Selim Al Deen

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Selim Al Deen
সেলিম আল দীন.jpg
Deen in 2006
Native name
সেলিম আল দীন

(1949-08-18)18 August 1949
Died14 January 2008(2008-01-14) (aged 58)
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Resting placeJahangirnagar University campus
Alma materJahangirnagar University, University of Dhaka
Spouse(s)Begumzadi Meherunnesa Selim

Selim Al Deen (18 August 1949 – 14 January 2008)[1] was a Bangladeshi playwright and theatre artist.[2] He was the founder chairperson of the Department of Drama and Dramatics at Jahangirnagar University. He made significant contribution to Bengali drama.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Deen was born as Mainuddin to Mofizuddin Ahmed and Firoza Khatun in Shenerkhil village of Sonagazi Upazila of Feni on 18 August 1949.[1] He was the third of their seven children. He assumed this pen name later. His school life started in 1954. He travelled with his father to different parts of the country and received education in many institutions as his father was doing a transferable government job in the department of Customs and Excise. He passed matriculation examination in 1964 from Manglakandi High School and in 1966 he passed ISc from Feni College. In 1967 he was admitted into University of Dhaka to study Bengali literature. But later he moved to the Karatia College, Tangail and graduated as a student of that college. He came back to the University of Dhaka and obtained his MA degree from the Bengali Department.[1] In 1995, he earned his PhD degree from Jahangirnagar University.[1] His first job was in an advertising firm as a copywriter. However, in 1974 he joined Jahangirnagar University as a lecturer. He married Begaumjadi Meherunnisa Parul the same year.[3]

Debut into the world of drama[edit]

He was attracted to reading literary works at a very young age. As he turned on to admit into Dhaka University in 1966, he decided to become a career writer. In the early years, Selim Al-Deen wanted to be a poet and published some of poems he composed. But soon he realised that poetry was not his cup of tea.[4] It was his renowned teacher and a playwright Munier Chowdhury who encouraged him to focus attention on drama.[5] First he started reading plays and study the life of playwrights. Then he started to write plays himself. He wrote his first drama in 1968 while still a university-student. His first radio play was Biporit Tomosay (tr. 'On the other side of Darkness') was broadcast in 1969.[6] He wrote a play for Bangladesh Television styled Librium[7] which was broadcast in 1970.[4] His first play for the theatre was Shorpo bishoyok golpo (tr. Story about snakes') was staged in 1972[6]

His close study of European culture is reflected in his initial plays. His earlier works including Sharpa Bishawak Galpo, Jondis o Bibidho Balloon, O Mul Shomoshya, Karim Bawali'r Shotru o Mul Mukh Dekha, Charkakrar Documentary were cast in European format.[8]

However soon he realised that the tales of rural farmers is no less heroic than the Herculean feats of Achilles or Prometheus. This realisation changed his mindset and diverted his attention to the lives of his countrymen.

Later career[edit]

Deen carried out extensive research for his doctoral dissertation in which he proved that the history of Bengali drama is older than that of European drama. He moved earth and heaven to collect data in support of his thesis.[4] During 1977 to 1979, Selim Al-Deen studied Bengali Jatra which prompted him to write his first unique drama Kittonkhola. Success of Kittonkhola instilled him enormous confidence that using tradition as the foundation was pregnanat with success.

His subsequent works, namely, Bashon, Atotai, Saifulmulk Badiuzzaman, Keramat Mangal, Hat Hodai and Chaka followed the pattern of Epic realism which he inaugurated in Bengali culture. He also brought out the folklore tradition called Kathya-natya to his dramas like Joiboti Koinnar Mon.[8]

Realization that Bengali drama was lagging far behind other branches of Bengali literature, Selim Al-Deen did not divert his attention away and continued his focus. He started experimentation in forms and styles to explore different possibilities. The early nineties saw Selim Al-Deen focusing on a new style derived from folk traditions. In Jaiboti Konya'r Mon, the 'kathya-natya' style was used. Kathya-natya was traditional of play that was being ignored for a long time. He resorted to the same format while composing Hargaaz.

Dhaka Theatre[edit]

Deen was one of the founding members of Dhaka Theatre which is a leading theatre group of the country and rendered vital contribution in advancing the progressive drama movement. Notably, Dhaka Theatre staged almost all of Selim's plays. He and his fellow artists run the theatre movement across rural Bangladesh to popularise the culture in rural areas of Bangladesh.[8]


Since the 1980s, Al-Deen has played a pivotal role in the theatre movement of Bangladesh. Apart from his active involvement with Dhaka Theatre, his fundamental contribution was introduction of a novel sense of direction to modern Bengali Drama, based on tradition. Al-Deen has also been one of the key organisers of Bangladesh's village theatre movement. He took the monumental task of creating the only dictionary on dramatics available in Bengali. Having been awarded almost all national recognitions possible in the field of theatre, Al-Deen's work is studied at many universities across the world. Several of his plays have been translated into other languages. They have been staged outside Bangladesh too. In fact, he is one of few Bangladeshi writers to have his plays staged by West Bengal troupes.[9] He helped to build the Dramatics department of Jahangirnagar University and involved there as a teacher for 30 years.[8]

Al-Deen secured mass popularity when his plays were broadcast through television. Some of his TV serials like Granthikgan Kahey, Chhaya Shikari and others have won plaudits from the TV audience.[9]

His play Nishwora Bhalobasha aired on Bangladesh Television 2 January 2005 was achieved immediate popularity. The main casts were Shahriar Nazim Joy, Dipa Khondokar, Mamnun Emon, Kumkum Hassan and Anuja. The play revolves around Shombrita and Shukriti, two sisters of opposite temperaments. One day Opu, one of their relatives comes from overseas to stay in their house and plans eventually to marry a Bangladeshi girl and settle here. Shukriti's mother wants her to marry Opu. Meanwhile, Shombrita falls in love with Opu. Opu cannot understand why Shukriti's mother is more interested in the marriage of her younger daughter. The play takes a dramatic turn when Shombrita leaves the house without notice. The play was directed by Nayeem Imtiaz Nayemul.



Deen have so far been collected in four volume 'collected works'. Other books include Jaundice and various balloons (1975), Muntaser Fantashi (1976), Shakuntala (1977), Kitton Khola (1978–80), Bashon (1985), Keramatmangal (1985), Hat Hadai (1988), Chaka (1991), Hargoj (1993) Ekti Marma Rupkatha (1992), Jaibotir Konnar Mon (1992), Bonopungshul (1996), Prachcho (1998) and Nimojjan (2004). He published two poetry collections, Kobi O Timir (1990) and Swapna Ramanigan (2007). His only novel is titled Amrita Upkshan. He compiled the seminal theatre dictionary Bangla Natyakosh and his complete works Rachona Shomogro-1, 2, 3 & 4th part (2005–09), edited by Saymon Zakaria. His plays are included in the textbook curricula of Dhaka University and Jahangirnagar University and in Jadavpur University and Rabindra Bharati University in India.[10]

He was also the founder of Fusion Theory and Neo-Ethnic Theatre. Ekti Marma Rupkotha is one of the few instances of Neo-ethnic Theatre in Bengali literature.

Ronger Manush[edit]

Based on unmixed rural settings, Ronger Manush was written by Selim Al Deen jointly with Masum Reza. This is a 111-episode TV play produced by NTV.

Chaka in the USA and India[edit]

Chaka by Deen premiered in 1990 at the Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio, USA. It was translated into English as The Wheel by Syed Jamil Ahmed and adapted by Steve Friedman. The play was jointly directed by Syed Jamil Ahmed and Denny Partridge. Inspired by its success, Denny Partridge directed The Wheel again at Barnard's Minor Latham Playhouse, in New York City on 13, 14 and 15 November 2003. Cast: Ian Anthony,Ann Cheung,Samantha Debicki,Ariana Getz, Oscar Olivo, Lindsay Strachan,Chloe Waters-Wallace,Matt Wilstein andJessica Valadez. In 2006, Syed Jamil Ahmed directed the play in Hindi (titled Pahiye) at the National School of Drama, New Delhi, India.


Kittankhola was made into a film in 2000. Directed by Abu Sayeed, the film was adapted from the stage play written by Selim Al-Deen. Featuring Raisul Islam Asad and Naila Azad Nupur, the film brought to light the lives of jatra artistes and their struggles to make a living off the dying performing art. It is considered one of the best Bengali films.[11]

Unfinished projects[edit]

As many as six plays written by Al-Deen are available which remain to be staged.[3] Before death he was working on a new play styled Haar-Haddi (tr. Pile of Bones) that remains unfinished. He conceived of establishing a World Cultural Centre in Dhaka, his dream project.


  • Bangla Academy award for literature in 1984.
  • Kathak Sahitya Puroshkar in 2002.
  • Nandikaar Puroshkar in 1994.
  • Best Tele-playwright Award in 1994.
  • National Cinema Award for best dialogue in 1994
  • Khaleqdad Chowdhury Sahitya Puroshkar in 2001
  • Ekushey Padak in 2007
  • Alokta Sahitya Puroshaker in 2007.
  • Munier Chowdhury Sammanona by Theatre in 2003


Deen died at Labaid Cardiac Hospital in Dhaka on 14 January 2008 after being admitted to hospital following a cardiac attack on 11 January. The same day he was scheduled to be flown to Thailand for a better medical care. He had been suffering from heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney and diabetic problem.[12] He was given life support as his condition deteriorated quickly and became critical.[13]

After janaza at different places, he was buried on 16 January 2008 at a graveyard near the Jahangirnagar University central mosque.[14]


The road to his village home in Senerkhil has been named after him. The road is known as Selim Al Deen Road that connected Notun Bazar and Darograr Hat. A gorvenment primary school has also been named after him and his mother. The school is located in front of this village residence.


  1. ^ a b c d "Selim Al Deen no more". The Daily Star. 15 January 2008. Retrieved 20 August 2018.
  2. ^ Kamol, Ersahad (11 June 2004). "Silver Jubilee:Bangladesh Film Archive celebrations : Events on the 2nd day". The Daily Star. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  3. ^ a b c Epic departure of Selim Al-Deen Archived 20 January 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ a b c Recalling Selim Al Deen by Nirmalendu Goon Archived 8 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Selim Al-Deen Archived 9 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ a b Selim Al-Deen Archived 20 January 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Later renamed as Ghoom Nei (tr. 'No Sleep')
  8. ^ a b c d Sadique, Mahfuz, "ANIS RAHMAN", New Age, archived from the original on 9 November 2007
  9. ^ a b :The Daily Star: Internet Edition
  10. ^ "Compiler of 'Bangla Natyakosh' dead" Archived 23 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Best Bangla Movies of All time – List with brief details – Bangla Community Archived 2 January 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ :The Daily Star: Internet Edition
  13. ^ "Playwright Selim Al Deen Dead at 58"
  14. ^ "Selim Al-Deen laid to rest"

External links[edit]