A screen ‘Nawab’ who lives beyond celluloid and death
The end comes inevitably for all and when ageing cinema star Anwar Hossain breathed his last in a local hospital due to old age complications, he moved from being an old dying film actor to an immortal cinema icon whose film roles have, for decades, defined the zeitgeist of society. Anwar Hossain was an avid character actor whose life and work are intertwined with the post partition socio-political evolution of Bangladesh. Naturally, the role which has made him into a celluloid emperor is the character of betrayed last independent Nawab of Bengal – Siraj-ud-Daula.
Most actors play historical roles, but the reason why the one played by Anwar Hossain carries special poignancy is because in the movie the Nawab’s efforts to maintain independence of Bengal in the face of a scheming plus repressive colonial power, aided by quislings, found resonance with the liberation movement of the erstwhile East Pakistan.
The movie portrayed 1757 - the year Siraj lost his throne to a force of greed and malice, and the underlying sentiments of the movie matched perfectly to the burgeoning freedom aspirations of the people of Bangladesh. Later, Anwar faced the horrors of the war to emerge as a seasoned actor in the newly emerged state. Many of his roles, especially those throughout the 1970s, captured an angst-ridden post-liberation society trying to attain stability in the face of famine, suffering, moral decadence and political paranoia.
When Bengali cinema reached its artistic apex in the mid 1970s, Anwar Hossain was riding on top of it. However, engulfed by obscenity, Bangladeshi movies went downhill, becoming cheap copies of the worst categories of cinema from the neighbouring India and beyond. As a true champion of artistic ethics, Anwar took his unflinching moral stand – once more the Nawab of filmdom was facing a daunting enemy in his chosen vocation. Though there is a sign of improvement in today’s Bangla cinema, unless actors with strict values come into the sector, decent films with messages won’t be made.
Since Anwar Hossain had retired from the celluloid world some time back, it would not be right to say his death leaves a void. But what we can say with conviction is that he leaves behind a legend which needs to be cherished to salvage the country’s filmdom from a state of morass. Unfortunately, as we mourn his death, there is a reported feeling among fellow thespians that enough efforts were not made by the government to provide the ailing actor the best of treatments. This is indeed unfortunate. Anwar Hossain, after all, was not merely an actor; he was also a catalyst who, through his fiery movie roles, galvanised the masses.
However, the mortal Anwar Hossain has passed to another realm but the Nawab along with his uncompromising ideals remains as a force of truth and virtue for generations to uphold.
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