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Bahram Bayzaie: The Passionate Scholar, Writer and Director

10/22/03 By Syma Sayyah, Tehran

Bahram Bayzaie is without a doubt the most educated Iranian director. He is rare among his colleagues. He writes, directs, teaches, stands for principles, creates good cinema and stages fabulous theatre. His passion for his work comes across even if you do not find it quite to your taste.


At long last, and after three weeks of hard efforts, I was able to get couple of tickets to go to see Bahram Bayzaie's latest theatre production- hezaro-yek-shabb or One Thousand & One Nights I, II & III.  The play was 'allowed' to be performed in one of the smallest theatre rooms at City Theatre, near Park Daneshjou. This saloon which holds about 200 people, give and take a few, does not have the most comfortable seating for a short play let alone for a three-hours-long play. Such saloons are usually given to young directors to stage their new works. I shall not go into why we cannot reserve tickets and must go there in person, on the day we wish to see the play, at 10 am and wait until 2 pm when the ticket sales starts in order to get our tickets, that is if we are lucky and there will be any tickets left for us! Censorship comes in different forms and practices.  However, dear all, jaye shoma khali (we missed you all), the play, the overall production, including the settings, the acting, and above all directions of all 3 were very good and at times truly great. All that hard work to 'get' the tickets was worth it!

Mr. Bayzaie managed, in three one hour Acts, not only to capture our attention, but also to entertain us, make us think and teach us so much about Persian Mystery-History that we would not learn from another thousand  plays, by lesser artist than him.  However, this great, humble if not most cheerful of men, also makes us think.  He is a demanding director and an artist.  He expects you, whether you are readers of his work, or the audience of his plays and films, to be alert, to learn and he creates a desire in you to educate yourself further. He wants you to read afterwards and to get to know more about the story than what he is conveying, or about the characters and if you are lucky a little about yourself too, as a bonus.

Photo: ISNA

Bayzaie is one of the
Iran's great scholars in Persian Symbolism. He has studied this in great length for many years. He does indeed know what he is talking about, or referring to. When you see something on stage, there is a profound reason for it to be there. His wealth of knowledge of history and literature reminds me of Gunter Gross in Germany.

We went to City Theatre at 4 pm to pick up the tickets and then queued outside.  At 4:30 we were lead inside the waiting foyer of Foursou theatre. There was a nice little café, where we could get some water, tea/coffee or a bite to eat.  At 4:45, as we queued outside the door, we were handed the plays' official booklets, which included pictures of the players and short description of the story lines.  The sitting was free and first come first served and whoever got in first could get more than one seat.  Almost all the various helpers were young, polite and efficiently professional.  There was a small desk where we bought the books with the plays' transcripts. There were several tables where the customers, again mostly young people, took their food or drink. Their body language and behavior was most casual, relaxed and self-assured. It was lovely to see these young people feeling young and normal to some extent. There was a lovely absence of rushing around. At 5:15, the door was opened. The Ushers were very gentle and politely directed us inside. We were led in and we took a couple of seats on the third row, not too close or too far from the stage. There were about eight rows of seats plus two in the balcony. The rest of the audience were given cushions and were seated on the steps and on the ground in front of the stage.

The play started dead on time. 5:30 pm with a nice soft music which was the work of Mr. Darvishi.

The play was set in three periods, each with a few centuries in between.  In the plays, Bayzaie goes back to his concepts of good and evil -khair-o-sharr- again. The curtains were drawn by hands by two gentlemen of the crew.

There were three actors in each play, two females and one male. Although the stage decoration for each play may be considered simple and limited, I found them most beautiful and effective. The huge doors, in each play, at the back of stage and in full view of the audience were capturing. The colors were dark and soft. The customs were fantastic. So much detail had gone into some of them that they were most enchanting, eye-catching and amazing.  I cannot say the same for make-up, except for the hairs.

The original scripts were refreshing and the acting for all three was adroit and skilful. In the first act, we learn of an old and lost tale of Zahak and his two wives. Two sisters, daughters of Jamshid Shah, are most unhappily married to this evil of a man. The story is based on the original, long-lost and destroyed book of "thousand tales."  The sisters manage to save the lives of 1000 children, as they teach the khavaliaghar -the Cook- to replace a sheep's brain instead of one of the two children that were killed every night to feed the serpents wrapped around Zahak.  They also manage, with their insinuations, to make Zahak doubt his serpents and thus to keep themselves alive.

The leading actresses of hezaro-yek-shabb

The second play, tells the story of an unknown translator living in
Baghdad who translated this book from Parsi -Old Persian- into Arabic. This takes place many centuries later.  The book was to be known as Hezarou-Yek-Shabb [thousand & one nights].  The translator is murdered by the khalifeh - ruler of the city. We see his wife and his sister who come to look for him and learn about his tragic torture and death and the terrible fate that awaits the two of them. The narrative of what happened to him, during his trial, is most theatrical and is performed most amicably. In this play, like the first one, the actors switch instantly between different characters, and this was most captivating.

The third play, was closest to our times and also a little lighter than the other two. It was a comedy and most entertaining. Here several decades must have passed since the introduction of the book into the country, which must had been translated back into Persian. Again, we have two sisters and the story tells of the life of a woman who, against the wish and command of her husband, has read Hezaro-Yek-Shabb.  Being a good wife, she herself wants to carry out the punishment set for such an action now. The husband's wish was reasoned by his faith by the town's olamma -the elders- who had forbidden that the books be read by women. Besides the common khair-o-sharr, the question of modernity is added to the flare of the story.  The elder sister, who is married, stages her own fake death and seeks the assistance of the younger sister in telling her husband.  We learn that the woman loves her man, even if he was the one who had to carry out the order of burning her mother's school many years ago.  This is the school in which she and many other girls were taught to read. Once the school is burned, the mother takes her own life with the light of a match. The performance of the younger sister was not only most entertaining and joyful to watch but was superb.

The leading actors of hezaro-yek-shabb

Mr. Bayzaie is the most distinguished living artist in his field today. I consider him the Iranian Shakespeare.  His work has met severe scrutiny by the authorities.  Many of them have never been shown to the public, because he refuses to compromise his art. This may explain why he is not so well known outside
Iran. He lives and works in Iran and for his country folks. Many may consider his works a little on the heavy side, but no one doubts their high-class and authenticity. He brings Persian legends back to life.  He manages to make us recall our past, be it good or bad, and think about history and historical characters, real or imaginary, most successfully, and he leads us to respect ourselves by respecting our history. In this production, he gracefully and passionately gives life to names and characters, some of which we have heard in our childhood. Bayzaie cannot be an easy man to work with or work for.  He is a perfectionist and does not give-in! He truly cares for Iran and Iranians.

I do hope that more people get to see these plays soon.  Mr. Bayzaie is the winner, and all will come to recognize this eventually, although it might take a little longer as his victory is without a sword or sale of his soul; this he will achieve with his works.  I respect his dare and courage and hard work for creating this wonderful production and for all that he has done. This unsmiling, difficult, uncompromising yet hard working, humble, courageous, and great director deserves so much more.  May we see that international stardom and distinction comes his way very soon, as he already enjoys considerable fame and respect among all art lovers and all those who care for Iran.


بهرام بيضايي:
من از درخت‌هاي شهر تهران نيز دفاع مي‌كنم
با جلوگيري از كار سينما يا تئاتر من نمي‌توانند وادار به سكوتم كنند

خبرگزاري دانشجويان ايران - تهران
سرويس تئاتر
بهرام بيضايي ـ كارگردان نمايش "شب هزار و يكم" ـ دغدغه‌ي اصلي خود را نه تنها دفاع از اهل فرهنگ، بلكه دفاع از هر چيز خلاقه‌اي عنوان كرد.
اين كارگردان سينما و تئاتر ايران به خبرنگار تئاتر ايسنا گفت: من از درخت‌هاي شهر تهران نيز دفاع مي‌كنم، در اين شهر چرا درخت‌ها را مي‌برند؟
وي افزود: چرا شهرداري به خود حق مي‌دهد تمامي فضاي حياتي ما را به يك مشت پولدار بفروشند؟ چرا بايد درخت‌هاي چهارصد ساله كه حتا احتياجي به آب دادن ندارند و زيبايي و سايه را براي انسان فراهم مي‌آورند قطع شوند؟
بيضايي گفت: چرا به خود حق مي‌دهيم كه تمامي شهر تهران را به خاطر يك مشت بساز و بفروش شبيه كوير كنيم، بساز بفروش‌هايي كه قرار است تمامي شهر را به پول تبديل كرده و با اولين زلزله ‌٥ ريشتري، همه ساختمانها را نابود كنند.
وي افزود: متاسفانه هر چيز ريشه‌داري اعم از آثار فرهنگي و ميراث طبيعي اين سرنوشت را پيدا كرده است، مساله اصلي من تنها راجع به اهل فرهنگي نيست، بلكه راجع به هنر خلاقيتي است.
كارگردان فيلم "‌سگ كشي" گفت: نيروي ضد خلاقه و تخريبي در كشور وجود دارد كه هر چيز باارزشي را ويران كند و اين فاجعه‌اي بزرگتر از مشكلات هنرمندان و اهل فرهنگ است.
وي اين ادامه اين سوال را مطرح كرد كه چرا در اين كشور، زمين باير، گران‌تر از جنگل و باغ است. كدام كشوري اين گونه است؟
كارگردان نمايش شب هزار و يكم در ادامه سخنان خود گفت: هر فعاليت فرهنگي مي‌تواند نه نگاه كردن به فرهنگ روز، بلكه وادار كردن فرهنگ روز به نگاه كردن باشد.
اين كارگردان تئاتر ايران افزود: اگر قرار باشد نمايش شب هزار و يكم كساني را وادار به نگاه كردن به فرهنگ كند، يك كار امروزي و موفق است.
وي گفت: من هر فعاليت فرهنگي كه انجام مي‌دهم به صورت خود به خودي، ‌راجع به امروز حرف مي‌زنم.
بهرام بيضايي تصريح كرد: وقتي راجع به " فردوسي" يا "افرا" مي‌نويسم هر دو راجع به امروز است و هيچ كدام مربوط به زمان ديگري نيست.
او در ادامه گفت: ريشه‌هاي هر آنچه كه در امروز است در گذشته وجود داشته است و ريشه‌هاي فردا نيز در امروز موجود است.
بيضايي خاطرنشان كرد: بنابراين بهتر است يكبار درست به آنچه كه در گذشته بر ما گذشته، نگاه كنيم و آنچه الآن بر ما مي‌گذرد؛ تا شايد قدمي براي فردايي بهتر شود.
وي تصريح كرد: دعوت به درست نگاه كردن به يك چيز، خود يك اتفاق امروزي است.
او در پاسخ به سوالي درباره سكوت طولاني‌اش در اين سال‌ها گفت: من هيچ گاه سكوت طولاني نكرده‌ام، هميشه دارم كار مي‌كنم و شايد وقت براي كارهايم كم مي‌آورم، من زماني كه در سينما يا تئاتر فعاليت نمي‌كنم در حال نوشتن هستم.
وي تصريح كرد: كساني كه فكر مي‌كنند با جلوگيري از كار سينما يا تئاتر مي‌توانند مرا وادار به سكوت كنند آن‌ها متوجه شده‌اند كه نمي‌توانند. چون من دارم مي‌نويسم و براي نوشتن من هنوز راه‌حلي پيدا نكرده‌اند.
وي درباره اجراي نمايش افرا گفت: من سال‌ها درباره نمايش "‌افرا" فكر كرده بودم در اولين سال‌هاي بعد از انقلاب، فكر كردم تك گويي‌هايي را بنويسم كه بتوان در خانه‌ها آن را اجرا كرد و محتاج تالار نباشيم.
بيضايي ادامه داد: افرا را عاشقانه دوست داشته و شروع به تمرين كردن كردم، ولي آنقدر اتفاقات بي‌معنا، ابلهانه و بازي‌هاي اداري روي داد كه اصلا فكرم نمي‌خواند كه تئاتر كار كنم، پس آن‌ها را چاپ كردم و خلاص شدم.
وي ادامه داد: نسبت به اجراي اول مجلس ضربت زدن، تلخ شده بودم، هر وقت كاري انجام شدن آن امكان‌پذير نيست و خرابكاري آن اذيت كننده مي‌شود، اصلا نمي‌توانم تا مدتي به ‌آن برگردم.
بيضايي تاكيد كرد: به هر حال فكر كردم اين نمايش (شب هزار و يكم ) را كه هنوز هيچ خرابكاري در ذهنم آن را ويران نكرده، پيشنهاد كنم و تصادفا پذيرفتند و تصادفا ارجاع آن امكان‌پذير شده، بنابراين همه چيز تصادفي بود.
وي ادامه داد: من معمولا نسبت به فيلم‌هاي خود اين وضع را دارم و تا سال‌ها نمي‌توانستم "‌باشد" را ببينم، چون ‌٥/٤ سال توقيف بود، من آنقدر سر آن " اذيت " كشيدم كه خدا مي‌داند.
بيضايي گفت: هر بار كه صحبت ديدن فيلم‌هايم مي‌شود هر بار به خاطر آزارهايي كه براي ساخت‌ آن‌ها ديده‌ام يكجورهايي مقاومت مي‌كنند.

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