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The diverse applications of Murtaja Baseer’s creativity

The multilayered personality turns 87 today

Published : Friday, 17 August, 2018 at 12:00 AM Count : 1796

Veteran artist Murtaja Baseer has excelled both as a painter and as a writer. His poems, short stories, novels have garnered enough praise. Many are perhaps not aware of Baseer's identities apart from that of an artist. Baseer is also a researcher, numismatist and filmmaker.
Murtaja Baseer is by nature a shy, lonesome, reclusive person. He is very innovative and original in thought in his art, poetry, short story and novel. He has sharpened our perception, surveillance and exploration. Observing his creations is like going on an emotional exploration. His art and poetry both obsess our mind and soul. One is quite clear about the fact that he is a modernist in the complete sense of the meaning. His style is unquestionably unique, individualised, expressive and easily explicable.
Baseer's first published poem was "Parbe Na." The poem delved deep into patriotism and socialism. It was included in "Ora Pran Dilo," a compilation of poems on Language Movement, which was published from Calcutta (now Kolkata) in 1952.  Baseer did not write a single poem for 20 years after that. But his soul was always searching for inspiration.
Reading Baseer's poetry is like undergoing an emotional journey. As a poet, he is a modernist in the whole sense. His style is unquestionably unique, expressive and easily comprehensible. When readings his poems, one feels the yearnings of a lonely soul, unbound sorrow, the vacuum in a melancholic heart. Baseer's poems are voyages into fantasy.
During the Liberation War, Baseer left the country for Paris with his family. Baseer stayed in Paris till June 1973. While in Paris, he studied mosaic and etching at Beaux Arts, a recognised institute. During that period, he wrote 18 poems. Most of the poems are themed on romanticism, patriotism and individualism.
In 1974, Baseer wrote three poems while working on a mural at Rajshahi University. After that, he was continuously writing poetry. In 1976, his first book with 40 poems, "Trasarenu" came out from Pranamichhil publication house in Dhaka. His second collection of poems, "Tomakei Shudhu" and third book "Esho Phire Anashua" were published in 1979 and 1985. His volume of poems "Fresh Blood, Faint Line" was published in 2008 and his another volume of poems "Shaday Elegy" was published in 2017.
Murtaja Baseer is pensive and given to expeditions of poetic carnal desire, an incarnated desire and a poetic desire. Besides being a creative thinker, the poet-cum-painter has regularly tried to express his private thoughts and surveillances in romanticism, social and political traumas and economic crises in our surroundings. In the poetry book "Saday Elegy", there are altogether 38 poems that can give the readers a completely different taste and understanding of poetry as he appears with quite a new style in many senses. Reading his poems, we experience the gnash of arriving through feeling at thought and word. If Baseer talks about writing poetry as seeing, he takes for granted that the poet, like the lover, can see with his ears. Quick internal and end rhymes, anxious rhythms, and subtle patterns generate the expressive tune of his poems. In their technical precision and in their lovely compacting, Baseer's poems incur his personal past and present with a sustained attentiveness. At the same time, they engage us as readers.
The drawing quality is remarkable and encompasses many horizons. Proffesor Zillur Rahman Siddiqui has written the only essay in this book. The article is thought-provoking and cerebrally enlightening. Siddiqui has known the artist for long and so could easily interpret the poetic diction through the artist's pen.
In "Fresh Blood, Faint Line", there are altogether 72 poems that can give the readers a completely different taste and understanding of poetry as he appears with quite a new style in many senses. Going through his poems, one must feel a world fluctuating amidst a variety of immense emotions and strong expressions. Readers will here come by an opportunity to enjoy a romantic's view of the many different areas of life. Obviously, the poet is an enthusiastic observer and wants to experience his surrounding ambience. Most of the poems are a rich blend of theme and technique, the richness enhanced by the poet's skill in using myriad pictorial imagery, similes and metaphors. All of them are serious in mood and deep and reflective in an exposition of aesthetic feelings. One rather thinks these poems will be appreciated for their soothing nuance of language as well. Readers will take to the book for its cheerfully mind-boggling and amazing turns of phrase and terminology.
Going through his poems, one must feel a world fluctuating amidst a variety of immense emotions and strong expressions. Readers will here come by an opportunity to enjoy a romantic's view of the many different areas of life. Obviously, the poet is an enthusiastic observer and wants to experience his surrounding ambience. Most of the poems are a rich blend of theme and technique, the richness enhanced by the poet's skill in using myriad pictorial imagery, similes and metaphors. All of them are serious in mood and deep and reflective in an exposition of aesthetic feelings. One rather thinks these poems will be appreciated for their soothing nuance of language as well. Readers will take to the book for its cheerfully mind-boggling and amazing turns of phrase and terminology.
Baseer has also written novels and was acclaimed for his meticulous style and unique choice of themes. In 1954, he got admitted in an art appreciation course in Kolkata Ashutosh Art Museum. During the time, he wrote a novel, titled "Ultramarine." The novel was based on the contemporary life of Kolkata and the prevailing social dilemmas. Afterwards he wrote two more novels -- "Mitar Shanga Char Shandha" and "Amitrakkhar."
"Ultramarine" is based on the writer's personal daily-notes during his stay in Kolkata. During his stay in Kolkata he witnessed the disparaging effects of modernized society on city dwellers. The writer also in short details some of the rapid urbanization projects he experienced as an artist in Dhaka before going to Kolkata. Urbanization according to him was taking away much of the natural ambiance in Dhaka. Here also echoes of socialism can be heard. Through the voice of the persona he also recreates the feeling of being imprisoned for being a communist activist and also some of the incidents during the fiery days of February, 1952. The novel is however primarily a romantic one that in the literal sense ends in tragedy. Assuming the literal sense it can be said that the novel is a tragic one as there is ultimately separation between the persona and his favourite lady and there also seems to be no chance of possible reunion. In the other sense in the way the writer shapes up his concluding remarks the novel might not be so much tragic. He rather seems to brand the love in his novel as a 'Platonic' one and the beloved an empress who will not get lost simply as a result of physical separation.
The book has a number of minor characters which help to foster the development of the two protagonists. These minor ones are also 'dominant' in their own rights. His writing style is conspicuously modernist. He brings out the inner turmoil of human minds and also tensions and jerking happening between two individuals in the backdrop of modern sense of humour, satire, dignity and civic propriety. The writer published two additive pieces to this novel under the titles "Mitar Shanga Char Shandha" and "Amitrakkhar". Both gained popularity among the readers. The stories trace the happenings after those of Ultramarine.
He published a collection of short stories called "Kanch-er Pakhir Gaan" in 1969. Another collection of Baseer's stories- Galpasamagra has got eighteen short stories. The stories in this collection relate to the dark, demeaning sides of modern human society and psyche. Some project the ungrateful treatment of the poor by the rich, some to the violence inflicted by means of politics by government's law enforcing agencies with reference to the Language Movement of 1952. There are is another one on the frailties of a middle-class wife. The beginning story deals with the plight of prostitutes and unfair treatments of them in society. It also sheds light on ambivalence of human relationship when faced with physical needs. Overall the book holds up a sharp, degenerative view of urban human society.
Another pivotal publication from Murtaja Baseer is his historical book "Mudra O Shilalipir Aloke Banglar Habshi Sultan O Tothkalin Samaj (2004)". The work deals with the inner political situation in royal courts and societies during the short period from 1486-1493 in medieval Bengal. The reign of African Habshi's in this period drew his attention. Baseer consciously deals with the issues of inter-racial, inter-class rivalries and tensions that were prevalent during the medieval Indian-subcontinent as opposed to detailed outlining of major political events in this era done by conventional historians of India. Baseer prefers to magnify the underlying political zeal of members of different groups and their societal dynamics. He includes a good number of specimens of coins approved and used during the Habshi rule in Bengal. According to him the artistry of these coins drew him towards a search for their origins and the inner, unarticulated ploys implemented through their originations. He believes that art in this part of world has often been influenced by culture lying at the core of this region. Yet, historical changes that brought many foreign invaders, settlers, businessmen and others to this region also played important roles in formulating artistic practices in this region. This is how study of coins in history became important to him. And this naturally brought about historical considerations. By delving into history he also found that coins can reveal newer details and versions that can literally challenge conventional historical studies about Bengal, and thus it has been suggested that further research on history of Bengal is needed on archeological evidences, rather than only on accounts of medieval historians who were primarily based in Delhi at the time and had little access to firsthand accounts of what was actually happening in Bengal.
Baseer has a collection of selected works, "Murtaja Baseer: Murta-O-Bimutra" (2001).  Baseer has also worked as a screenplay writer, art director and chief assistant director on the Bangla film "Nadi-o- Nari" in 1964, and as an art director on the Urdu film "Kaise Kahoon" in 1965.



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