His was not the dulcet tones of a father, but one inflected with grit and power. His was a voice that never failed to assume command over his audience. His was a voice that would transcend his typecast role, transforming even the intimidating landlord (in “Sangsaptak”) into someone who brought into play a lot more than just the quintessential baddie.
Khalil Ullah Khan, the powerful actor of Bangla films, passed away on this day last year, ending a career in acting that spanned more than five decades, and creating a void that could never be filled.
The story of his life in itself would make a formidable plot for a 1950s film. A young Ansar officer in the early 1950s was suspended from service following an altercation with a union board chairman. Despite financial hardship, he did not let go of his passion for acting, and was gradually picked up by a film producer. When he was offered the hero's role, His infuriated father (who was a religious person) ousted him from his house. The film, however, was a success and his acting career took off therewith.Khalil began his acting career for the big screen in 1953 through “Sonar Kajol”. The film was produced by Masud Chowdhury – who discovered him – and directed jointly by Kalim Sharafi and Zahir Raihan.
During the early days of his career in the early 1950s, he was deeply into theatre. After being originally cast for Masud Chowdhury's “Preet Jane Na Reet” (opposite Shabnam, with whom he would go on to form a successful screen pair), he was replaced by the romantic hero Rahman who seriously injured one of his legs in an accident during the shoot. So Khalil was re-cast in the film.
He never had to look back since then. He starred in Pakistan's first colour film – Zahir Raihan's “Sangam” – and became a successful lead actor, working in 11 films, before being detached from the filmdom for a while as Urdu films saw a decline in the erstwhile East Pakistan in the late 1960s. But after Bangladesh's liberation, he revived his career through films such as “Utshorgo” and “Ekhane Akash Neel”. He also ventured into the small screen, most notably in “Sangsaptak” and “Bhangoner Shobdo Shuni”, and appeared in numerous adverts as well.
Spending his childhood in Sylhet, Khalil's love for acting had blossomed early. He was given his job as an Ansar officer back in 1977 – a year after he'd won the National Film Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for “Gunda” – and served the force with integrity. But he continued to work in films.
The actor was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement at the National Film Awards 2012.
His unique voice, square jaw and cold gaze will remain etched on the minds of film lovers and serve as a perennial source of inspiration for the generations of actors to come.