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An unidentified phone call and the disappearance of Zaheer Raihan

by Afonso
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Zahir Raihan went to Calcutta, India when the war of liberation started. There he started campaigning and making documentaries for the independence of Bangladesh. The famous ‘Stop Genocide’ documentary on the genocide is a product of that time. It is called one of the best documentaries in the world. The birthmark of Bangladesh is mixed in every second. The history of infinite sacrifice of the Bengali nation.

Zaheer Raihan has highlighted many things in this documentary, including the sufferings of Bengali refugees who took shelter in India during the liberation war, the massacres of the Pakistani invasion forces, the days of the provisional government of Bangladesh in India. It played an important role in shaping global public opinion in favor of freedom struggle. The documentary premiered at an undisclosed location. Expatriate Bangladesh Government Interim President Syed Nazrul Islam, Prime Minister Tajuddin Ahmed and members of the Mujibnagar Government Cabinet were present at the exhibition.

Apart from this, a few screenings of Zaheer Raihan’s film ‘Jeevan To Neya’ were held in Kolkata. Where producers like Satyajit Ray, Ritvik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen, Tapan Sinhad were present. After watching the film, Satyajit said, ‘This is a unique talent, the beginning of a new journey in films. Myfolk by a very talented filmmaker.’

Zaheer Raihan was going through dire poverty at that time. Even then, he generously donated all the money that came from the exhibition to the Freedom Fighters Fund.

Zaheer Raihan returned to Bangladesh from India after independence. Five days after the announcement of the press conference on January 25, 1972, on Sunday morning, January 30, an unknown person named Rafiq received a telephone call at his home in Kayetuli. Zaheer was told on the phone that your grandfather (Shahidullah Qaiser) is imprisoned in Mirpur-12. If you want to save Barada then go to Mirpur. Only you can save him. His film was scheduled to be screened at the Press Club that evening. But Zahir Raihan rushed to Mirpur after receiving the telephone. He was accompanied by his younger brother Zakaria Habib, cousin Shahriar Kabir, brother-in-law Babul and three others. After reaching Mirpur Section No. 2, the Indian Army, Bangladesh Army and then East Bengal Regiment and Police members stationed there asked them to stay with Zaheer Raihan’s Toyota car citing security reasons. Zaheer Raihan was not found after that.

Zaheer Raihan was only 37 years old at the time of his disappearance. In this short life, he has spread great influence in films and literature. Zaheer Raihan’s film debut was in 1957. As assistant director of the film ‘Jago Hua Savera’. The film was directed by Akhtar Jung Kardar. Then he made his debut as a director in 1961 with the film ‘Kakhno Aseni’. However, he came into the discussion a year later i.e. through the movie ‘Glass Wall’ released in 1963. It won the Best Film Award at the Pakistan Film Festival in 1965. Zaheer Raihan won the best director award.

Zaheer Raihan at the film festival held in Dhaka in 1965.  Photo: Collected

Apart from this, the films directed by Zaheer Raihan include ‘Kajal’, ‘Behula’, ‘Jiwan To Neya’, ‘Anowara’, ‘Sangam’ and ‘Bahana’. The film ‘Jeena To Neya’ portrayed the autocratic rule of Pakistan through a symbolic story. Even in this territory, the journey of color film started with the hand of Zaheer Raihan. His Urdu film ‘Sangam’ was Pakistan’s first color film.

In 1961, Zaheer Raihan got married to film actress Sumita Devi. He took actress Suchanda as his second wife in 1968. Zaheer Raihan has three sons in two families – Bipul Raihan, Anal Raihan and Tapu Raihan. All three of them are associated with films.


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