"Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player, That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, And then is heard no more. It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.
These are the oft-quoted lines from Shakespeare's famous tragedy “Macbeth” and, quite extensively used in the obituary references of most actors. Khaled Khan more than deserves this quote on his passing away at a relatively young age. And his time for discovering that life was full of sound and fury was still farfetched
Khaled, a University student came to our group in 1979. He used to sit in our rehearsal room for hours on end watching the rehearsals of various plays intently. It always seemed that he was quite happy just being involved watching rehearsals and did not have any other ambition. Besides that, he used to be eagerly involved in all errands connected with theatre. Little did we know then about the talent he had for acting and direction.
His first foray into regular staging of plays did not come until our group needed a replacement of a chorus character of by far the most popular play of the group, “Dewan Gazir Kissa”, a free adaptation of “Puntila and His Man Matti” by Bertolt Brecht. This was a singing chorus and Khaled did a wonderful job in his very first appearance. To the best of my knowledge all senior members of Nagorik had an eye on Khaled and wanted to cast him in a major role. The onus, however, fell on me when I had a chance to choose for the character of Panchak in the play “Achalayatan” by Rabindranath Tagore.
Earlier, Khaled worked on the script of this play with me for days on end, sometimes well into the night. Initially I, as the director of this play, cast somebody else as Panchak. This character merited a very competent actor with the ability to sing Rabindra Sangeet. But the actor selected for this role suddenly left abroad and I was not sure if “Achalayatan” would see the light of the day.
One evening I was brooding with the idea of a possible replacement. Khaled came to me and very humbly said that he would like to give it a try. By then he had already established himself as a deserving actor with his acting acumen and ability to work hard. The rest is history. He set an example of finest acting of a Tagore play on stage through his rendition of Panchak.
That was the beginning. “The Captain of Kopernik”, “Nuroldiner Sharajibon”, “Dorpon”, “Irsha”, and “Roktokorobi” – each of these plays more than established him as one of the forerunners in acting on our stage.
I am often asked about the depth of talent Khaled had that took him so far. I would submit that more than talent it was his discipline, eagerness, love for the art and ceaseless hard work that made him what he was. This should serve as an example for the young and aspiring actors of our country. No art could be mustered effortlessly. Khaled proved that love's labour is seldom lost.
The writer is an eminent actor and director.