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Zahir Raihan

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Zahir Raihan
জহির রায়হান
Born(1935-08-19)19 August 1935
Disappeared30 January 1972 (aged 36)
StatusMissing for 52 years, 5 months and 13 days
Alma materUniversity of Dhaka
  • Filmmaker
  • novelist
  • writer
Notable workStop Genocide
  • (m. 1961; div. 1968)
  • (m. 1968)
Awardsfull list

Mohammad Zahirullah (19 August 1935 – disappeared 30 January 1972), known as Zahir Raihan, was a Bangladeshi novelist, writer and filmmaker. He is most notable for his documentary Stop Genocide (1971), made during the Bangladesh Liberation War.[1] He was posthumously awarded Ekushey Padak in 1977 and Independence Day Award in 1992 by the Government of Bangladesh.[2][3]

Early life and education[edit]

Mohammad Zahirullah was born on 19 August 1935, at Majupur, a village in the Feni Mahakuma under Noakhali district of the Bengal Presidency in British India (now Feni district in Bangladesh).[4][5] After the Partition of Bengal in 1947, he, along with his parents, returned to his village from Calcutta. He obtained his bachelor's in Bengali from the University of Dhaka. He received his postgraduate degree in Bengali literature.


Along with literary works, Raihan started working as a journalist, when he joined Juger Alo in 1950. Later, he also worked in newspapers, namely Khapchhara, Jantrik, and Cinema. He also worked as the editor of Probaho in 1956.[6] His first collection of short stories, titled Suryagrahan, was published in 1955. He worked as an assistant director on the Urdu film Jago Hua Savera in 1957.[7] This was his first direct involvement in film. He also assisted Salahuddin in the film Je Nadi Marupathe. The filmmaker Ehtesham also employed him on his film E Desh Tomar Amar, for which he wrote the title song. In 1960, he made his directorial début with Kokhono Asheni, which was released in 1961. In 1964, he made Pakistan's first colour film, Sangam, and completed his first CinemaScope film, Bahana, the following year.

Raihan was an active supporter of the Bengali Language Movement of 1952 and was present at the historical meeting of Amtala on 21 February 1952. He was among the first group of people who got arrested on the day. The effect of the Bengali Language Movement was so strong on him that he used it as the premise of his landmark film Jibon Theke Neya. He also took part in the 1969 Mass uprising in East Pakistan.[8]

In the immediate aftermath of the March 1971 start of the Bangladesh Liberation War, Raihan made the documentary Stop Genocide.[9] Before that he was making his first English film, “Let There Be Light." He abandoned the project and made his most notable work, the documentary “Stop Genocide," depicting the horrendous atrocities of the Pakistani forces. Critic Ziaul Haq Swapan calls it the start of the history of Bangladeshi documentaries and describes it as "a vehement protest against the Pakistan army’s pogrom in Bangladesh". Raihan also made the documentary A State is Born during the war.[10] Raihan went to Calcutta during the conflict, where his film Jibon Theke Neya was shown. His film was highly acclaimed by Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen, and Tapan Sinha. Though he was in financial difficulties at the time, he gave all his money from the Calcutta showing to the Freedom Fighters trust.[11]

Personal life[edit]

His father's name was Mohammad Habibullah. His mother's name was Syeda Sufia Khatun. He had an elder brother named Shahidullah Kaiser. Raihan had been married twice, to Sumita Devi in 1961 and Shuchonda in 1968, both of whom were film actresses. With Sumita he had two sons, Bipul Raihan and Anol Raihan. Again with Shuchonda, had also two sons named Opu Raihan and Topu Raihan.


Raihan went missing on 30 January 1972, when he was trying to locate his brother, a notable writer Shahidullah Kaiser, who was captured and presumably killed by the Pakistan army and/or local collaborators during the final days of the liberation war.[12] It is believed that he was killed with many others when armed Bihari collaborators and soldiers of the Pakistan Army who were hiding fired on them when they went to Mirpur, a suburb of the capital city of Dhaka that was one of few strongholds for Pakistani/Bihari collaborators at that time.[12]



  • Shesh Bikeler Meye (A Girl in the Late-Afternoon)
  • Trishna (Thirst)
  • Hajar Bachhar Dhare (For Thousand Years)
  • Arek Phalgun (Another Spring)
  • Baraf Gala Nadi (River of Melted Ice)
  • Ar Kato Din (How Many More Days)
  • Kayekti Mrityu (A Few Deaths)
  • Ekushey February (21 February)

Short stories[edit]

  • Sonar Harin (The Golden Deer)
  • Shomoyer Prayojane (For the Need of Time)
  • Ekti Jigyasa (One Question)
  • Harano Balay (The Lost Ring)
  • Badh (The Protest)
  • Suryagrahan (The Solar Eclipse)
  • Naya Pattan (The New Foundation)
  • Bhangachora (The Broken)
  • Aparadh (The Crime)
  • Swikriti (The Congratulations)
  • Ati Parichito (Very Familiar)
  • Ichchha Anichchha (Wish or No Wish)
  • Janmantar (Reincarnation)
  • Poster
  • Ichchhar Agune Jwalchhi (Burnt in the Fire of Wish)
  • Katogulo Kukurer Artanad (Bark of Some Dogs)
  • Kayekti Sanlap (Some Dialogues)
  • Demag (Pride)
  • Massacre
  • Ekusher Galpo (Story of 21)



Raihan at the set of the film Kokhono Asheni (1961)
Documentary films



See also[edit]



  1. ^ Khan 2012
  2. ^ একুশে পদকপ্রাপ্ত সুধীবৃন্দ [Ekushey Padak winners list] (in Bengali). Government of Bangladesh. Retrieved 23 August 2017.
  3. ^ "Independence Day Award" (PDF). Government of Bangladesh. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
  4. ^ "Profiles of martyred intellectuals". The Daily Star. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  5. ^ Dhaka, UNB (19 August 2021). "Looking back at Zahir Raihan, the legend". The Independent. Retrieved 13 January 2022.
  6. ^ "Zahir Raihan: Recalling an Intellectual". The Daily Sun. Retrieved 14 June 2017.
  7. ^ "Zahir Raihan: The unparalleled legend". The Daily Star. 19 August 2019. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  8. ^ The Daily Prothom Alo,17 August 2006
  9. ^ Ahmed Muztaba Zamal (Autumn 1999). "Battling for Neutral Ground". Cinemaya. Vol. 45. p. 14.
  10. ^ Ziaul Haq Swapan (Summer 1995). "Alive and Kicking". Cinemaya. Vol. 28–29. p. 71.
  11. ^ "Akhono Obohelito Zahir Raihan" Hossain, Amzad. The Daily Prothom Alo, 17 August 2006
  12. ^ a b c d Ferdous, Fahmim (19 February 2013). "Zahir Raihan: Capturing national struggles on celluloid". The Daily Star. Retrieved 9 November 2013.
  13. ^ Gazdar 1997, p. 250
  14. ^ Gazdar 1997, p. 251
  15. ^ a b Gazdar 1997, p. 252
  16. ^ a b Gazdar 1997, p. 253
  17. ^ a b Gazdar 1997, p. 254
  18. ^ a b Gazdar 1997, p. 257
  19. ^ a b Gazdar 1997, p. 259
  20. ^ a b Gazdar 1997, p. 268
  21. ^ Hoek 2014, p. 105: "Nadeem and Bobita ... in the Urdu film Jaltey Suraj Ke Neeche ... Directed by Zahir Raihan (though in places credited to his assistant director Nurul Hoque)."
  22. ^ Raju 2002, p. 12: "After Glimpses from Life [Jibon Theke Neya], Zahir Raihan embarked on ... Let There Be Light ... but before the film was over, the 1971 Liberation War broke out and Zahir had to postpone the project, as it turned our later, forever."
  23. ^ Gazdar 1997, p. 262
  24. ^ Gazdar 1997, p. 265
  25. ^ Gazdar 1997, p. 266


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