Tahmina Shafique The Complete Portfolio


Live and commit

Playwright, dramatist, director, actor, writer, thinker, advisor, friend, father- Abdullah Al-Mamun was each one of them and many many more. For some, he is a maverick, and for others he is a man of many avatars- his versatility and immense contribution to a whole era of theatre works, film-making and writings remains to be unparallel till date.

This month, as the eminent artist, fights against major brain haemorrhage and lies unconscious on the hospital bed, with fat tubes sticking out of his mouth, his friends and family continue to pray that he would walk out of the hospital door and touch their lives the way he had always.

Mamun’s contribution to the art and cultural fraternity has been immense, and today it is safe to say that he has shaped a major portion of the TV serials, films, plays and scripts that we have today.

‘I know Mamun since 1961,’ says Ramendu Majumdar. ‘I had just gotten into University of Dhaka and witnessed Mamun’s enthusiasm towards theatre. In a few years we had formed a student’s theatre group and since then Mamun took several initiatives and moved on to shape a whole era of theatre and film works. His contribution to the film fraternity and art has been immense and incomparable.’

Mamun has been known for his versatility- the kind that is rare. Over the past four decades, he has managed to contribute immensely to the films and theatre world, at the same time, he has brought many talents under the limelight, all of whom continue to look up to him till date. Some of his lauded theatre works include Shubochon Nirbashone, Akhon Durshomoy, Chardike Juddho, Shena Poti, Akhono Kritodas, Tomrai, Kokilera, Desher Manush, Krishno Kanter Will, Meraj Fakirer Ma, Meher Jaan Arekbaar.

Some of his timeless films are – Gibon Niye Juya, Shareng bou, Oshikkhito, Akhoni Shomoy, Shokhi Tumi Kaar, Mane na Mana, Jonom Dukhi, Dui Jibon and Domka.

‘My father was extraordinary and will always be so,’ says his daughter Deeba Nargis, a reputed TV actress. ‘His compassion and his dedication is something that always awed us.’

Born on July 12, 1943, Mamun was always quiet and lived in his own world. ‘He was never the loud kind- always composed and calm, which was the reason why he was often mistaken as pompous,’ says the renowned actor Tareq Anam.

‘But he was certainly someone who was supportive.’

Tareq’s career began with Mamun’s play and he worked with him in several occasions. ‘Mamum represents a whole new era, a whole new age where he shaped up the whole theatre and film culture and scenario.’

‘You can’t compare him with anyone; he was absolutely unique,’ says Kabori Sarwar. ‘He was a major support system for many of us.’

Mamun’s career began as a television producer in 1966, after he had acquired a degree in history from University of Dhaka. While at University, Mamum was inclined to plays and had already started working with a group of students in plays. From the late 70’s, Mamun played a major role in the theatre movement.

Decades on Mamun only went on proving himself to be one of our most talented thespians of time. More importantly, he created a new dimension to television serials.

‘One of unique things about Mamun was his rare ability to capture audiences attention. We might have had differences of opinions on his themes, but that was one thing that we always recognise and salute him for,’ says Tareq.

Mamun has left behind three daughters and a son, all of whom have grown up with his fundamentals. While his wife passed away in 1984, his children feel, he played the role of a mother and a father at the same time. His fundamentals in life - live and commit - has been deeply embedded in his children.

‘He spent his lifetime in building talents and finding actors and talented players, back at home, he wanted the same thing- he wanted to see the artist in us,’ remembers his daughter fighting back tears of pride.

‘He is my father and he is the best. But above all of that, I know he is incomparable and irreplaceable as a man, a guide, as an actor, as a philosopher, as a thinker, as an individual- he was a man of class.’

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‘Businessmen will only invest when there is political stability in the country’

How did you become associated with Bangladesh Better Business Forum?
The forum basically included the heads of trade bodies and also several government officials. I was nominated because of my long standing association with the tea garden, being the president and also because, my position as the president of the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce back in 1998. At the moment I am also the managing director of Kaderpur company.

The BBBF includes several working groups- I am working specifically under the skill development groups that aims to focus on skill development and hence greater accessibility to employment.

How did the forum come about and how does it exactly function?
Forums like BBBF are present in other parts of the world, for example Vietnam also has a forum that aims to improve the business environment of the country. The group includes a mixture of both government and private sector officials who work together towards ensuring a better investment climate within the economy. These members work together and send their recommendations to improve the business environment.
Now, this forum includes five working groups- each focusing on specific areas such as Macro economic policies, skill development work and more. Under each of these groups we have these members.
In case of skill development group, of which I am a member, we are formulating a comprehensive plan for training young people in the hope of increasing skills and productivity and higher accessibility to job market.
A comprehensive set of recommendation of what should be done has been already sent to the government and those will be implemented once approved.
This is the first time ever in Bangladesh that such an initiative has been taken up and it is indeed a challenging work.

What are your views on the investment climate in Bangladesh?
There are several well documented barriers to a better investment climate in Bangladesh.
However, in my opinion it is the method by which businesses are run and government runs that becomes a major barrier. There is no transparency or accountability whatsoever.
Moreover, you have several other issues at hand, for example, when people look for approvals for starting a business or an investment, there is the whole lengthy procedure and red tape, which further disturbs the climate for investment. Added to that, it is hard to get something done without political connection and personal contacts and even when you have both, there are several cases where you must pay your way through. The success of businesses now lies greatly on these contacts and issues.

With the current ‘state of emergency’ in place along with the barriers that come with it, how do the BBBF intend to go ahead with the implementation of its recommendations and has there been any tangible implementations so far?
Firstly, the recommendations that the BBBF are working on is to enhance the business and investment climate in the country –which is our main objective - where our five member groups are working on for instance the simplification of regulations, economic issues and skill development. There is no conflict of interest with the interim government as the forum is represented by advisers while all the recommendations are handed in directly to the chief adviser for processing.
The World Bank, for instance, has identified the lack of skill in our work force as a major barrier to economic development in the country. This is an issue which is being addressed by our skills training group in a coordinated way with the government, wherein, 14 ministries are involved to provide marketable skills training, as we aim to standardise and upgrade the skills of the people entering the job market.
There have been tangible implementations in association with, for example, the Bangladesh Bank, in terms of financing of SME’s and reducing the spread of interest to name but a few.

Do you feel that the current political scenario is in any way conducive to business environment?
It is not. The businessmen will only invest when there is some form of political stability in the country. We are hoping that when elections finally take place and the BBBF functions properly, these problems can be solved.
As far as the functionality of the BBBF is concerned, if there is a desire for cooperation than this forum will be very effective in fulfilling its aim. Moreover, this is the model that the country should adopt fully in the field of business, education, investment and human resource development. The model is unique, in the sense that it shows how both the government and private sector can work towards a certain goal and do so effectively.

Are there proper legal frameworks and infrastructure for this?
We need to improve a great deal. There is a dire need for simplification of rules and regulations. Moreover, there is also the need for capacity building. For example, BOI should be given proper manpower. These problems should be addressed so as to achieve economic growth.
Infrastructure is all in shambles. The government has to be energised. In a country where the issues of ‘power’ are so intense, it is difficult to attract investment.
There are also the issues of the Chittagong port, gas situations and fluctuating prices. It is inherent that we need stability in the economy and also a lot of determination and cooperation.

How is the Bangladesh economy functioning today?
At the moment, we are definitely burdened by many problems, such as the price of diesel and gas going up. Power is an important factor in the business world and the increased cost of transportation is definitely having a detrimental effect.
Some of these are international issues, but there have been domestic crises such as the electricity problem which hasn’t been addressed in the last five years or so by the previous government.
Also, with the cost of, for instance, food, going up, workers are demanding more wages and the general cost of production has gone up. We have to absorb all these problems, as in a competitive world, we cannot increase the price of our products even though the cost of production has gone up.

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Nasreen Awal Mintoo

As the WEAB president how has the present business environment affected women entrepreneurs?

One of the harshest truths about women entrepreneurs is the fact that they have constantly faced challenges in being able to push forward and to do well. The present business environment, as we all know has been affected tremendously and the business confidence level has gone very low. As much as it may affect the businessman, for women entrepreneurs it has become a greater challenge.

Moreover, in case of WEAB, the women entrepreneurs have been having difficulty in being able to take loans and registering.

What are some of roles of WEAB?

WEAB was formed in 2001. Their aim was to create a platform to help business women establish themselves in a competitive field, dominated by men. The main object of WEAB was to develop a support system for women entrepreneurs to not only improve the quality of their products, to meet the changing market demands, but also to impart training on technical know how, design development and to create marketing links for their products.

In these two years, we have gone places, taken these women’s products abroad and so much more.

What are some of the challenges that you face while working with these women?

I feel the greatest challenge has been the sheer criticism and the social attitude that is yet to change towards women’s work and their dedication. Some of the times working with women have been challenging because their own families have not been supportive of them being independent and self sufficient.

We need a women’s bank, taking loan has been increasingly difficult. Moreover, women’s representation in businesses in yet to improve- for example there is no woman representing the FBCCI and in case of Bangladesh Better Business Forum we have one women out of 60 members.

As a woman yourself, what were some of the challenges that you faced?

Some of the greatest challenges were the fact that people did not appreciate our initiations and we had to face constant criticism- something that is very common when it comes to women stepping up. The struggle has been also evident in keeping the 2420 women that we work with.

Personally, I was lucky to have the support of my family and my husband.

What is your take on the present

political state?

I would say that the present political situation has brought a lot of changes, and we are all looking forward to the elections and to a better business environment. But, at the end of it all, like any other citizen of a country, I would like to see a democratic state as well.

How do you feel about the crisis that your family had to undergo as a result of the state of emergency?

I do not feel it is appropriate for me to speak about it. But the whole situation has been very stressful and emotionally draining. In the process, we also lost my mother-in-law and my family kept struggling to hold on and be able to carry on despite such odds. It is still very difficult to be able to cope and hang on, but I guess we have to.

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