Rhythm on the Stage – Syed Manzoorul Islam

Award winning photographer Shakoor Majid’s choice of subject has always been distinctive–he selects moments, people and objects that say something. Majid believes that his subjects have first to talk to him. This does not mean that he gives more emphasis on what is articulate or dramatic. Often, he picks up mute, insensitive things and drab moments that in his treatment become evocative. These objects and moments, in their ordinariness, have a story to tell. And there are few who listen with as much intentness as does Majid. Majid now focuses his lens on the stage to take photographs of life that goes on the stage. His training as an architect comes in handy here. I wouldn’t use the word architectonic to describe the strangely structured quality of his pictures, for that would be reading too much into his photography, but his pictures do display a controlling organization with a sense of direction. There is speed and movement in his photographs, and faces and bodies are often blurred, but it does not dissipate the significant meaning that Majid searches for. The essence of theatre is movement; even when action is frozen or put on hold, the stasis only reminds the audience of the absence of movement. Majid tries to recreate this movement and a feeling of three dimensional on the flat surface he has to work on, like a painter exploring the world of dynamics. For him faces, or a particular emotion that a face expresses, are not important. It is the interaction of performers with space and time that Majid wants to focus on. The photographs are important for another reason–they are a moving record of how Dhaka’s theatre, in its restless search for form and style, grows more dynamic with every passing year.

Theatre in Dhaka has evolved over the years into what it is today—a rich field of performance that combines art, aesthetics and social commitment. Dhaka’s stage has seen some of the most moving presentations of our time. It has been enriched by a number of consummate performers and technical people. Shakoor Majid’s photographs are basically a portfolio of these people in different aspects of their involvement with the stage.

Shakoor on the day of launching the book with the publisher

Majid’s initial interest in stage photography was created by Mr. Harry Johanson, who conducted a workshop in Dhaka a number of years ago. But I believe that workshop was just a catalyst since Majid was already experimenting with people and places, form and movement, in his photography. The workshop brought all these varying interests to a head, and enabled him to launch into a direction which, he was sure, would lead him to a new field of encounter. If stage in itself is a representation, than Majid’s pictures are representations of representations. I am happy that Majid’s photograph are being published as an album. The title of the book, Rhythm on the Stage explains both Majid’s content as well as his desire to capture the rhythm and life of each performance he photographs. I am sure this publication will be well received.

S. MANZOORUL ISLAM Dhaka University

The content was written as the preface of the book – Rhythm on the stage.

The book is the outcome of the photo exhibition held in Kolkata in 2002.