About Bangladesh Theater Archives

The beginning
Bangladesh Theater Archives started off in 1986 by collecting theater posters of Bangladesh stage performances. At the beginning it assumed no name as it was just an individual endeavor. The very idea of collecting theater posters was inspired initially by the Indian legendary dramatist, director, actor Utpal Dutt. It was with his counseling Babul Biswas took up the project and it all started from there— the dream-journey of the Archives, which is still on uninterruptedly. Literally speaking it was the first inventiveness of its kind in Bangladesh— a historic expedition, to be precise. This expedition initially had unfathomable emotion and passion involved but gradually the hurdle has turned into a well-drawn out responsibility that Babul Biswas consciously and unconditionally has taken up on his shoulder. Struggling against innumerable as well as unforeseen odds he has never abandoned the dream steering-wheel of the Archives, and never let a single collected data be destroyed. From the very first day until now he has been indomitably archiving the rare theatrical documents with all his zeal, and ceaselessly engaging all his efforts preserving the history of theater.

As for obtaining and accumulating statistics/data, at the commencing stage, reputed dramatist-director-actor Mamunur Rashid happened to be the principal guide and mentor of the organization. He would provide his well thought out guidance to Babul Biswas regularly and untiringly with tremendous care and seriousness. 26 Bangabandhu Avenue, Dhaka, the first housing address of the organization, was in fact a cramped office room of Mamunur Rashid. The organization received much needed postnatal care from the members of Aranyak theater group too— the Archives that we see now is the result of their collective and united efforts save which it would not be possible for such an organization to survive at all. Realizing the importance of such an endeavor, within no time, famed theater personality Ramendu Majumdar, generously extended his helping and precious advices to guide Babul Biswas that still remain uninterrupted. It is also utterly important to mention that countless theater activists/workers/lovers of the country are constantly and diligently involved in the effort of collecting, compiling and documenting theater statistics/data, which has pragmatically contributed to its gaining a prestigious status in Bangladesh now.

Initially the organization took on several names, such as, Poster Museum, Poster Gallery, etc. Processing through this vacillating phase of baptization, in 2011 it finally assumed its name as Bangladesh Theater Archives. Though the organization’s modus operandi at the beginning was restricted within collecting theater posters and data only, soon enough it got involved in sourcing in souvenirs, tickets, flyers, handbills, brochures, books, still photos, documents, and videos. At present the Archives has in its collection more than one lac (one hundred thousand) statistical data and documents of the kind mentioned above, and it is steadily outsourcing precious academic materials, to the theater researchers, students, teachers, and theater workers at home and abroad. A considerable number of students and researchers took and are still taking help from the Archives for writing their research dissertations. There is no denying the fact that Bangladesh Theater Archives now has turned into an esteemed national organization. This is a matter of immense pride and dignity for all Bengalis and Bangladeshis, and more so for all theater workers/organizers without whose sincere help this organization could never have been able to compile so much valuable information, statistics/data. Of course, this is a boastful fruition of Bangladesh’s independence.

Significant 3 Exhibitions
It was Liaquat Ali Lucky, then Cultural Secretary, Dhaka University Central Students Union, who invited this organization to arrange a theater poster exhibition on the occasion of observance of University Day 1988. That was the first ever theater poster exhibition in Bangladesh. The exhibition was titled World Drama, which was inaugurated by then Dhaka University Vice Chancellor Dr. Abdul Mannan, and beyond doubt it created a history. Next, in 1989, the exhibition that was arranged at the invitation of reputed theater personality Ramendu Majumdar to celebrate World

Theater Day by International Theater Institute (ITI), Bangladesh Center, at Dhaka University Teacher-Student Center (TSC), caused an unprecedented stir among the theater activists, and researchers of both home and abroad. It was inaugurated by Professor Kabir Chowdhury. Alliance Francoise de Dhaka, Embassies of Indonesia, Thailand, Turkey, and Germany extended their help with theater posters to lead the exhibition to a grand success. Theater workers, researchers, journalists and all walks of people were tremendously impacted by it, and praised the event lavishly. Newspapers also featured specially on the exhibition and enthused the organizers to shape it as an institution. The successive exhibitions were supported actively by ITIs of Germany, Hungary, Japan, Papua New Guinea, Finland, Sweden, Berliner Ensemble, and Netherlands Theater Institute with theater posters from their respective countries. In 2009, at the invitation of Nasiruddin Yousuff, the Archives held the biggest exhibition ever on theater documentation that was jointly sponsored by Dhaka Theater and Bangladesh Shilpokala Academy. It was another success story. The show under the banner of Theater Talks was opened by theater personality of international fame Ramendu Majumdar.

Presently Bangladesh Theater Archives is paralleled with any international theater resource center with regard to its collection and compilation of national and international theater documentation materials. Invited by different organizations the Archives arranged 50 exhibitions between 1989 and 2020 so far. Perhaps this stands out as a quintessential achievement. The exhibitions were sometimes merely of posters or still photographs or even of just statistics and data. All those exhibitions were inaugurated by theater personalities, academics or senior civil servants.

Board & Staffers
The founder General Secretary of the Archives is Dr. Babul Biswas. Right from its inception in 1986 his sincere and devoted efforts have resulted in the present applaud able success of the organization. He has been at the helm of the organization for long 36 years now. From 2012 the responsibility of Chairmanship is being carried out by Rubaya Ferdoush Champa. After then, from 2020 the responsibility of Chairmanship is being carried out by prominent drama translator Professor Abdus Selim. Besides, Rubaya Ferdoush Champa happens to be the Chairperson (Administration), and S. M. Rishad is in charge of the Systems Development. While Shafiqul Alam Kamal works as the Coordinator and Finance Manager, the Digital Graphics section is being looked after by Bikash Shaha. Celebrated theater personalities, Ramendu Majumdar and Mofidul Hoque are its Advisors.

Collaborations with International Organizations
  1. Chairperson (Administration), Rubaya Ferdoush Champa and founder General Secretary, Dr. Babul Biswas are presently members of the International Association of Libraries, Museums, Archives and Documentation Centers of the Performing Arts, Paris, France.
  2. Bangladesh Theater Archives is a Cooperating member of the International Theater Institute, Paris, France.

The organization, since its founding in 1986 is being financed by Dr. Babul Biswas with his hard-earned money. 98% of the Archive budget is borne by him and the rest comes from limited sources in lump sums, the flow of which is far from regular. In 2020 with pecuniary help from Professor Abdus Selim the Archives subscribed a Co-operative membership of the ITI. Advisors, Ramendu Majumdar, Mofidul Hoque, and Chairman, Professor Abdus Selim are trying hard to create a fixed fund for smooth running of the organization.

The present address of the Bangladesh Theater Archives is 50 Purana Paltan Line, Dhaka 1000. The owner of this property is Humayun Kabir Himu, former General Secretary, Bangladesh Gram Theater. He is kind enough to allocate a specific room in 2018 for housing Bangladesh Theater Archives for free. Presently Bangladesh Theater Archives operates from this location nationally and internationally.