Following a recent ruling of Bangladesh Copyright Office, Sheikh Abdul Hakim has won the bragging rights of 260 books of Masud Rana series, previously belonging to Qazi Anwar Hossain. In an interview with The Daily Star's Golam Mortoza, he shares why he wrote by the name of Qazi Anwar Hossain for all these years, what eventually prompted him to claim the rights and how it all started.
The Daily Star (TDS): When did you start writing for Masud Rana series and what was the agreement between you and Qazi Anwar Hossain?
Sheikh Abdul Hakim (SAH): It was probably in 1966 or 1967 when one day my brother came to my house and told me a plot. He said If I can write a story out of it, I will be paid Tk 100. It was a huge sum at that time and I was desperately in need of money. I spent the night writing the story and gave it to my brother Sheikh Abdur Rahman before he was about to leave for office in the morning.
He was a bit surprised and told me: "You have already written it!". I nodded and reminded him that I need the money by the evening. That evening my brother gave me the promised money and told me that Qazi Saheb (Qazi Anwar Hossain) liked my write-up. He also told me to write a story from my own imagination. I wrote that and they liked it. I had written a novel before, which I also sent to Qazi Saheb. After reading my novel, he showed interest in meeting me. When I went to his home, I saw Rahat Khan there. He appreciated my write-ups so much that I was really moved. He told me to keep on writing and I happily obliged.
TDS: Whose name was in the printer's line of those books?
SAH: Those books were published in the name of Qazi Saheb. My name was printed inside.
TDS: So, you have agreed to write this way. Why did you not oppose it?
SAH: I did not oppose at that time. After writing a few more books, I could realize that there was a lot of demand for my write-ups. So, I demanded Tk 300 for each write-up and he agreed. At one stage, I told him I will no longer write for him and returned home. After three months, he came to my home and offered me to write for Masud Rana series. My brother who was also present at that time told him (Qazi Anwar Hossain): "He can easily write; you can pay him Tk 500 for each write-up. At one point of the discussion, Qazi Saheb said: "Don't get upset, you start writing again."
I started writing again. (Along the way) so many dramatic events had taken place… I stopped writing for him on a number of occasions.
TDS: Did Qazi Anwar Hossain discuss the plot of each and every book of Masud Rana series with the writers including you?
SAH: Not all the time. He gave me a general concept while I built a story. Sometimes, I turned to him for advice. And because of that some people said I have tried to copy the style of Qazi Saheb. But that was not possible. His style of writing was very rich. It was impossible for me to emulate him. I have always tried to follow my own style. And Masud Rana is known to readers more for my style of writing. He wrote 20 books. I wrote 260. Around 2,000 copies were published during his time while it was 18,000 during my time and many books sold over one lakh copies. He paid me Tk 6,000-7,000 for each book.
TDS: Do you feel you were deprived? Qazi Anwar Hossain claimed that you have got the promised amount. He also said he paid the expenses for your bypass surgery.
SAH: He said a lot of things. He once said I did not write a single book of Kuasha series. Then he retracted and said Sheikh Abdul Hakim wrote books for both Masud Rana and Kuasha series through appointment. He never disputed that I have written 260 books. He, however, failed to show any appointment letter.
TDS: Do you claim that you were supposed to get more than what you were paid for writing books?
SAH: No, not that. I have learnt from an incident that I'm not getting the royalty that I deserved.
TDS: Were you supposed to get the royalty? Wasn't that one-off amount?
SAH: I have got the proof that he has been paying royalty to different writers for the last 36-37 years. In an interview in 2008, he said he pays royalty to each of his writers. The royalty money is deposited in the writers' names every month and they have the liberty to take the money any time they wanted.
TDS: Do you think you could have gotten similar response had the books of Masud Rana or Kuasha series been published by your name instead of Qazi Anwar Hossain?
SAH: Probably not. But had it been the case from the very beginning, it might have started slowly before picking up the pace.
TDS: Why did not you then think of carrying your name?
SAH: I did not focus on so many things at that time. I got the money and kept on writing. Never thought of carrying my name.
TDS: If you get the rights of Masud Rana series, will you bring out new books by your name?
TDS: Do you think the books will be as popular as it was before?
SAH: Definitely not. A book of Masud Rana series used to sell over one lakh copies before.
TDS: Do you have a proof of that?
SAH: Many books saw as many as 18 editions. I have got papers showing up to seven editions. Even if I count only seven editions, they would probably owe me around Tk 12 crore. I can prove that in the higher court.
TDS: What is your basic demand now?
SAH: Some might interpret it differently or a few might consider it as my weakness, but still I want to say if they properly compensate me, I will forfeit my copyright of 260 books. But those books must carry my name.
TDS: Qazi Anwar Hossain claimed Masud Rana is his series, every character is his creation.
SAH: Apart from a few characters of Masud Rana series, rest are creation of mine. There are around seven characters like Masud Rana, Rahat Khan, Sohana and Sohel Rana created by him [Qazi Anwar Hossain]. I will not keep those names.
TDS: What do you mean by proper compensation?
SAH: I have demanded Tk 4 crore. They can come and negotiate with me. But my principal demand is the rights of my own books.