It was the year 1966. Legendary director Zahir Raihan was going through a disappointing time as his first Urdu film, Bahana failed to establish itself as a commercial success. Raihan wanted to bounce back with his next film, Behula and therefore started to look for an actor who would help him make a breakthrough. Being a director with a small number of successful films to his credit as of then, understandably, the then heartthrobs of Dhallywood rejected Raihan.
With no option in hand, Zahir Raihan went on to take a risk by casting one of his assistant producers, Abdur Razzak for the role. The film, Behula, went on to become a huge commercial success for Raihan but it turned out to be even bigger for Razzak. With Suchanda alongside him, Razzak’s role in the film stole the limelight and soon brought an end to his days of playing minor character roles.
“All of a sudden, Zahir Raihan chose Razzak, who was working as his second or third assistant, to act in Behula. It was sheer luck. The film became a commercial success and people loved Razzak more than ever,” said actor Farooque, one of Razzak’s contemporaries in the industry, in an interview with BBC.
Born on January 23, 1942 at Naktala, South Kolkata in India, Razzak had acting on his mind from the start. During his adolescence, he participated in theatre productions in Kolkata. The actor made his first film appearance in a film, Ratan Lal Bangalee while studying at a college in Kolkata.
In order to make himself a better film star and make his journey more meaningful, Razzak went on to study film in Filmalaya in Mumbai, India in 1961 and acted in two films in Kolkata - Pankotilak and Shilalipi - upon his return.
Razzak was doing arguably well for a new comer in Kolkata until the Hindu-Muslim riot, which broke out in 1964, forcing Razzak and his family to migrate to Dhaka. The path to stardom turned even harder for Razzak in the new city but not enough for him to stop dreaming to be a star.
He started to work in TV plays and eventually became a favourite of the viewers of Pakistani television, acting in the series titled, Ghoroa. Razzak grabbed the attention of Abdul Jabbar Khan, a respectable filmmaker in Bangladesh, who helped Razzak to join Iqbal Films Limited. Razzak became the assistant to the director Kamal Ahmed in the movie Ujala.
However, after his ground-breaking venture with Zahir Raihan, Razzak never had to look back. Throughout the rest of the decade, his performances in movies like Tero Nombor Feku Ostagar Lane, Neel Akasher Nichey, Maynamati, Moner Moto Bou, Swaralipi, Osru Diye Likha, Jibon Theke Neya, and Obujh Mon, paved his way to the zenith of popularity.
With his indomitable talent, Razzak’s progress in the industry was especially furthered by his cameo role in Salahuddin Productions’ classic comedy Tero Nombor Feku Ostagar Len (Number 13 Feku Ostagar Lane).
His mold-breaking role in Zahirul Haq’s Rongbaj made him the first action hero of the country in 1974, a year before he received the title of “Nayak Raj” -- given by Ahmed Zaman Chowdhury, editor of the film magazine Chitrali.
Razzak proved his worth as the Nayak Raj by repeatedly pushing his limits. He is one of the few actors in the history of Bangla films to have experimented with roles, even at the height of popularity. His role of a security guard in 1978 film Oshikkhito and of a school assistant in Azizur Rahman’s Chhutir Ghonta are two good instances of this notion.
After being showered with love and respect for his on-camera presence, Razzak went to prove his mettle with his behind-the-camera talents when he made his directorial debut in 1977 with Ononto Prem. At a time when on-screen romance in Bangla films was limited to holding hands and uncomfortable hugs at best, Razzak decided to close his debut film with a lip-locking scene with Babita and so he did, although he had to release the film without the final scene.
Later on, he acted and directed in a number of films, many under his own production company Rajlokkhi Productions – named after his wife. With appearances in more than 300 Bangla and Urdu movies and direction of around sixteen movies, Razzak is the first Bangladeshi actor to be a UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador, who also founded the Bangladesh Film Artistes’ Association.
But what kept him running? Was it the five National Film Awards that he bagged? Or the love and respect he was showered with? No, it was the unconditional love that Razzak had for acting and films.
“All my love and affection surround acting and films. I don’t know anything beyond these, neither do I want to. Allah has given me the chance to do a lot of other things but I didn’t,” he said in an interview.
Razzak wanted to work till his last breath and eventually he did. His last film Ayna Kahini was released last year.
Shakib Khan, one of the most popular contemporary Dhallywood film star, aptly said, “To the generations today and the ones to come, Razzak will always be the source of inspiration,”