Author: Zohra FARACEVA Baku
There are numerous stars in the sky, big ones and small ones, bright ones and faint ones. Some of them can only be seen with a telescope, the wan light of some of them is barely visible. But there are some stars that are so bright that their light banishes the darkness and lights the way…
People are like stars. Some can hardly be distinguished among the thousands and millions of other stars, while others, like Hokuma Qurbanova, bathe those around them in their bright light.
This proud, beautiful and magnificent woman, a talented actress, attracted many admirers with her talent and beauty. She really loved the theatre and was captivated by the stage. This love of stage did not depend on her. She just knew that right from childhood she had been a witness to conversations, discussions and heated arguments about acting and the theatre. These were not moreover just ordinary theatregoers talking. Her mother Malikat was the sister of the famous composer/singer Muslim Magomayev. She lived at his flat in Gubernskaya Street (now Fizuli Street - author) for a long time. Her uncle had visitors every day and little Hokuma listened to well-known artistes talking about the theatre.
What Fate has ordained…
Hokuma was born in Baku on 11 June 1913. Her father, Abbasali Qurbanov, and her mother, Malikat, absolutely loved art. In an attempt to give their children a good education, they were very demanding with regard to them. Hokuma began school at Girls' School No. 38, and then at School No. 33. There were music, literature and drama circles there, which her parents made sure she attended. Throughout her life she never forgot her first visit to the theatre with her Uncle Muslim. They saw "Leyli and Majnun". She often thought about what she had seen on the stage and it seemed as if she couldn't ever get the voice of Majnun out of her head.
When she graduated from the Baku Pedagogical Technical College in 1931, she was offered a place at the Azerbaijan State Conservatoire where she studied the piano for two years. On the initiative of the dramatist and theatrical figure Cafar Cabbarli, in those years she played the part of Yaxsi in the film "The Diamond".
It was during that time that she became acquainted with her first love. Their friendship blossomed into love. Alaskar's family were not well off, but how could that be an impediment to Hokuma? She gave her mother an ultimatum: "I either marry him or no-one". Although Malikat did not want to let her daughter marry the tall, well-proportioned, but poverty-stricken young man whom she took an instant dislike to, she was forced to back down, when faced with her daughter's stubborness.
When they married, Alaskar Alakbarov [1910-1963] had been acting at the Baku Turkic Theatre for about seven years, since he was 17 in 1927. In January 1933, after the theatre was transferred to Kirovabad (now Ganca - author) by decision of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan, the family also moved there.
Hokuma's acting talent was so outstanding that it could not be missed, and her ability was already the talk of those around her. Abbas Mirza Sarifzada soon arrived from Baku to boost the theatre's profile at its new location. Most of the actors lived in a building specially allocated to the theatre, and the flat occupied by Hokuma and her family was next to his. At that time, Abbas Mirza was working on a production of the play "Sheikh Sanan" by Huseyn Cavid. As the theatre was being refurbished, the rehearsals were frequently held in Sarifzada's flat.
Learning from Sarifzada
Hokuma subsequently recalled those times often: "There was only a thin panel between our flats, and the whole rehearsal, the remarks and advice of the director were quite audible from beginning to end. I couldn't help becoming a participant in that rehearsal. The performer who was playing the part of Xumar did not act sensitively and flexibly enough. This meant that the director had to spend most of his time on her, making her repeat her lines over and over again. One day I realised that I had already learnt the part off by heart and could play it any time. And I had been "trained" by Abbas Mirza. For many years only Alaskar Alakbarov and I knew this strange story. Twenty-three years later, when the Drama Theatre put on the play "Sheikh Sanan", which I rehearsed and acted in the part of Xumar, I frequently recalled this unusual story and the great director with gratitude. I first began to want to be an actress after those "secret rehearsals".
Abbas Mirza recognised Hokuma's talent and started to rehearse with her, which made Alesker Alekperov extremely jealous. Hokuma herself was jealous of her handsome husband's socialising and rehearsing with other actresses. Gradually the spark of jealousy began to flare up and become a fire. They began to row and offend one another. No-one could save the family, even their only daughter Naila. They separated in October 1933, immediately after they returned to Baku.
After working with such talented directors as Abbas Mirza Sarifzada, Adil Iskandarov, Mehdi Mammadov and Tofiq Kazimov, Hokuma Qurbanova began to get offers of new parts.
Once they were divorced Alaskar Alakbarov remarried. Hokuma also started a family with the theatre's chief scene painter, Nusrat Abdullayev. The director Hafiz Fatullayev recalls: "They lived together for almost 25 years. Their beloved, capricious and affectionate daughter Vafa made their family even closer." But even such a long family idyll ended in divorce. After that, Hokuma Qurbanova was to experience great love with the actor Gunduz Abbasov, who was 17 years younger than her.
Hokuma's entire life consisted of such ups and downs. Her happiness and love did not last long. Only her love for the theatre was everlasting and infinite. There Hokuma was totally unique. No-one could take her place. Every part that she played was like a lesson in creativity.
Even at the very beginning of her acting career she was up to the most outstanding and well-known parts. But… After her divorce from him, Alaskar Alakbarov did not wish to perform with her. Thus the Drama Theatre's outstanding actor deprived her of the opportunity to play such main parts as Xuraman in the play "Vaqif", Shirin in "Farhad and Shirin", Desdemone in "Othello"… Hokuma Qurbanova missed out on so many parts.
In the beginning, she rarely acted in performances at the National Drama Theatre. Later on, she became well known as its irreplaceable main lady. Hokuma described the parts she played in the following way: "I have nothing in common with any of the main characters I play. For each of them is individual. True, there may be a superficial similarity in the events and dramatic situations. But, on the other hand, they may stand out for or possess different qualities."
Lessons learnt from Hokuma Qurbanova
Life follows its own course. Hokuma Qurbanova appeared on the stage less and less as time passed. Hafiz Fatullayev, who is extremely familiar with actress's creative ability recalls that time. "Hokuma's flat was right opposite School No. 1.We would sit on the second floor balcony of the two-storey block. Hokuma would serve tea and home-baked cakes or biscuits. She was a very good house-wife."
Hokuma was an extremely serious and demanding woman, both with regard to herself and her work. She valued her own art above all, go to great lengths to seek out the right way to tackle even the smallest episode. In doing so, she did not simply rely on her talent alone, approaching her work with the precision of a jeweller.
At the National Academic Drama Theatre Hokuma acted in the parts of Xumar ("Sheikh Sanan"), Sudaba ("Sayavush"), Cleopatra ("Anthony and Cleopatra"), Shirin ("Farhad and Shirin"), Solmaz ("Od Galini"), Zohra ("Eshg and intigam"), Sahar ("Insan") and many other remarkable parts. Young actors would regard it as an honour to act in a performance with Hokuma, because they would learn a lot from her. Even at the rehearsals she would leave them spell-bound at her performance.
Hafiz Fatullayev says with regret: "It was as if Hokuma had a spell placed on her by the time. In the 1950s Azerbaijan's Drama Theatre could go on guest tours round the world, but in the years of Soviet rule the attitude to that theatre was a rather ambiguous one. Hokuma played captivating roles but there is not even a trace of them any more. The best performances could have been captured on film for posterity. Unfortunately, that was not done. In those years such talented actresses like Barat Sskinskaya, Leyla Badirbayli, Naciba Malikova and Sofa Basirzada performed at the theatre. Hokuma stood out among them. You had to become a performer like she was in order to attain her standard."
Hokuma had reached the pinnacle of her art, but this did not just mean that she was loved by her fans. Hafiz Fatullayev recounts: "There were many who did not wish Hokuma well. Many people envied her. Once, when she was acting in the part of Khanuma in Sagareli's play and had a hurried costume change, she saw that someone had cut her dress with scissors. She quickly summoned the dresser and got her to bring a dress from another production. Once she had put it on, she went onto the stage and continued to play her part as if nothing had happened."
Hokuma acted in films made by Azerbaijanfilm such as "One Family" (Leyla), "Onu Bagislamag Olarmi?" (Kamala) and "Insan Maskan Salir" (Anna). For some reason directors did not offer her more important parts. But Hokuma did play the main characters in most films in the 1950s and 60s alongside Ali Zeynalov.
Hokuma was offered parts in the theatre that were worthy of her, unlike those in films. She acted in the most remarkable performances. On 17 July 1943 Hokuma had the title of Merited Artiste of Azerbaijan conferred on her, on 24 May 1960 that of People's Artiste of the Republic of Azerbaijan and on 2 March 1965 she received the title of People's Artiste of the USSR.
Her life ended in an extremely sad way. Hafiz Fatullayev recounted: "Of late she has not appeared in any films. Her hands have become swollen. At that time Vafa was still alive. Vafa Fatullayeva, her beloved daughter, a talented actress of the Azerbaijan National Theatre was terminally ill and passed away at the age of 42. Two months later, my uncle, Nusrat Fatullayev died. Vafa's death had been a terrible tragedy for him. After Vafa's death Hokuma also fell ill. Ten days after Vafa's death I started to work on a TV programme dedicated to her "Omur Vafa Etsaydi". The programme was very successful. Hokuma watched it while she was being treated for her illness. She hugged me and kissed me and said, with tears in her eyes, 'You have poured ointment on my wounded heart.' If her daughter had not died so suddenly, perhaps Hokuma would have lived longer…"
Hokuma passed away on 2 November 1988, a year after her daughter died. She was buried in the Alley of Honour.
After Hokuma's death, Hafiz Fatullayev made a programme about her. "I had great difficulty in finding two items in the archives - her meeting with Khosrov in "Farhad and Shirin" and Cleopatra on the seashore. This born actress gave an extremely masterful performance of the complex character of Cleopatra in the play "Anthony and Cleopatra" staged by Tofiq Kazimov in 1964.
This year the centenary of this outstanding actress's birth is being marked. The name of Hokuma Qurbanova is a legend in the theatre. She will always be admired by us. That star, who proudly rose to the pinnacle of her art, will always light up our path.