Thespian and renowned media personality Lucky Enam has a career spanning almost four decades. She is among the first female stage performers in the independent Bangladesh, and has worked in several movies and popular TV dramas of the ‘90s such as Humayun Ahmed’s ‘Bohubrihi’, ‘Kothao Keo Nei’ and ‘Ayomoy’. The sexagenarian who has been with theatre and performances for the most part of her life is a quintessential part of the evolving theatre scene and is still determined to work on-screen as well as teach the younger generation who are interested in the crafts through her drama schools ‘Nagarik Natyangan’, established in 1995, and ‘Nagorik Nattyangon Institute of Drama (NNID)’, established in 2005.
Recently, she has been awarded the ‘Ekushey Padak’, Bangladesh’s second highest civilian award, for her contribution in performing arts. While she is delighted to receive such an honour that recognises her life’s work, she herself evaluates her engagement with poise by saying, ‘This is a prestigious award given to those who have dedicated their lives to a certain field. I didn’t take up any other job but dedicated my entire life to theatre. I’m honoured that I was considered worthy of receiving such a state honour by the prime minister. This multiplies my responsibilities, the work that I wanted to do need to be completed along with the plans I have for the near future.’
Lucky was brought up in a household where art and culture were valued immensely. Also, the fact that she had to travel all around Bangladesh due to her father’s profession, inspired her and gave her the courage to pursue a career in theatre and arts in general.
‘My father was a government officer and was posted in various districts of the country from time to time. This gave me and my siblings the opportunity to travel at least twenty districts of Bangladesh. Through travelling I was able to learn about the rich cultural heritage this land possesses and I was inspired from the very roots of its culture. My mother was a passionate singer as well and she used to hum tunes while doing chores. My father always appreciated her and our creativity as well. This support inspired me to follow this path and I found inspiration growing up in a culturally superior environment,’ she says.
She started to learn and practiced singing, writing, dancing, and recitation from a very early age, as Lucky states she performed dances and sang on stage when she was five years old and was the editor of a magazine called ‘Deyal’ while she was in grade nine. Her parents were greatly enthusiastic about her range of cultural activities and appreciated her efforts which worked as a blessing for Lucky in her formative years of performing arts.
Growing up, Lucky believes that she had a childhood, which was way better than the lives of children today. She fondly recalls her days living in the rural settings.
‘While my siblings and I were good at studies, we were equally skilled at performing arts. We can boast of having an impressionable childhood filled with innocence and the bounty of nature. We would often leave the house without notifying anyone and go to the railway tracks, where all of us would form into a line pretending to be butterflies fluttering in a straight line. We were lucky enough to have the scope of enjoying the railway tracks, the meadows – the scenic beauty of the village. We grew up enjoying life’s small treasures, which broadened our creative minds as well as giving us courage, which I feel the kids of today unfortunately cannot enjoy.’
On the liberation war in 1971, Lucky says that it was a time of great unease and they were mostly on the move.
However, after the war came to an end and as soon as the situation started to change for the better in the newly independent Bangladesh, 1972, was a remarkable year as a series of important events in her life unfolded. It was the year she officially got engaged in performing arts as she got enrolled in the theatre troupe ‘Nagorik Natya Sampradaya’.
She recalls, ‘I was received with a warm welcome and they were grateful to have me in their group as I was the first female member in the theatre scene of that time.’ She also worked as a playwright and acted in the radio besides appearing on TV.
‘I was working on three mediums at the same time in 1972; it was indeed a golden year for me,’ she recalls.
In the same year, Lucky, who was a student of economics at the Dhaka University, tied the nuptial knot with Professor Dr Enamul Haque, a noted fellow actor and now a retired chemistry professor of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology.
After their marriage, Lucky was elated to find out that the family she was wedded into was also culturally inclined.
‘I was really delighted to find out that I was transferred from one cultural family to another, as Enam’s family was interested in art as well. Enam although being a professor of chemistry, was heavily influenced by performing arts. He acted in plays and on-screen, wrote screenplays and even gave direction. He wrote the first play aired on Bangladesh Television after our liberation war, which was called ‘Bangla Amar Bangla’,’ she recalls. It was produced by late eminent filmmaker and actor Abdullah Al Mamun.
Professor Enam inspired her to join theatre, as Lucky was more involved in dance and songs. He made her realize that she had the scope of performing both of these art forms in plays.
Naturally, the love for performing arts was inherited by the couple’s daughters Hridi Haque and Proitee Haque. While Hridi went on to become an established actress and now is responsible for giving direction and writing screenplays, their younger daughter Proitee teaches at an English medium school and was involved with writing screenplays for several plays and TV dramas.
‘You don’t see Proitee on screen, but she has worked behind the scenes as a music composer and playwright. She wrote a play inspired from Arthur Miller called “Pushy Beral o Ekjan Prakrita Manush”, which we performed and it was a commendable play. Whereas, Hridi who is an actress but now mostly engaged in directing, screenplay writing and is a performing artist has similarly worked in both the mediums like me. Sometimes while writing huge scripts for TV serials, I tend to share the burden with her,’ says Lucky.
The affection towards performing arts was however further fuelled in the family, when both of them also got hitched to famous actors. Hridi got married to Litu Anam, noted actor who worked in many films and was a part of the Dhaka Theatre troupe, and Proitee was married to Shaju Khadem, a popular TV actor and alumni of Dhaka University’s Faculty of Fine Arts.
Lucky thinks that having son-in-laws who share the same interests as the rest of the family makes life easier for her.
Nowadays, Lucky is mostly busy teaching at and maintaining her two theatre schools and her daughter Hridi is in charge of the digital media productions.
‘I have left electronic media, but I produce and direct. I hope I will tirelessly work in the theatre as long as I am alive,’ Lucky says as she feels that although the TV dramas and serials of today are visually enticing, they lack a solid story or script that was present when she used to perform on screen.
‘Back in those days, the text was much stronger than it is now. The stories and the dialogues meant something. For example, if we look at Humayun Ahmed’s “Bohubrihi” there is a scene where we can see a parrot saying “Tui Rajakar!” (You’re a war criminal!). It shows how strong statements could be made using simple tools which I feel is missing today. Another fun fact is I gave the voiceover of that parrot as well,’ she added.
When asked about the future of performing arts, she says, ‘A lot of talented young people are coming to this field. New plays are being written and directed by them as well. Those who have joined our group or elsewhere, pretty much all of them have done well. Right now my main target is the young generation because it’s time for us to leave. Sometimes when I’m offered roles I refuse to do them as I feel we should pave path for the youth.’
Lucky stresses that the quality of Bangladeshi plays maintain an international standard in terms of various aspects such as lighting, props, technicality and several other factors. She explains, ‘When foreigners come here to see our plays and when we travel abroad to showcase our plays we receive positive feedback. The last time that we performed a folk play “Gahar Badshah o Banesa Pari”, written and directed by Hridi Haque, where we presented various elements including horses, elephants, snakes, trees and all of them were enacted by the artistes. There were fairies along with a war scene between giants and men. All of it was made possible by way of skilled choreography and the audience couldn’t even blink for a second because each of the scenes was filled with anticipation.’
Yet she believes there’s still room for improvement in terms of technicality.
The drama schools consist of a six-month course and every batch graduate by performing a play at the end, with at least two to three plays performed annually. Amongst this gruelling schedule Lucky still has time to publish a magazine called ‘Shudhu Natok’ and has plans to redefine the institute and relocate it to a more spacious area.
She believes the students who still suffer from stage frights, has issues with accent and other challenges will benefit from a wholesome drama institute in order to overcome their problems. She feels nowadays young women are also enthusiastic about joining performing arts, compared to when she started.
‘Theatre is like a family where we share each other’s woes and happiness. I would like to say to the future generation of women artists to complete their education, work hand in hand with their male colleagues, but most importantly, always try to develop a strong personality,’ she advised to the women who are new in this field.
Photos by Abdullah Apu
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