Mita and Al Mansur in a scene from the serial Aladdiner Cheraag.
It is widely acknowledged that when BTV was the sole TV channel in Bangladesh during the 1970's, the plays that would be broadcast once or twice a week were extremely popular and eagerly anticipated by viewers. Some would go so far as to maintain that TV drama in Bangladesh reached its apotheosis during the black and white decades of the 70's and 80's. Indeed, if anyone had predicted channel surfing through the welter of mega serials and ubiquity of commercial breaks in TV now, that individual would have been unceremoniously consigned and confined to a padded cell!
The plays that would be broadcast, and live when the TV studio was based in the old DIT bhaban, were directed by in-house directors. A small but immensely talented group of people was involved, many of whom also played a significant role in the post Liberation theatre renaissance. Although the concept of celebrity among TV and stage actors did not exist, actors had dedicated but discriminating fans and some acquired the status of being household names. Most drama would be reviewed by the cultural correspondents of dailies and weeklies and subjected to constructive and critical analyses.
Audiences also tended to view certain principal actors as pairs or 'jutis'. Actors paired off by producers or directors to play the hero and the heroine were a common enough phenomenon in popular cinema but television did not remain immune for long. There were no casting agents in charge (there still aren't any) but astute directors would cast actors who were perceived to have the right chemistry between them. One such pairing-off was made for Al Mansur and Mita Chowdhury, both of whom played central roles in BTV drama during the mid 70s. Notwithstanding the fact that both actors have claimed, independently of each other, that they have actually appeared on more occasions with other equally prominent co-actors, viewers from the 70's remember them as being the perfect match from that period.
Mita Chowdhury left Bangladesh in late 1978 to live in Guernsey, Channel Islands, and was absent from the TV screen for almost 30 years. Al Mansur too left the country to live in the US for many years. Coincidentally, both of them returned to Bangladesh three or four years ago and have been performing again. Happily for their loyal fans they have worked together since their return. Recently, they appeared in a 20-minute play based on Narendra Nath Mitra's short story, Jajaati
. Viewers can now see them play a lovestruck couple in their golden years in a serial called Aladdiner Cheraag
which has been scripted by Al Mansur and being aired by Desh TV.