In his short life of 35 years, Bulbul Chowdhury spread not only the spirit of dance, but also a spirit of revolution.
In his short life of 35 years, Bulbul Chowdhury spread not only the spirit of dance, but also a spirit of revolution.

Performing politics

On the obscured political legacy of the dancer Bulbul Chowdhury.

Bulbul Chowdhury was a Bengali Muslim dancer who rose to fame in the 1930s and was later claimed and celebrated, first by Pakistan and posthumously by Bangladesh, as a pioneer of modern dance. Even today he is praised for his striking choreographies (none of which are available in the public domain) and celebrated at the various cultural centres established in his name – most notably the Bulbul Academy of Fine Arts in Dhaka. Missing from these official accolades is any mention of his politics. But the few who knew him well and have since written about him, including his wife Afroza Bulbul, note that Bulbul's creative endeavours were always inspired by a compulsion to challenge identity politics and bring to light injustices. Even though various national projects have depoliticised his life and work by focusing solely on his creative side, Bulbul's politics arguably drove much of his creative expression.

Bulbul's role in the language movement, his political views and his acts of subversion have been all but forgotten.
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