Radio Plays broadcast on radio, were among the most popular forms of entertainment before television came into the scene and still have a large audience among both the urban and rural people.
Initially, radio plays were broadcast live as there was no pre-recording technology. The artistes had to be extra cautious in their performances as there was no way to rectify an error. Recording facilities greatly helped radio plays to avoid mistakes and improve in quality. They also made possible the subsequent interpolation of sound effects and music. Recorded plays can also be rebroadcast whenever needed. Before the introduction of TV in 1964 and the extension of electricity to the rural areas of Bangladesh, radio plays were the most popular form of entertainment for millions of listeners.
The Dhaka station of All India Radio began operating on 16 December 1939. On the opening day it broadcast Kath Thokra (The Woodpecker), a 45-minute play written by buddhadev bose and produced by Sudev Basu. Different characters were played by Romakrishna Roy, Khagesh Chakravarty, Sudhir Sarkar, Maya Bose, Bipul Dasgupta, Amod Dasgupta, Sabitri Ghose, Sunil Chattopadhyay, Bireswar Bose and Parul Devi.
On the first anniversary of the station on 16 December 1940, the play Devdas by sharat chandra chattopadhyay was broadcast. Among those who acted in the play was the famous cinema actor Pramathesh Barua, who had acted in a popular film version of the novel. The script of the film was used without any changes. In keeping with the nationalist mood of the times, the station broadcast plays such as Tipu Sultan, Sirajuddaula, Mir Kasim, Titumir and Majnu Shah as well as a play on surya sen. It also broadcast Sharatchandra's Pather Dabi, kazi nazrul islam's Mrtyuksudha, Tarashankar's Pather Dak, and nazir ahmed's Chebgis Khan. These plays portrayed the hard life of the common people and attempted to inspire sympathy for them.
Towards the end of 1944, the Dhaka station also started broadcasting plays in urdu. The first Urdu play was Chandike Tukro, written and produced by Professor andalib shadani of Dhaka University. From 1939 to the middle of 1947, the Dhaka radio station broadcast 152 full-length plays: 100 original plays and 52 dramatizations of novels or stories by Rabindranath, Sharatchandra and Nazrul.
After the partition of India, the Dhaka station became the eastern centre of the Pakistan Broadcasting Service and around the middle of 1948 became Radio Pakistan, Dhaka. Among the radio plays that were broadcast during this period were bande ali mia's Kumarer Galpa, jasimuddin's Sojan Badiyar Ghat and Beder Meye, habibur rahman's Ei Mohanay, Mohammad Qasem's Yara Kande, Kazi Mokbul Hossain's Saraikhana, Nazmul Alam's Sareng, Kabir Anwar's Make-up, Askar Ibn Shaikh's Bidrohi Padma, nurul momen's Nemesis and Sayeed Siddiqui's Nirjan. The station broadcast 1,152 full-length plays from 1939 to March 1971, of which 1,000 were original and the rest adaptations and dramatizations of novels and short stories.
On 25 May 1971, the swadhin bangla betar kendra started operating from mujibnagar. For over seven months it serialised a political satire, Jallader Darbar, written by kalyan mitra, which aimed to keep up the morale of the people and of the freedom fighters at the front. It accurately portrayed the issues of the time. Those who acted in Jallader Darbar were Raju Ahmed, Narayan Ghosh Mita, Ajmal Huda Mithu, Prosenjit Bose, Zahurul Huq, Amita Bose, Iftekharul Alam, Bulbul Mahalanabish and Karuna Roy. A large number of drama artistes of the Kendra participated in plays broadcast from this station as part of the war effort.
The first radio play broadcast from Dhaka after liberation, Pratham Padaksep written by Ashish Kumar Louha and produced by Kazi Rafiq, was broadcast on 22 January 1972. Those who took part were Subhash Dutta, Narayan Ghosh Mita, Mala Choudhury, Khasru Noman, SM Mohsin, Dilip Biswas, Kalipada Das, Syed Hafizur Rahman, Mohammad Nazrul Islam, Neema, Urmi and Yusuf Imam.
Following independence, many plays were inspired by the war of liberation. They focussed on war, brutal killings, heroism, rape, etc; a number of them made use of the sound of gunfire. The trend started changing after 1973, paving the way for experimentation, research and induction of fresh ideas. The legacy of the language movement, the freedom struggle, a determination to rebuild the devastated country, the current political and social unrest were reflected in the new plays. Well-known plays written with this background were Mumtazuddin's Ki Chaha Shabkhachil, Alauddin Al-Azad's Nihshabda Yatra, Abdul Gaffar Choudhury's Nam Na Jana Bhor, nilima ibrahim's Ye Aranye Alo Nei, Kazi Zakir Hasan's Ki Pelam, Selim Al-Din's Rakter Abgurlata, Abdullah Al-Mamun's December Name Mas, Zia Haider's Sada Golape Agun, Syed Shamsul Huq's Nuruldiner Sara Jiban, Kalipada Das' Jay Bangla, anm bazlur rashid's Rakta Kamal, Jalaluddin Rumi's Sanggrami Bangla, Shahidul Huq Khan's Rakta Shapath, Habib Ahsan's Ek Bikeler Duhkha, and Abid Azad's Manus O Krsvachurar Galpa.
Radio plays can be divided into three genres: original plays, adaptations and dramatisations. So far over 4,000 plays have been broadcast over Radio Bangladesh, of which more than 600 have been quite popular. Over 3,000 artistes of Dhaka and other stations of Radio Bangladesh have been associated with the production of these plays. [Zillur Rahman John]