OBITUARY Humayun Ahmed: author and
filmmaker By Syed Tashfin
Bangladeshis across every class
this week mourned the death of novelist,
playwright and film-maker Humayun Ahmed, who
single-handedly changed the course of Bangladeshi
literature through his prolific writing. Thousands
gathered to pay their respects at the Shaheed
Minar national monument in Dhaka before his body
was laid to rest on Tuesday at Nuhash Palli, the
author's retreat outside the capital.
Ahmed, author of 200 books, including
fiction and non-fiction work, died aged 64 on July
19 in New York after nine months of
eventually succumbing to a viral infection.
Honors bestowed on Ahmed during a
four-decade writing career included the
prestigious Ekushey Padak award in 1994, one of
the country's highest civilian awards, introduced
in memory of the martyrs of the Language Movement
of 1952. He also won the Bangla Academy Award in
1981, and in 1973, a year after his first
publication, the Lekhak Shibir Prize, given in
recognition of liberal and progressive writers.
This year, he was appointed a special adviser to
the Bangladesh Mission in the United Nations by
the Bangladesh government.
was born in Kutubpur village, in the northern
district of Netrakona on November 13, 1948, to
Ayesha Fayzur. His father, Fayzur Rahman Ahmed,
was a writer in his spare time as a police officer
before being killed by the Pakistan occupation
army and its local collaborators during the
Liberation War in 1971. Ahmed started his
professional life as a chemistry lecturer at Dhaka
University after completing his masters in science
at the same institution. He later was awarded a
PhD in polymer chemistry from North Dakota State
University in the United States, but after
publication of his first novel Nondito
Noroke in 1972 -
later adapted to an acclaimed film - a writing
career lay ahead of him.
Fans in Dhaka mourn the
passing of Humayun Ahmed. Photo: Al-Emrun
Since then, Ahmed's works have been loved
and accepted by the masses due to simple yet
effective diction, quirky and relatable
characters, and interesting plots. Most of his
novels and even some non-fiction titles were
bestsellers, works such as Mayurakkhi,
Kobi and Matal Hawa attracted
readers with their trademark humor and subtle
focus on issues that affect Bangladesh society.
His work covered a broad range of genres,
from suspense to romance to paranormal thrillers.
At the same time, he was a columnist for local
Ahmed's characters, with
popularly known names such as Himu, Misir Ali and
Shubhro, had recognizable traits and individual
inner conflicts, helping the author demonstrate
his deep understanding of the middle classes
earned through constant observation and learning
from people he came across every day.
the early 1980s, Ahmed won more acclaim with his
first TV drama serial Eishob Din Ratri.
This hugely popular drama serial was followed by
others, including Ayomoy, Kothao Keu
Nei and Aaj Robibar.
author or playwright had such an unnerving
influence on his viewers and readers - although
not all his fans could recognize the difference
between reality and fiction. Kothao Keu Nei
concluded with the hanging of a much-loved
character and street gangster named Baker Bhai.
Fans urged Ahmed to change the ending - in vain.
They then demonstrated in the streets and even
held funeral services after the last episode
Most of Ahmed's short stories were
also adapted into one-shot TV plays, a highlight
particularly during the two annual Eid festivals.
In the 1980s, Ahmed made his first film,
Aguner Poroshmoni, based on the liberation
war and on his own earlier novel. The movie won
the National Film Award in eight categories,
including Best Picture and Best Director. His
illness meant he could not complete his upcoming
title Deyal, an account of the August 15,
1975, assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the
father of Bangladesh, along with most of his
Ahmed is survived by six
children, his wife - actress Meher Afroz Shaon -
and former wife Gultekin Ahmed.
Tashfin Chowdhury is the Editor of Xtra, the
weekend magazine of New Age, in Bangladesh.
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