The new President of aita/iata’s Asian region (ARC) is Mr. Liaquat Ali Lucky, Director General of the Bangladesh Shilpakala National Academy of Fine & Performing Arts. Ali Lucky, however, is not a newcomer to aita/iata. He hasbeen working in Bangladeshi theatre for more than forty-two years, and he was first introduced to aita/iata in 1988.
              Born in a small village in the 1950s, Ali Lucky began his artistic career as an actor, inspired by the role of his older brother, a successful theatre director. Since then, Ali Lucky has directed 78 plays in Bangladesh, 30 of which have been plays for children and youth. And even with all his present responsibilities he still is an actor, performing every month onstage.


              What is the most popular play that Ali Lucky has directed done in Bangladesh?  It must certainly be Moliére’s The Miser, that his group has presented more than 618 times! But the most popular writer of plays, songs and poetry performed throughout Bangladesh is not a European at all. It is, of course, Rabinadrath Tagore, who was Asia’s first recipient of the Nobel Prize in the 1930s.  Last year, Bangladesh and Ali Lucky’s National Academy celebrated the 150th anniversary of Tagore’s death.


            Bangladesh has a long tradition of artistic expression and performance, deriving largely from its religious heritage. “Yes, this is what we stress in the way we train actors,” remarked Dr. Mohammad Israfil, Professor of Theatre at the University of Dhaka.  Dr. Israfil teaches undergraduate and graduate students there, directing them in plays (especially Shakespearean plays) and leading them on tours throughout the country. “And many plays that we present,” he continues, “are adapted for our performance style here in Bangladesh that has so much music and dance.” 


            In the past, performing arts in Bangladesh were strongly connected to Buddhism. Ali Lucky explains that “one of Buddhism’s central ideas is to honor and bow-down before the human being.” Hence in Bangladesh, the major art forms were music, dance and theatre. But before Ali Lucky began his work with young students in 1990, there existed only the National Academy’s main center in Dhaka. Moreover, there was no theatre for children and youth at all until he established his own youth troupe, The People’s Little Theatre.                                                                                                                                                                          

           Today, the National Academy under Ali Lucky employs more than 4,000 people, most of whom are trainers and coaches. There are sixty-four district branches of the National Academy for Fine and Performing Arts, and 456 sub-district branches, serving a half-million students. Classes take place in theatre, film, dance, music and the visual arts. It is Mr. Lucky’s goal to grow this number so that the nation’s arts programs can serve all of Bangladesh’s 160 million citizens. “Ali Lucky has done much for theatre in Bangladesh, “ Dr. Israfil remarked. “He is a very important theatre artist in my country.”


            “Only in art and theatre can we hope to save the world,” Ali Lucky remarked in a recent interview. “You and I are small, but culture is not small–it is big! After I became active with aita/iata, I was able to meet other directors and share ideas with them.” And he has taken his youth troupes to a number of aita/iata festivals in order to inspire them as well.  Ali Lucky’s ideas have resonated strongly in Bangladesh, where the Dhaka English-language newspaper, The Daily Star, has dubbed him “an articulate observer on Bangladeshi art.” As President of ARC, Ali Lucky hopes to reach out to many nations in South Asia such as Thailand, Malaysia and others, and involve them in aita/iata activities. He sees too few of these far-flung performance traditions reflected on our festival stages: religious drama, puppet theatre, dance-drama and other theatrical styles. 


        What’s next on Ali Lucky’s plate? These days he keeps his staff extra-busy organizing DHAKA ART SUMMIT ’14 in the capitol city. The event, referred to as the “Asian Art Biennale,” is now in its second edition.  Together with the Samdani Art Foundation, Ali Lucky’s Shilpakala Academy will bring together more than 250 artists from across the South Asian region. “The summit aims to be an exposure,” Lucky commented, “and also a platform for communication among artists, curators, critics and art enthusiasts…we are heading in the right direction.”


           In a recent speech inaugurating a two-day drama festival in Dhaka, Ali Lucky remarked: “Drama is no longer a mere entertainment medium but a leading ‘creative therapy’ tool of learning and a popular way to help children to identify their needs and their creativity. . . We need to enhance and integrate the scattered children’s theatrical activities throughout the country and ultimately give rise to a proper shape of a theatre movement in Bangladesh.”


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