The moment I stepped inside the set of 'Zindabahar' in a BTV studio a few days ago, I was startled. The ancient houses, huts, bazaars, shops and signboards in different languages mesmerised me.
The set was enough for me to realise that Zindabahar was not set in modern times, but a different one.
We got to know that these houses and buildings were all made to portray life from 250 years ago.
Soon enough, the reason for using such old-fashioned houses, huts and bazaars became clear.
The playwright and actor, Mamunur Rashid, said that he has written a story for a daily serial based on 18th century Dhaka called 'Zindabahar' for BTV. It is being produced and directed by Fazle Azim Jewel.
The first phase of the drama has been shot and the shooting for the final stage is ongoing. The first episode of the play aired on Sunday at 9:30 pm and it will be aired every Sunday, Monday and Tuesday at the same time.
The creator of 'Zindabahar', Mamunur Rashid, spoke to The Business Standard a few days ago on a shoot day. He told us that the drama depicts the state of Dhaka from 1757, 1758 and 1760.
"It was very difficult to get information about Dhaka from that period. After reading all kinds of local and foreign books, and analysing old paintings and events, I started writing the script," Rashid continued.
He added, "I tried to portray the then-civic life of the Dhakaites and the prices of different goods from that period. I also tried to showcase the lifestyle of Dhaka's Nayebe Nazim Jasarat Kha."
The British bungalows, their business, the frequent journeys of French and Portuguese merchants and their trade at Chawkbazar were featured in the drama as well.
"I think it has an archival value and that's why we recreated it. Also, the defeated soldiers from the battle of Plassey staged several revolts around Dhaka back then. Tales of these rebellions are exhibited in the play as well," Rashid told the correspondent.
However, in order to succeed in projects of such magnitude, there are various obstacles to overcome.
"When the history of 250 years is brought up in a drama, it's natural to find it difficult to execute as there's no accurate description and infrastructure from that time, other than only a river - 'Buriganga'," the writer added.
'Zindabahar' was shot entirely in one set, while some parts were shot outdoors. Although the state of Dhaka at that time is well researched, no fictional work has yet been created.
Speaking more about the drama, Rashid said, "When the capital was shifted to Murshidabad, Dhaka was abandoned. What was the situation in Dhaka then? At one point, the Indigo Revolt and the revolution in the muslin industry gradually brought Dhaka back to life. 'Zindabahar' brings all this to the screens."
Rashid said that his character in 'Zindabahar' is called Romoni Mohana Talapatra, an employee of the East India Company who used to travel to Dhaka to collect taxes when the tax office was not in Dhaka. As a result, he set the taxes as he pleased.
'Zindabahar' also stars Lutfar Rahman George, Azad Abul Kalam, Ahmed Rubel, Ananta Hira, Shatabdi Wadud, Shah Alam Dulal, Shyamal Zakaria, Rozi Siddiqui and others.
Producer Fazle Azim Jewel said, "The history of Dhaka from 200 or 300 years ago has never been featured in Bangali dramas like it has been in 'Zindabahar'. Dhaka from that time is still unfamiliar to us. This drama aims to familiarise Dhakaites of today to Dhaka from the 18th century."
"After the last Nawab died, his relatives were imprisoned for eight years. We want to picturise what happened in those eight years," he added.