Author: Valentina REZNIKOVA
Almost a year ago, President Ilham Aliyev signed a decree on the 120th anniversary of the Azerbaijani playwright, poet and screenwriter Jafar Jabbarly. December 31 is his birthday. Many cultural, scientific and educational events have been held in honour of the great master since then. More recently, the State Theatre for Young Spectators hosted the Jafar Jabbarly Award Ceremony. The award established in 2001 by the house museum of the playwright and the Head Department of Culture of Baku is presented annually to individuals who have contributed to the development of culture, theatre, cinema, literature, journalism and literary criticism. A year ago, the award was presented to the People's Artist of Azerbaijan Fuad Poladov. This year, among the winners was the Honoured Artist of Azerbaijan, actor of the Samed Vurgun State Academic Russian Drama Theatre, Firdovsi Atakishiyev, for creating the stage image of actor Huseyn Arablinsky.
The organising committee of the Jafar Jabbarly Award Ceremony identifies the nominees through a yearlong research process, which is then followed by the actual award ceremony to summarise the results of creative success and achievements in various creative activities in a more solemn environment.
"What did you feel when you received the award?"
"Professional satisfaction. I thought that it should have meant something if the previous laureates were masters such as Rasim Balayev, Basti Jafarova, Bahram Osmanov and so on."
"You have personified Arablinsky twice: once in 2013 on the stage of the National Drama Theatre, then in 2015 at the Russian Drama. Did you have difficulties in pronouncing the text, like messing up with the words in Azerbaijani and Russian?"
"No. I speak both languages in everyday life, so I did not experience such difficulties during rehearsals or during the performance."
"Arablinsky is a well-known personality not only among the theatre specialists. The stories about his intriguing and mysterious life, his mystical death are exciting. Has your team ever referenced documentary evidence to recreate Arablinsky's character on the stage?"
"No. Elchin (playwright, R+) created a generic character of Arablinsky as he would look and behave like at the beginning of the century. A versatile and fantastically talented person who devoted himself to the theatre. A professional who could handle everything: simple human feelings, thoughts, and a sublime and romantic flight of imagination. That's what made Arablinsky special. His image is a generic image of a generation of artists of his time who created national literature, music, art and theatre."
"Which of the great personalities of the early 20th century do you associate with the image of Arablinsky?"
"Sergei Yesenin may be! He was a rebel too. Sometimes I think that Yesenin's arrival to Baku in 1924 was a product of mysterious predestination. As if he had come here to live and demonstrate that part of Arablinsky's life that he couldn't live after 1919, the year of his death. After all, the investigation did not yield any tangible results. Nor did the investigation of Yesenin's death. There are many versions but no one can say which one is correct. It still remains a secret."
"Do you know anyone in the modern Azerbaijani theatre that is equal to Arablinsky?"
"According to his contemporaries, Arablinsky had been an actor as good as a director. He could feel the camera well, and, apparently, was a gifted teacher. Today, we can find individual actors or directors who demonstrate their talents and skills in narrow fields. We have many talented people yet I do not know anyone who could possess the same qualities as Arablinsky. May be in music and art but not in theatre."
"Do you think the crisis of theatrical art is somehow related with the abscence of such personalities?"
"I think that a crisis is not only an economic, geographical or historical phenomenon. Rather, it is a mentality affected in various degrees by all these processes. This s true for any country. Since the mutual influence is obvious, we should consider a human factor as well. That's why we have those who sacrifice their lives for Art, including the theatre, and those who don't. Someone is in search of a great Idea, while the other one is willing to earn a lot of money. In this time and age of pragmatic and financial priorities, it is clear who is in the minority. The crisis is caused by subjective circumstances, which have negative implications on the general process of creativity."
"Your profession depends on many factors. Many of actors are people of subtle and vulnerable nature, who always need the love of others. Does it make your daily life uncomfortable?"
"I won't tell about others but I do not need to be loved as Firdovsi Atakishiyev. It is important for me that the audience loves the characters I play on the stage or in the cinema."
"What is your favourite theatrical role?"
"Stanley Kowalski in Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire."
"The cruel and cynical Stanley?!"
"He is not cruel. He just wants to protect his own world, the world of his family, the moral principles inside his native environment from the invasion of someone who is absolutely alien to him and his worldview. Stanley has his own truth, and he has the right to it."
"What about the role of Arablinsky?"
"It became a turning point in my life and profession. I suddenly understood those simple things in our life that I did not understand before. He made me wiser, more tolerant; he taught me that injustice is a relative concept."
"Have you had roles that you didn't like?"
"Over the past 15 years—no."
"They say that you became famous thanks to the productions of your wife Irana Taghizadeh..."
"And I'm proud of it. I have played all my best roles in her performances."
"Do you think that you have not played your best role in the cinema and theatre yet?"
"I starred in two series, in a feature film, and played many roles on the stage. But I'm still going to live..."
"What is happiness for you?"
"When I wake up in the morning and two people I love so much—my wife and son—wish me good morning, and good night before going to bed! This is happiness."
"What would you like to wish your viewers?"
"I wish them love for theatre."
"What about your colleagues?"
"I wish them a grateful audience and the joy of creativity. May all be well!"
We talked for a long time after the interview. Just a normal chat on topics of mutual interest. It was fascinating to listen to his reflections on the picturesque narrative of Fitzgerald's novels, the exciting and poignant power of Oscar Wilde's words, Picasso's thoughts on high art, the films of Todorovsky Jr. and Miklos Forman. But Firdovsi's interest in Muslim Magomayev hit me the most. He told me that he watched the whole set of Magomayev's video interviews because every time he rediscovered the greatness of simplicity and utmost honesty of his personality. This was the genius of Muslim Magomayev.