MNA Features Desk: It was 1972. A young and unknown writer came up with a book named ‘Nondito Noroke’ (In Blissful Hell) and many experts in literature and arts were taken away with the sheer genius of this writer; the writer was Humayun Ahmed, a chemistry literate.
A new star was born in the horizon of literature in Bangladesh. Many writers and poets are extremely notable in Bangladesh literatures. Humayun Ahmed stays close though not above all of them. But he is different in many ways – he created and developed a new generation of readers in Bangladesh during the ‘80s and onwards until he left this world.
Many say, Humayun Ahmed was a writer for the middle class and true it is. Most importantly, the readers were mostly those who never felt a penchant for reading Bengali stories and novels before the emergence of Humayun Ahmed. And with his magical touch, he continued telling the story of our lives; our happiness, sorrows, success, failures, losses and gains. Most importantly, he portrayed the lives of many of us. The readers were easily lured to his books as they found them an easy reading due to his convenient style of writing as well as that he told the story of their own. Humayun reigned over their minds and hearts.
During the early fame-years of the great Rabindranath Tagore, many experts and critics neglected him for his way of writing for the mass. For them, Tagore’s language and stance was not worthy of literature. Later, Tagore left no opportunity for critics of his works as he became the majesty of Bangla literature. Similarly, the great novelist, Sharatchandra Chattapaddhay was criticized for his un-literature worthy writings but that did not restrain his readers his books. Sharatchandra actually created a stream among the women to read books and eventually to get educated. He had grown above criticism with his excellent masterpieces. Humayun Ahmed also was criticized for similar issues by the literary experts of Bangladesh. But all these three writers were same in one thing, the acceptance of their writings by the masses – people of all classes. I doubt if any of the writers in Bangladesh has number of readers even close to the number of readers that Humayun had.
According to Times of India, one of the world’s largest circulation English-language newspapers, “Humayun was a custodian of the Bangladeshi literary culture whose contribution single-handedly shifted the capital of Bengali literature from Kolkata to Dhaka without any war or revolution”. Humayun Ahmed magically connected with all his readers as millions waited for the new books of Humayun Ahmed, not only in Dhaka but also in Calcutta, New York, New Jersey, London and many other cities around the world. Millions of viewers waited eagerly to watch and enjoy the movies of this great writer-director and none of these films ever failed to spellbind the audience. Millions of people waited in front of the televisions to laugh and cry with the characters of Humayun Ahmed’s drama. In every field, it was like he had a magic wand.
His novels are mainly conversation based and we do not find details of characters or the surroundings as we do from the most surrealistic writers. Humayun had some very popular characters like; Himu, Shuvro and Misir Ali but we have the slightest idea of their appearance. We just have ideas on their behavior or dressing style. Other writers would have described their characters much more in detail.
We were sometimes even surprised as these characters came out in few dramas because they did not match at all with most of our imaginations. In spite of that, all these characters proved very close to the hearts of his millions of readers and audiences – that was his most important success as author and director.
To evaluate the factors behind Humayun Ahmed’s success, we can quote prominent writer Selina Hossain as she said about Humayun Ahmed, “I think there are three reasons for his popularity. First, he had the special power of exploring subtle human emotions through the plot and character development of his stories. He not only observed but he could actually feel the inner psychological aspect of a person. Second is his language. His use of very easy and simple language and small sentences did not take long to reach the readers. Third, he wrote short novels, where readers could easily find themselves.” That actually explains a lot about him as he was a people’s writer. Famous writer Sunil Gangopadhyay described him as the most popular writer in the Bengali language for a century and according to him, Humayun Ahmed was even more popular than Sharatchandra Chattopadhyay.
He wrote hundreds of novels, biographies, satires, travel stories, science fictions, dramas, short stories and almost all of them were praised and applauded by the readers.
Humayun Ahmed’s first television drama was ‘Prothom Prohor’ (First Hour) but he was noticed by everyone for his first drama serial ‘Eishob Din Ratri’ (Tale of Our Days and Nights). The audience were so into the characters that when ‘Tuni’, a little girl character died of life-taking disease, thousands of people cried in extreme pain. People wrote so many letters to the author not to let ‘Tuni’ die. Then there was another character called ‘Baker Bhai’ in another famous drama serial ‘Kothao Keu Nei’ (No One Around). In this drama, ‘Baker Bhai’ was sentenced to death. The audience rushed to the roads to protest and requested Humayun Ahmed from processions to save this character. I don’t know of any such incidents in any other countries where people came to protest trying to save a drama character due to pure love of those characters. These incidents are all landmarks of Humayun’s magic over his audience through his hypnotic charisma which has kept the audience enchanted towards his dramas and films. People found serious comic materials but also found deep thoughts over different dimensions of life through Humayun’s creations.
During his lifetime, Humayun Ahmed has written more than 200 books, written and directed over 100 dramas and films. His first directed film was ‘Aguner Poroshmoni’, a movie based on the independence war of 1971, released in 1994. In this movie, he elaborated the feelings and participation of common people in different aspects of the liberation war of Bangladesh. He narrated an epic story of people’s miseries during the war and their tragic losses in those frightful days. This movie won the National Film Award in eight categories, including ‘Best Film’ and ‘Best Director’. He made another film on liberation war of 1971 in 2004, named ‘Shyamol Chhaya’, which also won many awards.
In 1999, his movie ‘Srabon Megher Din’ was released and that film created a tide among the audience to get back to the cinema halls for Bangladeshi films. In 2012, his film ‘Ghetuputro Komola’ was later initially selected for the ‘Best Foreign Language Film Award’ at the 85th Academy Awards (Oscar). In every respect he was not only a successful writer but also a talented director.
Humayun Ahmed composed many songs specifically for his films and dramas. All of his songs became very popular among the spectators. Not only that, he contributed commendably in rescuing the almost extinct folk songs (songs of Hason Raza, Ukil Munshi, Vatialy & Vatiary songs etc.) of Bangladesh from the ‘Haor’ areas like; Netrokona, Sunamgonj etc. These lovely songs were almost vanished but Humayun Ahmed explored those songs to use in his films and dramas. He put a lot of effort to bring back those songs to the listeners. The audience and the music of Bangladesh will be ever indebted to him for that remarkable role. He also created or brought to light many singers.
Magic was another passion for Humayun Ahmed. He was a very good friend of Jewel Aich, the maestro of magic from Bangladesh. Humayun’s talent in magic was well recognized by Jewel Aich. He did not come out in public that much with his performing magic but he was even member of some international magician societies. We, his readers, know very well about his passion for magic as it was well demonstrated in several writings of our beloved author.
Literature, film, drama, music – in each area, Humayun Ahmed was astonishingly successful. This legend of Bengali literature has died on 19th July, 2012 in New York from colon cancer when he was only 64 years of age. He wished to die on a moonlit night and he expressed this wish many times in his writings and compositions. During his lifetime, Humayun kept fulfilling the wishes of his audience and his wishes were also always fulfilled and reflected in his unmatchable success. But with his departure, Humayun broken the hearts of millions of people. His wish of moonlit night death was not fulfilled as he died on a dark night and left us all in absolute pain.
In a few days, on 13th November, 2014, we will observe the 67th birthday of Humayun Ahmed, who has created a new generation of readers in Bangladesh over his 43 years of writing. Suddenly there seems to be an unbridgeable gap of his way of writings, his way of story telling and his way of showing life to the audience.
Many authors have already tried to follow his genre but we must say that, they have failed hideously. Readers have suddenly lost their interest in books as their favorite author is not producing any epic any more. We must recognize this loss of a reader’s generation after the sad demise of this people’s writer and in upcoming years we find no chance of bridging this emptiness. So, we not only mourn the departure of Humayun Ahmed but also the loss of his readers. We will miss the trend of long queues in book stalls at ‘Omor Ekushey Boi Mela’. We can only wish that there will be another magical writer like Humayun Ahmed though inside we know that might never happen. We will always feel for Humayun Ahmed in pain and agony and we, at least this generation, will miss him forever. On his birthday, we remember him from the deepest corner of our hearts and express our love for our favorite author as he had always loved his readers.
Kaushik Ahmed is the Associate Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA)