Project Description

Leesa Gazi

Lees Gazi

Leesa Gazi is a writer, actor,TEDx speaker, and voice artist. Among her many achievements are: Working as a voice artist for Akram Khan’s ‘Desh’; Script interpreter in the 2012 Globe to Globe festival at the Globe Theatre on ‘The Tempest’; Acting in ‘Whisper Me Happy Ever After’ (Face Front Theatre), a play about domestic violence which had multiple tours in London schools over 2 years; Acting in a series of BBC Educational Films; Being nominated for the award of British Bangladeshi Power & Inspiration 100, 2015; Publication of her first novel in 2010; Working as a researcher, translator and playwright on the ongoing project, “Portrait of Baul”, an audio visual investigation of the current state of Baul music, and an examination of the significance of their philosophy; Concept developer, co-writer and the performer of the theatre production Birangona: Women of War, which completed its two and a half month tour in the UK, and also a three week tour in Bangladesh in 2014. Leesa’s theatrical credits include: ‘Chotto Desh’ (Akram Khan Company); ‘Made’ (Target Theatre); · ‘Of Blood And Fire’ (Komola Collective); ‘Desh’ (Akram Khan Company); ’Sonata’, ‘Rokeya’s Dream’, ‘ People’s Romeo’ & ‘Demon’s; Revenge’ (Tara Arts); ’Ponderful People’,Whisper Me Happy Ever After (Face Front Theatre); ‘Six Seasons’, ‘A Golden Age’ & ‘Bonbibi’ (Culturepot Global).

Daughter of the Forest
Script & Lyrics by Leesa Gazi
(An English with Bangla songs)

Duniya: The sister — 17 year-old village girl who lost her family in the tidal wave. Her only family is now her brother Shuruj.

Shuruj: The brother — 24 year-old village lad who lost his family in the tidal wave. His only family is now his sister Duniya.

Ensemble (3): Both male and female. They play Mohiruho and represent forest. They are also the puppeteers.

Baghro: The tiger of the forest. The human greed invokes the demon in him.

Mohiruho: The storyteller tree who makes constant connection with the legend and the contemporary world.

Bonbibi: The legendary daughter of the forest who kindles her eternal spirit in Duniya and they become one to restore the balance of nature.

Dakkhin Ray: The legendary demon tiger who invokes himself in the heart of the forest tigers to combat the insatiable greed of humans.

Scene – 1
A towering tree called Mohiruho standing tall in a village near the forest Sundarbans.

Welcome, welcome to my world/ to my world/ to our world.
Unlike yours —seven seas and thirteen rivers away.
I am Mohiruho the ancient tree.
I speak into the world’s ear.

Mohiruho Tree Song:
Mohiruho bole kotha jogoter kaane
Shlok gantha lekha hoi itihash jane
Deep-bandhob Mohiruho oronyo shokha
Bonbibir kichha tar patai patai lekha
Bonbibir kichha tar shakhai shakhai dekha
Bonbibir kichha tar shikoR theke shekha

Mohiruho speaks into the ear of the earth
In poems and prose history is written
Friend of the islands, Mohiruho is also friend to the forest
The legend of Bonbibi is written in her leaves
She has seen the story of Bonbibi herself
The legend of Bonbibi is learned from her roots

My home is here in the Sundarbans, the magical Mangrove forest
Sundar – beautiful
Ban – forest
Beauty lives in her name.
This is the land of the eighteen tides in the south of Bangladesh.
A garland of islands floats here in her waterways.
Skyward-seeking Sundari trees carry on their continual conversation with the clouds.
Light caresses their leaves
People living in the shadow of the Sundarbans hear the timeless call…Aai…Aai…Aai…

Sundarbans Song:
Patar gaye alo chuyai pore
Shundorboner shundori gachh
Nacher-i taal dhore II
Pani diya bandha ajob bon
Joto jau totoi gohon
Gogon chumbi gachher matha
Meghe dhoila pore
Shundorboner shundori gachh
Nacher-i taal dhore II

Light caresses the leaves
The Sundari trees of the Sundarban forest dance
The strange forest is surrounded by water
However deep you go, it gets deeper
The tops of the trees kiss the sky
And rest on the clouds
The Sundari trees of the Sundarbans forest dance

As the colour of blood and the rhythm of hearts are alike in all – regardless of their faith – all pray to Bonbibi.
Who is Bonbibi? Bonbibi is the spirit of Nature.

Once upon a distant time, many moons ago
A newborn girl child was abandoned in the wood.
On a damp misty morning the wind stumbled hard
– Into tree, leaf, and bush: nothing safe where it stood
Then, seeing the human cub on that native ground!
Howling, and screeching the whirling wind cried – “Look, what I’ve found!
The Sundarbans forest had her own human child
Whispering birds gathered round and gossip ran wild

Crocodile, monkey, Doyel bird and spotted deer
Came from the shadows to see the child – hearts full of doubt and fear
The moment they saw the innocent face laid under a Sundari tree,
Their animal hearts were warmed with love, joy, and glee
The spotted deer adored the baby as their own
Called her Bonbibi, the forest’s daughter, that’s how she’s known.
Crocodiles became her ride and monkeys her best friends
Growing up she saw her reflection in the River; and sought to make sense:
I am neither like my Mother Doe nor like my friends or like my foe;
I am only ME
I am the daughter of the forest,
I am Bonbibi…I am Bonbibi…Bonbibi…’

Scene – 2

Water is a cruel friend.

Land Erosion song:
Pani pani uttal pani
Bhange jomeen bhange ghor
Kore pranhani
HuRmuR dhoshe srishti
Bhange akash kuler mati
Okul doriya bhashe bhashai
Ombor bhumi patal ka(n)pai
Pani pani uttal pani
Bhange jomeen bhange ghor
Kore pranhani

Water, water everywhere
Breaks land, breaks homes
Takes lives
Creation is demolished
The banks of the sky break
The boundless river floats and sets afloat
The earth shakes
Water, water everywhere
Breaks land, breaks homes
Takes lives

I have seen the earth washed away by the gigantic tidal waves;
I stand tall while trees, cattle, homes, and lands float by;
I remain, even though it feels as though the sky has become one with the river
As the mighty current separates family members destined never to see one another again;
My roots bite deep into the soil beneath the water as I witness the humans in their never-ending struggle to find new land they can call home.

I have been keeping a close watch on this cruel game of building and breaking of lives and breaking and building of homes since the time my branches could first kiss the ground.

The rising of the sea levels, soil erosion is destroying homes and neighbourhoods, and villages and people are becoming ‘climate change refugees’.Duniya has almost been snatched from her brother by a colossal wave. Shuruj catches her by her hand and they struggle to hold on to each other.

Duniya and her brother climb up the giant tree.

Baba go… Ma go… Baba go… Ma go…

Baba’s gone… Ma’s gone…

Yet again we build houses.
Yet again we prepare the soil to grow harvests.
Yet again we graze cattle.
Yet again we save rainwater.
Once again we build a new life
For the circle of life is never on hold.

Shuruj builds a tiny mud hut for him and his sister with the help of other villagers. They plant two banana trees next to their hut to remember their parents who had been disappeared by the colossal waves.

I’ve got a job at the Big Man’s Factory.
Can you imagine Duniya, in the Big Man’s Factory!
I am going to work there! First ever from this island.

Job! But Big Man’s Factory is far from here.
What will you do there?

I will be the anchorman of a huge oil tanker.
Soon we will leave this cursed island and go to the city, before everything is taken away from us again…

I am happy here… to collect dry leaves with friends to cook food; how the villagers helped us build a new home; how our neighbours always let us have the best spot when we go fishing; to share the laughter and whatever little we have with each other… I can happily go on living under the shade of the forest here. How could we ever forget these people who took care of us when we lost everything. Shuruj: I don’t want to lose you my sister. You are everything I have got now…

And the forest Sundarbans. Look at our Mohiruho tree, she doesn’t want us to go. Look at her branches say ‘No, don’t go’! Remember she took us on her branches when the waters came; how she saved us. Remember? Please Bhaijaan you can’t go…

Everything is scarce in the forest. Her call is getting quiet and faint. Last week I couldn’t collect honey at all because there was none left for me. Fishing is forbidden now. You know how difficult it is to survive in the village. I can’t compete with the others. I promised Abba and Amma that I would look after you. You are my only family now! And if the village is still here – then of course we’ll come to visit them.

Duniya: Don’t say that! (Pause) When are you leaving?

Shuruj: This evening. Once I get settled, I will come for you. Duniya, my sunshine; our life will change forever, I promise!