Remembering Zahir Raihan

August 5, 2011

Legendary Bangla filmmaker, litterateur and freedom fighter Zahir Raihan was born on August 5, 1935 at Majupur in Feni, according to his younger sister Shahenshah Begum, however, most of the documents related to his birth anniversary state that Raihan was born on August 19, 1935.
If the family source is taken for granted, today is the 76th anniversary of the birth of Zahir Raihan, whose original name was Zahirullah.
However, there are still controversies about his biography- regarding his birth and death anniversary. More alarmingly, many of his films and documentaries, especially on the war of independence are either lost or damaged.
An official of Bangladesh Film Archives told New Age that they had five of Zahir Raihan’s films – ‘Kakhono Asheni’, ‘Kancher Deyal’, ‘Anwara, Behula’ and ‘Jiban Theke Neya’.
The official also said they did not have Zahir Raihan’s others films such as ‘Bahana’, ‘Sangam’ and ‘Sonar Kajal’ and the unfinished documentary  ‘Let There Be Light’ at their disposal.
A communist by conviction, Zahir Raihan still stands as an icon of progressiveness for his direct involvement in the political movements and making films on those movements in middle of the last century that ultimately took momentum through the war of independence. His movies featuring such movements such as ‘Jiban Theke Neya’ and ‘Kancher Deyal’ are considered some of the very few classics in the history of our film industry.
A winner of Bangla Academy Award for his novel Hajar Bachhar Dhorey, Zahir Raihan has written several acclaimed works such as ‘Shesh Bikeler Meye’, ‘Arek Falgun’, ‘Baraf Gola Nadi’ and ‘Aar Koto Din’. Zahir Raihan also made movies based on his literary works.
As a conscious cultural activist, Raihan had remarkable contribution during the war of independence. He was the then general secretary of Bangladesh Liberation Council of Intelligentsia. During the war, Raihan made his most acclaimed documentary ‘Stop Genocide’ on the genocide done by the Pakistani military regime and its local collaborators. The documentary made him standing out as a film director in the country with his unique form and style. Many consider this film as one of the top 10 documentaries of its kind in the world.
He started making an English film ‘Let There Be Light,’ which he could not finish as the war broke out.
For his contribution to films, Zahir Raihan received many national awards including posthumous Ekushey Padak and Swadhinata Padak.
Raihan’s younger sister Shahenshah Begum expressed her opinion that Zahir Raihan is not getting his due respect in Bangladesh. Bangladesh Film Development Corporation has no plan to observe Raihan’s birth anniversary.

-With New Age input

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