Today marks the 47th death anniversary of one of the brightest and shortest living stars of Bangladesh’s film industry, Zahir Raihan. On this day of 1972, at the age of 36, he disappeared after going to search for his elder brother Shahidullah Kaiser, another famous and acclaimed writer of Bangladesh, in the mass killing site of Mirpur. Raihan’s death has still remained a mystery. He was the first person in the independent Bangladesh to go missing.
Zahir Raihan was born on 19th August, 1935 in Feni. He along with his family remained in East Pakistan after the partition in 1947. He completed his graduation from Bangla Department of the Dhaka University. He worked as a journalist in a number of newspapers including Juger Alo and Probaho.
His first edition of short story got published in 1955. He engaged in the film industry as an assistant in the film ‘’Jaago Hua Savera”. “Kokhono Asheni” was his directorial debut. Zahir later married the actress of the film Sumita Devi. Together they have two sons, Bipul Raihan and Onol Raihan.
In 1964 he made the first color film of Pakistan, “Sangam” in Urdu. In the following year he released his first cinematic film “Bahana”.
Zahir Raihan was a lead activist of the Language Movement of 1952. He was present in the historic Aamtola gathering. He was one of the 10 students who were imprisoned for actively participating in the Language Movement. The movement for language had a great impact upon him which has also been reflected in his celebrated cinema ‘’Jibon Theke Neya’’. In Calcutta, there were a number of screenings of his film praised by the legends like Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Tapan Sinha and Ritwik Ghatak. In spite of living in extreme poverty, he donated all the money he received from his film exhibitions to the freedom fighters’ funds.
Zahir Raihan took characters from the daily life of the common people and presented the oppression through symbolic expressions. He produced a documentary film on the Liberation War named “Stop Genocide”. While he was filming the documentary, he was opposed not only by the Pakistani rulers, but also by the Bangladeshi counterparts as well.
Zahir also married Shuchanda who was the second lead actress of his film ‘’Jibon Theke Neya”. Shuchanda is the sister of other two superstars of Bengali film industry, Babita and Champa.
When Zahir Raihan returned home on 17th December 1971, he was informed that his elder brother Shahidullah Kaiser, who was a father figure to him, had gone missing. He went insane and looked every possible corner of the city for his brother.
Raihan worked tirelessly to find the names of the Razakars who were involved in the killing of the intellectuals of the 14th December. He arranged a press conference and declared to reveal the names and faces of those who were involved in the murders of the intellectuals.
On 30th December, 1972 Zahir Raihan received a call stating that his brother had been kept in a cell in Mirpur and that he had to come in person to save his brother. Zahir Raihan went to search for his brother in capital’s Mirpur area and was never to be seen or heard again. It is believed that he was killed in Mirpur by Pakistani soldiers in hiding and their Bihari collaborators while looking for the body of his brother at the Mirpur mass grave where many intellectuals were killed and buried.
Zahir Raihan lived only 36 years before he disappeared on January 30, 1972, but left his mark in the heart of every patriotic Bangladeshi with his great works.