There have been a lot of great actors, or Nayaks as we say in Bangla, but only one Nayak Raj – Nayak Raj Razzak. The multiple-time National Award winner acted in more than 300 Urdu and Bangla films throughout his career.
Born on this day as Abdur Razzak in Kolkata, he spent his childhood in the city. He would be 78 years old today. His passion for acting bloomed early, as he would participate in annual plays of his school.
As his ambitions grew, he played small roles in films like Shilalipi, Pankitalok and Ratan Pal Bangali. After his attempt at shifting to Bombay (now Mumbai) and starting a Bollywood career did not work out, he came back to Kolkata. At the age of 19, he married Khairunnesa Laxmi.
In 1964, he shifted to Dhaka with his wife and son Bappa Raj. After an initial struggle, he found footing due to the help of Abdul Jabbar Khan and went on to work as an assistant director in Kamal Khan’s Ujala. At that time, he lived with his family in Kamalapur. He kept on acting as minor characters in films like Dak Babu, Kar Bou and 13 Number Feku Osthagar Lane.
However, the turning point in the actor’s career came with the film Behula, directed by Zahir Raihan. His pairing with Suchanda was an instant super-hit, and Razzak became a household name at the time. Zahir Raihan took the opportunity and created Anowara, based on Mohammad Nazibur Rahman’s novel of the same name, with the duo. The film also saw spectacular success. He was then seen in Zahir Raihan’s Shuorani Duorani.
With time, the man who had once struggled to find work, had become the most sought-after actor in the country. He could make any role believable with his outstanding presence on screen. His brilliance led to him being honoured with the nickname Nayak Raj, coined by Ahmed Zaman Chowdhury, then editor of the magazine Chitrali.
He went on to win the National Award 5 times for his roles in Ki Je Kori, Ashikkhito, Boro Bhalo Lok Chilo, Chandranath and Jogajog. In 2015, he was given the prestigious Independence Day Award by the Government of Bangladesh.
“Even though he was such an accomplished actor, he used to treat me like his brother. I have so many memories with him in get-togethers and events, where we had so many addas. Wherever he is, I hope he is in peace,” said another great actor, Farooque. Nayak Raj’s son, Samrat, has fond memories with his father. “My father is an inspiration to me. I remember times when we used to celebrate our birthdays, he was always very enthusiastic. I still miss him dearly,” he said.
Even though Razzak passed away in August 21, 2017, his legacy as one of the greatest names in Bangladesh’s film industry still inspires millions today.