Zikir Muhamejanov, Great Artist and Citizen

Issue #2 • 1375

Shukhrat Abbasov,

In 2014 the Uzbek National Academic Drama Theatre turns 100.  “Noting the great contribution the theatre made to the evolution and development of professional dramatic art not only in our country but throughout the Central Asian region, to the conservation and promotion of the rich cultural heritage and traditions of our land, to the education of local people, especially young generation, in the spirit of honouring national and universal values, of love and devotion to the homeland, and to the realization of talents of young actors, the President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov issued a Resolution to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Uzbek National Academic Drama Theatre”  

The theatre started in 1914 as “Turon” company created by Abdullah Avloni. In 1933 it gained the status of academic, and on the 21st of September 2001 was renamed into the Uzbek National Drama Theatre.
In different years the theatre employed outstanding, talented actors such as Mannon Uygur, Yatim Babajanov, Abror Khidoyatov, Alim Khojaev, Nabi Rakhimov, Sarah Eshanturaeva, Sahdi Tabibullaev, Gani Agzamov, Shukur Burhanov, and many others known both in Uzbekistan and beyond. For more than 70 years, from 1938 to 2012, Zikir (Zakir) Mukhamejanov worked in the theatre, having played more than a hundred roles, including those of Navoi, Biruni, Ulugbek, Furqat, Salvador Allende, and many others. Mukhamejanov is the People’s Artist of Uzbekistan and the winner of state awards. His effort earned him the highest national award – the title of Uzbekiston Kahramoni, the Hero of Uzbekistan. Mukhamejanov once said: “There is no place in Uzbekistan the theatre has not visited. We travelled to the sister-republics and abroad…” (3) Mukhamejanov worked a lot in the cinema, where he played more than 50 roles.
I first saw Zikir Mukhamejanov on stage in 1949, as Horatio in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”. For the next sixty-three years I had the good fortune to communicate with Zikir-aka during travels, at film forums and festivals. He impressed me as the most intelligent, highly educated professional actor who spent all his life in continuous searching and pursuit of the perfect performance of every part.
According to Y. Feldman, roles played by Muhamejanov in different years, “such as Horatio in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, Roller in Schiller’s “The Robbers”, and Baitemir in “My Little Poplar-Tree in a Red Scarf” by Chingiz Aitmatov, have one thing in common: all the characters advocate progressive humanistic ideals of their time. Equally important for the actor is their difference defined by the era, the environment, and original style and manner of the authors who created them. Shakespearian Horatio by Mukhamejanov is a Renaissance personality that embodies the idea of friendship and loyalty. Strong and noble fighter for justice, a man with an open heart and passionate soul was Mukhamejanov’s Roller – a romantic hero that can be related to the Sturm und Drang movement. The actor sensed Aitmatov’s lyrical spirituality and poeticism, which were akin to his gift. As Baitemir, a man of the common people, the actor spoke about the moral ideal of the society, about the new culture of emotions”. (3, 36)
An outstanding academic actor, Mukhamejanov knew Uzbek literary language very well. He distinctly spoke with an accurate, professional pronunciation. All theatre and cinema actors should follow the example of Mukhamejanov in cherishing their native language. Every word spoken on stage (and off-stage, too) he delivered clearly and expressively. When dubbing foreign films, the actor thoroughly studied the nature and psychology of the character, achieving complete synchronicity of the utterances and paying attention even to the smallest details and nuances. This is what one calls art! Zikir Mukhamejanov took part in the Uzbek language productions of the wonderful films such as “The Gadfly”, “The Flying Cranes”, “The Blind Musician”, “Clear Sky”, “The Year Forty-First”, and many others screened in the country.
I was privileged to work with Zikir Muhamejanov in a number of my films. For example, in “Fields Left by My Father” the actor wonderfully played the role of the sheikh.
In the film directed by Z. Musokov, “The Little Healer”, although playing a bit part, Mukhamejanov masterfully and convincingly created the character of an old man. This brings to mind the words of Konstantin Stanislavsky: “There are no small parts, but there are great actors”.
Mukhamejanov was also famous and popular far beyond his home country. He got invitations to cast by renowned filmmakers of India, Nicaragua, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Ukraine and other countries. In 1968 at the International Film Festival in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) for the first time in the history of Uzbek cinema Zikir Mukhamejanov won the highest Best Actor award.
“Still, theatre has always been the most important thing for me”, said Mukhamejanov. “I am a stage actor to the bone. Live communication with the audience, eye to eye as they say, their response to your performance and the character you create – these are things that only theatre can bring. On stage I feel greatly inspired… I believe that an actor should live in his characters”. (4) On stage the power of words and thoughts is boundless. That is why it is particularly important not only to act truthfully, but also to be able to give the audience food for thought, by impressing them with one’s performance.
Feldman noted: “In almost every character created by Muhamejanov one can see the actor trying to expose a positive element. Thus, he was interesting as Boris in “The Storm” by A. N. Ostrovsky, revealing profoundly dramatic traits in the character. Seeing and showing Boris’ weakness and indecision, Mukhamejanov emphasized his kindness and sincere love for Katerina. Also notable is the character of a contemporary Uzbek intellectual Sattar in B. Rakhmanov’s comedy “Secrets of the Heart”. Like Alim Khojaev, another actor playing this part, Zikir Mukhamejanov not only critically assessed his character, but also, where possible, reminded of the aspects of his worldview that gave the reason to believe in a good future” (3, p. 38).
The actor enthusiastically took to every new role, whether big or small. Some parts may take it all from you. Such was the role of Alisher Navoi in a play directed by T. Azizov, based on a piece of the same title by I. Sultan and Uigun. According to Mukhamejanov, that was the role he dreamed about for a long time: “I played Navoi with a grey beard, at the peak of his wisdom, and in the year of Navoi – even greater privilege. The new version more objectively shows the relationship of Alisher Navoi and Hussein Baikara (the poet’s friend and ruler of Herat is presented in fairer tones)… Art is now freed from false pathos and declarations… Independent Uzbekistan speaks of itself in full voice”. (4)
“Mukhamejanov is a versatile actor… His quest is defined by the ‘perpetual actor’s call’ for theatrical performance and passion for the process of transformation… He sought a multifaceted embodiment of characters that are antagonist to good and justice, resolutely departing from schematic, billboard-like exposure of those who personify evil in its various guises” (3, p. 37).
At the age of 80-plus Zikir Mukhamejanov continued working in the Uzbek National Academic Drama Theatre. He created characters for television and cinema and wrote books filled with his vibrant word. Mukhamejanov was an artist, a personality of powerful and indomitable energy, with rich spiritual inner world. He was a true patriot of his land, a man the Uzbek people can be proud of.

1. «Народное слово», 23 января 2014 г.
2. Фархади Р. Многогранный талант // Народное слово, 21 января 1992 г.
3. Фельдман Я. Зикир Мухамеджанов // Театр, 1978, № 2.
4. Владимир Быев. Монолог счастливого человека, или «И все-таки – театр!» // Вечерний Ташкент, 6 февраля 2002 г.

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