Aly Zaker (November 6, 1944 –November 27, 2020)
It must be a sheer coincidence.
The day Bangladesh celebrates the 95th birth anniversary of playwright Munier Choudhury, she has lost one of her most gifted thespians – Aly Zaker.
Between them, there was a deep theatrical connection. After Munier Choudhury, a martyred intellectual, was abducted and butchered by then Pakistani Army’s local collaborators during the fag end of Bangladesh’s Liberation War, his most noted work – a symbolic drama on the 1952 language movement, Kabar (The Grave) – was staged for the first time in independent Bangladesh in February 1972. And Aly Zaker made his theatre debut by performing in Kabar.
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Twenty-one days after his 76th birthday, Zaker, a cancer survivor, who fought for liberating his country in 1971, lost a final battle of life to Covid-19 on Friday. Aly Zaker died at around 6:40am on November 27, 2020 at the United Hospital in Dhaka, where he was being treated for Covid-19.
Since his first role in Kabar, there was no looking back for Aly Zaker. As state-run BTV made a live telecast of the stage performance of Kabar, it received wider public accolades, and directors and theatrical groups immediately started casting him for the upcoming plays. Soon he became an integral part of Dhaka’s cultural circuit. The rest is history now.
Zaker’s theatrical performances in dramas like Galileo, Dewan Gazir Kissa (The Story of Dewan Gazi) and Nuruldiner Sara Jibon (The Entire Life of Nuruldin) earned him fame of mythical proportions. Dhaka’s theatre goers would never forget the magical colloquial verses of Nuruldiner Sara Jibon that Aly Zaker both acted and directed. In Nuruldiner Sara Jibon, ambidextrous writer and playwright Syed Shamsul Haq captured the rise of the peasants of Bengal in rebellion against the tyranny of the British Raj near the end of the 18th century in Rangpur, the district Shamsul Haq was born about 200 years later. Through the voice of an unsung leader Nurul Uddin, he uttered the magical words of uprising – Jago Bahe, Konthe Shobai.
Mancha was not the only field that Aly Zaker, a veteran of Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra – the independent radio broadcasting centre of Bangali nationalist forces during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971 – excelled; rather, he had many feathers in his cap. He was an acclaimed actor, writer, director and successful businessman. He was the owner of Asiatic Marketing Communications Limited. He was one of the trustees of the Liberation War Museum.
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Like theatres, Zaker’s legacy will be long there for his mesmerizing character playing in TV dramas and feature films. He could portray and do justice, with tremendous success and his gifted acting skills, to each of the diversified characters he was offered to roleplay.
Aly Zaker acted in popular TV dramas like Aaj Robibar, Bohubrihi, Pathar Shomoy, Nitu Tomaye Bhalobasi, Ekdin Hothat, Nokkhotrer Raat, etc. He worked in full-length Bangla feature films like Agami, Nodir Naam Modhumoti, Brishtee and Rabeya.
Aly Zaker directed plays like Baki Itihash, Bidogdho Romonikul, Toilo Sankat, Ei Nishiddho Polli Te, and Ocholayoton, among others.
He is survived by wife, actor Sara Zaker, son Iresh Zaker and daughter Sriya Sharbojoya.
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Zaker was born on November 6, 1944 in Chittagong. He was the third among four siblings, and spent his early childhood in Kushtia and Madaripur. His father was a high-ranking government official who was transferred every few years.
He studied at St Gregory’s High School, Notre Dame College, and graduated from Dhaka University.
For his work, Zaker received Ekushey Padak, Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy Award, Bangabandhu Award, Munier Chowdhury Award, and Naren Biswas Award, among other accolades.