The passing of a thespian

Syed Badrul Ahsan
Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017


For those of us who went to school in the 1960s and grew into vibrant youth in the 1970s, Razzak was the epitome of romance. He was for us what Uttam Kumar was to West Bengal and Dilip Kumar was to   the Urdu-Hindi belt in India. For good measure, we observed the Pakistanis Mohammad Ali, Waheed Murad and Nadeem and persuaded ourselves into believing — and the belief was certainly well-placed — that we had our very own Razzak to match them.


In those early days — and we speak of the 1960s, when movies had class and actors had finesse — Razzak was one thespian we tried, in our humdrum life, to emulate. Life of course was not a fairy tale. Neither was it a movie. But for all the limitations into which life confined us and despite the realities which stared us in the face every livelong day, it was the fresh, smiling and indeed positively glowing image of Razzak and his many leading ladies in the movies that gave a lilt to our souls. There he was, on all those posters and on all those billboards, peering into us even as he stole glances at the beautiful women he shared the big screen with, as if informing us that the heights could be reached, by us, that life could be lengthened into one long story of satisfying love.


Now that the gods have claimed Razzak, at the not very old age of seventy six years — seeing that so many others have passed on into the Great Beyond much later — it is the memories that cheerfully come back. Not many years ago, Razzak shared a television programme with Kabori. They reminisced on old times, they laughed, they cracked jokes. But the high point in that joint television appearance came when Razzak reached out to Kabori and held her hand in a clasp for the entire duration of an old song being sung for them. It was a moment that was a reminder of the winter that had come into the lives of these two powerful artistes. And yet it was a different kind of reminder — that good art and purposeful artistry always come in the wrappings of spring.


Razzak was always spring for his generation and for the generations that came later. This country that gave him fame, this land which he enriched with his skills in the film industry, was not supposed to be his. Born in West Bengal, perhaps Razzak never in his wildest dreams contemplated thoughts of scaling the heights of stardom in what was East Pakistan and would later have a rebirth as Bangladesh. He came here. He looked around. And he liked what he saw. This was his country, his home. As usual with every home, Razzak was the child it nurtured through some rocky patches. And then came that wonderful offer from none other than Zahir Raihan. Would he work in the movie Behula? Razzak took the leap. Thenceforth, it was a rollercoaster ride all the way.


Observe the sheer number of the movies Razzak played his many roles — leading man, father, lawyer, disillusioned young man — in. Not many, indeed no one else in Bangladesh has come close to him in a portrayal of the roles that were his. And the movies? Take a look. There was Jibon Theke Neya, that unforgettable tale of rising Bengali nationalism as offered by the brilliant Zahir Raihan. And then there were Alor Michhil, Rongbaj, Shopno Diye Ghera, Kanch Kata Heeray and Moti Mahal. Remember Neel Akasher Niche and the enduring Khondokar Faruq number, Neel Akasher Niche Aami Rasta Cholechhi Eka? There were the other songs, from other movies. Suchanda brightens up when Razzak sings, in Khondokar Nurul Alam’s voice, the coruscating Chokh Je Moner Kotha Boley. Or think of a slowly approaching Kabori, drawn to the intensely romantic number, Borho Eka Eka Laage Tumi Paashe Nei Boley, sung flawlessly by our very own Nurunnabi. These lyrics were made for Razzak. Or, more properly, he gave them life.


Razzak shared the stage with Ujjal, Bulbul Ahmed, Azim and so many others. The advantage he had over them was the essential romanticism which underscored his screen character. Yet, as the years advanced, he went for versatility. Movies like Barrister Police Commissioner are testimony to his changing screen persona. And, yes, earlier in the 1970s he had demonstrated, through Rongbaj, the transformation of the movie hero into a dissolute young man, one at war with an unjust world around him.


Razzak had a smile that was infectious. His delivery of dialogue would melt the heart of any young woman and not just of his leading ladies, among whom were Suchanda, Kabori, Shabnam, Babita and Sujata. They were all beautiful women, all accomplished actresses. And very properly were they matched with the soft-spoken and suave and good-looking Razzak.


The curtain falls on our Nayak Raj. Let a thousand angels carry him, in love, to the land of shimmering stars.

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