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Remembering Fazle Lohani

  • Published at 12:00 am October 30th, 2016
Remembering Fazle Lohani

On his 31st death anniversary, we remember Fazle Lohani. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, he had won the hearts of many Bangladeshis through his popular TV magazine program Jodi Kichu Mone Na Koren.

Most popular for his TV magazine show, many of his other literary work and his pursuit in journalism are forgotten in the shadows of time. On this special occasion, I would like to make a humble attempt to pay tribute to his legacy and loving memory.   

Fazle Lohani was born on March 12, 1928 to Abu Lohani, one of the Bengali intellectuals of the “Bengal Muslim Literary Society,” and Fatema Lohani, a teacher. Fazle Lohani was the youngest among his siblings, Fateh Lohani and Husna Banu Khanam.

Born in a family of literary parents, Fazle Lohani got the opportunity to come across great names of West Bengal culture and literature since his childhood. He excelled academically in Presidency College and, after the Indo-Pak Partition, he got admitted in Dhaka University for his higher education.

It was during this time that he became deeply involved in the cultural and literary activities of the then East Pakistan.

Following in the footsteps of his luminary father Abu Lohani, he started his journalistic life joining Pakistan Observer as a joint editor in 1949. Proficient in both English and Bengali, Fazle Lohani joined Dainik Sangbad as founder and joint editor in 1951. Later, he became a news editor for Pakistan Post.

Fazle Lohani was one of the leading personalities who actively participated in the 1952 Language Movement. During that time, he wrote the highly acclaimed poem “Ekusher Kobita.” It became a popular song in the tune of the famous musician and actor Khan Ataur Rahman, and it rekindles our love for Bengali language.

Along with Tasikul Alam Khan, Mustofa Nurul Islam, and elder brother Fateh Lohani, he published the most influential literary and cultural magazine, Agatya in 1953. Although there is no digital trace of Agatya, it served as the progressive voice of protest in the political and social context then. Its satirical and humourous articles drew in socially conscious people and quickly became the most popular magazine

Fazle Lohani left a prominent mark as a journalist and an extraordinary TV presenter. His entertaining and social TV magazine program Jodi Kichu Mone Na Koren is still lovingly remembered by so many people in Bangladesh

One of the most prominent poets of modern Bengali literature, Shamsur Rahman, in his biography Kaler Dhuloy Lekha mentions how he remembers Fazle Lohani editing the monthly Agatya. Along with Fazle Lohani, Fateh Lohani and Mostofa Nurul Islam were deeply involved with this magazine.

However, the magazine met its demise after two short-lived years because of its ban. Afraid of the popularity and social influence it was exerting, the government of Pakistan banned its publication in 1955. While working in BBC London, he got acquainted with Elizabeth Hodzins. They fell in love and got married in the year 1959. Elizabeth always stood by him like a shadow in his exuberant life. In 1966, he came to Dhaka with Elizabeth, and believing in socialist ideology, he became involved with Maulana Bhashani’s Peasant Movement. In those days, Elizabeth used to participate in the workers’ meetings with a red band tied around her forehead.

For political reasons, Fazle Lohani was subjected to police brutality several times. In 1971, he left for India, and then went to London to become an active organiser of pro-liberation activities in England. After liberation, he joined Bhashani NAP and contested from the Ullapara constituency of Sirajganj. Again, in 1974 Fazle Lohani was arrested for political reasons.

In the sidelines of his social and political engagement, Fazle Lohani also delved into the realms of literature and translated a few English novels. In 1969-70, his popular series report on Mohipurer Prantor was published in the then Dainik Pakistan, later named Dainik Bangla. His series articles on Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Maulana Bhashani were later published in a book. He had a good hand in short story writing, and also wrote science fiction stories. Till date, many of his short stories and novels remain unpublished.

Poet Shamsur Rahman wrote: “Fazle Lohani left a prominent mark as a journalist and an extraordinary TV presenter. His entertaining and social TV magazine program Jodi Kichu Mone Na Koren is still lovingly remembered by so many people in Bangladesh.”

Late poet Syed Shamsul Haq and Fazle Lohani were very close friends. The great poet, time and again -- especially in Tin Poyshar Jostna (published in January 2015) -- mentions Fazle Lohani’s unconditional love and friendship for him. He mentions Lohani’s deep influence on his own literary mindset.

In Tin Poyshar Jostna, a lot of information regarding our art and literature single out Fazle Lohani’s vivid influence and presence. The 1950s and 60s were once called the golden decades of Bengali Literature, when it flourished to a new height and in light of such claims, Syed Shamsul Haq mentions: “The person who published my first story, who taught me to grow through writing, has been forgotten for so many days from our literature and culture. Fazle Lohani used to give me English literary books and pressured me to finish them quickly. His bright presence in television journalism will be never be forgotten. This warm-hearted man was like a dazzling star of sharp intelligence and talent.”

The TV magazine program Jodi Kichu Mone Na Koren ran for six years until his death, and it achieved tremendous viewership and popularity in Bangladesh. For its unique presentation on informative and emotional social subjects, it brought back the educated elite and the general mass to the TV screen. In the midst of its immense popularity, it earned the recognition of a socially important television program, exerting positive social influence on viewers’ lives.

Telecasting of the program started in the month of February in 1979, and continued to its peak, till his death on October 30, 1985 -- exactly 31 years ago today. The people of Bangladesh never had thought before that a television program could have such positive impact on their everyday lives through entertainment.

In the 1950s, the Pakistani government banned Fazle Lohani’s monthly satirical magazine Agatya, fearing its social influence. In 1980s, in liberated Bangladesh, he became the most popular television icon, when Bangladesh had never seen the depiction of social anomalies, injustice, and sufferings of the commoners with such stupendous courage and acumen.

Many still remember his presence and contribution to social awareness with respect and love, and today, we appreciate his work and spirit more in remembrance and gratitude. Let the memories of his exuberant life be with us in affection, in sorrow, and in delight -- for he truly had been a beacon of progressive journalism and literature.

Shakib Lohani had a career in Integrated Marketing Communication for more than three decades, and is also the Vice President of PEN, Bangladesh.