Today marks the fifth death anniversary of prolific actor Khalil Ullah Khan, who left us in awe of his classy, baritone voice. His voice never failed to assume command over his audience, and would transcend his typecast role, transforming even the character of an intimidating landlord into someone who brought into play a lot more than just being a ‘villain’.
Khalil, a menacing villain in Bangla films, began his acting career on 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.
After being originally cast for Masud Chowdhury’s Preet Jane Na Reet opposite Shabnam, (with whom he would go on to later 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. Khalil was re-cast in the film after the incident.
There was no looking back for the actor after that. 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. After Bangladesh’s independence, he revived his career through films such as Utshorgo and Ekhane Akash Neel. Khalil also ventured into the small screen, most notably in Sangsaptak and Bhangoner Shobdo Shuni, and appeared in numerous adverts as well.
Having spent his childhood in Sylhet, Khalil’s love for acting 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 the film Gunda – and served the force with integrity. He continued to work in films, however, be it as the heroine’s rich father or the kingpin of a notorious gang.
With his sincerity and devotion, Khalil took Bangla cinema to a different height. He acted in more than 800 films in his career. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the National Film Awards in 2012.
His unique voice, square jaw and cold gaze will remain etched on the minds of film lovers and serve as a source of inspiration for the generations of actors to come.