Zahir Raihan, the legendary Bangladeshi novelist, writer and filmmaker, was born on August 19. To commemorate the birth anniversary of the frontrunner of the progressive cultural movement in Bangladesh, Bangladesh Udichi Shilpigosthi has undertaken a two day long Zahir Raihan Film Festival, with the motto, “Camera ready to resist”.
Commenced at the early morning of August 18 at Bangladesh Shilpokola Academy by Dr. Safiuddin Ahmed, the president of the central parliament of Udichi, the festival remembered the rebellious auteur through an array of activities, including, discussions on the life of Zahir Raihan and the film movement in Bangladesh, songs, film screening and many more.
Udichi music troupe performed songs from the Zahir Raihan Films at the event, Anal Raihan, the son of Zahir Raihan took part.
The film screening session featured Zahir Raihan’s magnum opus Stop Genocide, Tauquir Ahmed’s Oggatonama, Kamar Ahmed Simon’s Ekti Sutor Jobanbondi and Tanvir Mokammel’s Jibon Dhuli, among others.
Projonmo Talikes’ director Saleh Sobhan Anim’s short film Punorabritti, Sayed Ahmed Saki’s Upasanghar, Zahidur Rahim Anjan’s full-length feature film Meghmollar were screened on the closing day of the festival. The two-day event was open for mass audience and has been participated by a large number of Zahir Raihan fans, who joined the festival to pay their tribute to the untimely lost film auteur.
Starting his career as a journalist in 1950, Zahir Raihan’s first collection of short stories, titled Suryagrahan, was published in 1955. His first direct involvement in film was with Jago Huya Sabera in 1957, in which Raihan worked as an assistant. Later, he went on to assist Salahuddin in the film Je Nodi Morupothay. The filmmaker Ehtesham also employed him on his movie A Desh Tomar Amar, for which he wrote the title song. In 1960, Zahir made his directorial début with his film Kokhono Asheni, which was released in 1961. In 1964, he made Pakistan’s first colour movie, Sangam, and completed his first CinemaScope movie, Bahana, the following year.
Aside from his artistic identities, Zahir Raihan was actively engaged with politics. He was an active supporter of the Language Movement of 1952 and was present at the historical meeting of Amtala on 21 February 1952. The effect of the Language Movement was so strong on him that he used it as the premise of his landmark film Jibon Theke Neya.
In 1971 he joined in the Liberation War of Bangladesh and created documentary films on the subject. Raihan went to Calcutta during the liberation war, where his film Jibon Theke Neya was screened. Legendary directors like Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Tapan Sinha and Ritwik Ghatak, lauded Raihan’s work.
Raihan disappeared on 30 January 1972, while trying to locate his brother, the famous writer Shahidullah Kaiser, who was captured and killed by the Pakistan army and/or local collaborators during the final days of the liberation war.
Although, nothing much about Raihan could be known after his disappearance, it is believed that he was killed with many others by armed Bihari collaborators and soldiers of the Pakistan Army.