Today marks iconic writer and filmmaker Humayun Ahmed's 64th birthday. Every year, Ahmed's birthday was celebrated by near and dear ones, his friends and well-wishers from the media and the publishing industry. Though in and outside Bangladesh, Ahmed's primary identity was that of a writer, TV plays and films made by him or based on his stories were massively popular. Naturally, Ahmed maintained close relationship with actors. On his birthday, The Daily Star spoke to accomplished actors -- representing different generations -- who had worked with Ahmed.
Tariq Anam Khan
I first met Humayun Ahmed a long time ago, when he had just returned from the US, completing his Ph.D. By then, he had a number of books published, and was a known name. My first performance in a play written by him was “Din-er Sheshe”. We rehearsed before the shooting at Nawazish Ali Khan's office. Nawazish Ali one day told us that Humayun Ahmed would come to the rehearsal, and he came, but sat silently throughout the rehearsal. After that, I worked in a few TV dramas written by him. The last work I did with him was under his direction, in “Ghetu Putro Komola”, the last film he made.
The whole experience was memorable, because Humayun Ahmed himself kept the atmosphere upbeat. There's one instance that comes to mind. It was the rainy season, and we were shooting at a zamindar house in the haor areas. Most days, shooting would go on all day, and we would sit together and chitchat at night. Humayun Ahmed had vast knowledge about a lot of matters, and that is why hanging out with him was so much fun. One such night, Ahmed acted out the role of a mentally imbalanced person. That memory will never fade.
If someone were late to the shooting, he'd say there was no need to shoot that day, and when particularly angry, he'd threaten to take out all of one's teeth. I was late to shooting once, and asked him if the shoot would take place. He said nothing that day.
Humayun Ahmed dedicated a book to me, named “Himu'r Ache Jol”. In the dedication, he wrote there are two places where you can see the true colours of a man: at a battlefield, and at outdoor shootings. He dedicated the book to “Nishad-er Dariwala mama” (Nishad's bearded uncle). It was a moving gesture.
A portrait of me was made for “Ghetu Putro Komola”, drawn by a teacher of the art college. When Humayun Ahmed returned to the country, midway through his cancer treatment, he said that he could have drawn that portrait. How I wish that happened! It would have been a great honour for me.
When he came back to the country the last time, we watched the film together. The next day, I went to his house. Despite there being many guests, when I sat at the dinner table, the seat next to me was empty. Humayun Ahmed came up to me and said, “See, nobody's sitting beside you because of the role you played in the film.”
That was my last conversation with Humayun Ahmed. Little did I know then that this stalwart of Bangla literature would not be with us for much longer.
I never had the opportunity to work in TV plays or films directed by Humayun Ahmed, but I had worked in a few serials written by him. One of them that became hugely popular was “Kothao Keu Nei”. I played the character of Muna in the serial, after Humayun Ahmed approached me personally, asking me to play the role. I also worked in the TV drama “Shongkhoneel Karagar”, based on his novel, when he was in the USA. Later in the 1990s, when “Shongkhoneel Karagar” was to be made into a movie, Humayun Ahmed asked me to work in it, and told me that he was writing a character for me. I told him I'd work if I got the role that I did for the TV show. He wrote the screenplay all over again, and I worked in that film.
Humayun Ahmed will live in the heart of every Bengali reader through his works like “Jochhna o Jononi'r Golpo”, “Modhanho”, “Shongkhoneel Karagar” and “Badshah Namdaar”.
I've worked in numerous films, but just one TV play, directed by Humayun Ahmed. The title of the play is “Esho”. I initially did not accept that role in the play, but everyone, my mother included, said that I was stupid to be turning down an offer from such a gifted director. I finally did the role, and on the first day, Ahmed greeted me with a huge bouquet of flowers. It's a memory I'll cherish for life.
The next work I did with him was “Chondrokotha”. I went to Dhanmondi's 'Dokhin Hawa' (Ahmed's home), hung out and had delicious food with him. The shooting was supposed to be at Nuhash Polli, and the journey was an experience in itself. We went to Gazipur by a car, crossed a ravine by boat, and then took a bullock-cart. After traveling a little distance on it, we had to walk the rest of the way. Now it's become easy to travel to Hotapara.
Anyway, it was the rainy season, so when we reached Nuhash Polli around the evening, all covered in mud, I was amazed to see a huge wall of flickering lights. I went to have a closer look and found it to be a wall, with small pockets in them, and hundreds of little candles lit inside them. I later found out that was Humayun Ahmed's way of greeting people he liked to Nuhash Polli. All these will be missed, now that he's not amongst us today, on his birthday.
My first work with Humayun Ahmed was the drama “Jatra”, and I played the central role in it. I had just returned from England at that time, and was a big fan of Humayun Ahmed's writing and direction. A friend told me that he knew Humayun Ahmed personally, and introduced me to the writer. I was involved with acting in England. After he saw me perform, Ahmed reacted positively but suggested that I work on the Sylheti accent. He promised to work with me in his films later.
My major work with Humayun Ahmed included films “Chondro Kotha” and “Shyamol Chhaya”.
In the film “Shyamol Chhaya” -- based on the Liberation War, I played the role of a Mawlana, and received acclaim for the role. I owe my popularity as an actor to him.
Humayun Ahmed's last TV play was aired on Channel 9 during Eid-Ul-Azha. Titled “Gura Morich Party”, the play featured me as well.
Humayun Ahmed wrote a number of characters with me in mind, for his TV dramas and films. It is sometimes hard to believe that he is not among us.
I spent a lot of time with him, and traveled together to places. The memories gathered would take a lifetime to reminisce.
I was one of the few people who were close enough to Humayun Ahmed to go to his Dhanmondi residence to cut a cake on the first hours of his birthday. Another November 13 has come, and it will be hard to accept that he is no more.