“Who Is There?”: Murad Khan’s Gripping Exploration of Bangladeshi-British Existence

Published: 22 November 2023

By Imran Chowdhury

Murad Khan’s solo drama, “Who Is There?” unfolded at the Brady Art Centre in London last Sunday, offering a poignant portrayal of quintessential British Bangladeshi men in their 50s. Khan, the lead actor and the choreographer, expertly navigated the complexities of life as an individual caught between two worlds, seamlessly blending themes of cultural identity, societal challenges, and personal introspection.

The narrative path through life’s intricate nuances presents a rich tapestry of experiences that resonate with the audience. Murad Khan’s portrayal skilfully delves into the dichotomies of adjusting to a multicultural British society while grappling with the profound conflicts between his Bangladeshi roots and British presence. The performance becomes a powerful exploration of identity, capturing the essence of straddling two distinct cultures.

The drama unfolds with Khan’s character expressing his feelings about the working culture, highlighting the challenges and tensions that arise in the dynamic interplay between his heritage and the environment in which he finds himself. The script masterfully weaves together the pollution, the chaos of traffic jams, and the protagonist’s quest for solace in a rapidly changing world. Through Khan’s acting, the audience is treated to fresh air, a reminder that human connection and emotions are sometimes overshadowed amidst the hustle and bustle of modern life.

Khan’s performance is a poignant reminder that while science has granted us speed, it has also taken away some fundamental emotions. The drama sheds light on the struggle to balance the rapid pace of the modern world with the tranquilly of rural life. The contrast is palpable, and Khan skilfully navigates the emotional landscape, drawing the audience into his character’s internal conflicts.

The narrative takes a poignant turn as it addresses the stifling of freedom of speech overnight by a specific neo-radical agenda. Khan’s character becomes a symbol of resistance, grappling with the sudden suppression of individual expression. The drama artfully explores how seemingly innocuous hobbies, such as aspiring photography, transform into matters of attrition in the face of hate mongers and oppressive forces. It reflects on the contemporary challenges faced by individuals who dare to voice their opinions against the currents of conformity.

Murad Khan’s performance is a tour de force in the solo drama format. His ability to convey a range of emotions, from the solace-seeking individual to the defiant voice against oppression, showcases his versatility as an actor. The audience is taken on a captivating journey through the protagonist’s experiences, finding solace in the midst of the boredom and impediments of British Bangladeshi life.
This kind of dramatic storytelling is not just entertainment; it’s a form of cultural preservation and an opportunity for the coming generation to explore and understand the complexities of their heritage. “Who Is There?” is a compelling example of how stage acts can open new avenues for visual and acting genres, creating a tapestry that enriches the cultural narrative.

Murad Khan’s solo performance, “Who Is There?” not only serves as a compelling exploration of cultural identity but also delves into the uncharted territory of social media, where hate mongers unleash a torrent of vitriol, demonising freedom of expression and undermining the meaningful sustainability of discussions. The protagonist of this gripping tale faces a relentless onslaught in the digital realm, transforming the virtual landscape into an exuberant anthem of hate-fuelled bullying and, at times, even threats of violence.
The acumen of Murad Khan’s acting shines as he portrays the protagonist’s struggle against this digital onslaught. The solo performer adeptly navigates the emotional turbulence, embodying the ballad of a character besieged by online hate. Khan’s portrayal highlights the harsh reality faced by individuals whose voices challenge the status quo as they become targets of cyberbullying and intimidation.
The narrative unfolds as the protagonist grapples with the challenges of multicultural existence and the sinister forces lurking in social media platforms’ shadows. The drama becomes a powerful social commentary, shedding light on the dangers of unchecked hate speech that threatens to drown out meaningful conversations and stifle freedom of expression.

In the face of hate-fuelled exuberance, “Who Is There?” emerges as a poignant anthem for rectification. Murad Khan’s performance sends a massive social message, urging society to confront the perils of online hate and advocate for a more empathetic and inclusive digital discourse. The drama becomes a rallying cry for the rectification of social media spaces, emphasising the need to counter hate with understanding, cyberbullying with compassion, and threats of violence with a commitment to peaceful dialogue.
As the protagonist grapples with these digital challenges, the solo performance becomes a call to action for meaningful change. Murad Khan’s art transcends the stage, reflecting on the urgency of fostering a virtual environment where freedom of expression is celebrated and discussions thrive without hate hijacking. “Who Is There?” is not just a drama; it’s a compelling social narrative, reminding us of our responsibility in shaping a digital world that encourages dialogue, empathy, and the meaningful exchange of ideas.

In conclusion, Murad Khan’s “Who Is There?” solo drama is a triumphant beacon in storytelling and performance art. Beyond its entertainment value, the production serves as a powerful catalyst for introspection, urging the audience to reflect on the complexities of personal identity and the formidable challenges entwined with navigating the crossroads of multicultural existence. Khan’s acumen in portraying the protagonist’s journey, both on the stage and in the digital realm, underscores the profound impact of his art.

As “Who Is There?” delves into uncharted territories, navigating the turbulent waters of social media and its dark underbelly of hate-fuelled exuberance, the drama emerges as a captivating tale and a compelling social narrative. The protagonist’s struggle against online vitriol becomes a poignant anthem for rectification, challenging society to confront the perils of unchecked hate speech and cyberbullying. Murad Khan’s portrayal becomes a call to action for a more empathetic and inclusive digital discourse, resonating far beyond the confines of the stage.

This dramatic episode deserves commendation for its significant contribution to the cultural dialogue, addressing our time’s pressing issues gracefully and potently. Promoting and recognising “Who Is There?” is imperative, not just for its artistic merits but for its potential to inspire the next generation of storytellers and performers. In a world where narratives shape perceptions and conversations, Murad Khan’s solo drama becomes a crucial milestone, encouraging the revaluation of our stories and societal dialogues. As the curtains fall, “Who Is There?” lingers in the collective consciousness, leaving an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of its audience and paving the way for a future where the intersection of storytelling and societal reflection takes centre stage.

Murad Khan’s solo drama, “Who Is There?” represents a contemporary triumph in the rich tapestry of storytelling and performance art and a continuation of a historical legacy deeply embedded in Bengali culture. The tradition of stage acts, ballads, puthi, drama, solo performances, putul nach, and jatra has significantly shaped the narrative of our ancestral history. For millennia, these artistic expressions have served as a mirror reflecting the collective consciousness of the Bengali people, influencing and, at times, changing the course of our shared history. As we witness Murad Khan’s powerful portrayal on stage, it becomes a poignant reminder of the enduring importance of these art forms. I solemnly pray and hope that our present and future diaspora generations not only appreciate but actively pursue these fine arts, ensuring the continuation of a cultural heritage that has withstood the test of time. May they draw inspiration from the footsteps of their ancestors, contributing to the ongoing narrative of Bengali culture and preserving the invaluable legacy of artistic expression for generations to come.