and promoting the cultural heritage of Bangladesh, and the philosophy of the Liberation War of 1971 which led to the independence of the country.

According to the history of Bangladeshi theater as recorded by the BGTF, plays written and staged in Bangladesh for almost a century (1855-1947) were mostly historical and mythological, suited to the middle and upper classes of society who attended the theater for entertainment and not to have their consciousness’ prodded by social issues. Between 1947 and 1952, from when Pakistan was created by the partitioning of India and the formation of the language movement, theater in what was then East Pakistan went through a stagnant stage. From 1952 onward, students at Dhaka University revived the performing arts to a degree and with the independence of Bangladesh in 1971, theater emerged as a means to address social issues, deal with the realities of life and deliver meaningful messages. Today around 300 theater groups are active in Bangladesh entertaining and informing their audiences with works that include adaptations and interpretations of works by well-known international playwrights, both past and present, and contemporary and original works by Bangladeshi playwrights.