He who told the best tales ... | The Daily Star
12:10 AM, November 13, 2013 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:15 AM, November 13, 2013

He who told the best tales ...

Recalling Humayun Ahmed's TV plays

"> Behind-the-scenes of “Kothao Keu Nei”.

In the early part of the nineties, when we were growing up, television entertainment had a different meaning. Most of the shows we would enjoy on BTV were not 'our' productions: be it the foreign shows like “The Girl From Tomorrow” or “McGyver” or Mustafa Monwar's morning puppet show, and the cartoons that aired in the afternoon. So, the time in front of TV was also very specified and limited, as the elders in the house would not enjoy these as much as we. What they took more interest in were at the pre-dinner time, when Bengali drama serials would air. My first encounter of that sort was with “Kothao Keu Nei”, a TV spot I recognised as the show with Baker bhai on it. While the exact stories are unclear in my memory, I remember the whole family gathering around every week for the show, and enjoying it the same, from my elderly aunt to my 4-year old me. “Hawa Mein Urrta Jaye” -- Baker bhai's (Asaduzzaman Noor) favourite song that played at the roadside tea stall where he hung around -- became a household tune; my teenage cousin sisters would argue over who pulls off Muna's (Subarna Mustafa) hairstyle better. And when, near the end, Baker bhai was convicted of a murder, I remember the discussions at the dinner table, including my father, who was not the most serious of TV-watchers.
Another show that I vaguely remember is “Ayomoy”. Set in a different background, it featured a 'Choto Mirza' (Asaduzzaman Noor, again) and his two wives played by Subarna Mustafa and Sara Zaker.
But the drama series Humayun Ahmed really had an impact on me was “Aj Robibar”. Shot almost entirely indoors in BTV's shabby studios, it was the TV highlight of me and my siblings' weekend (it would be aired on Fridays). From the simpleton Anis (Zahid Hasan), his constantly awkward encounters with Titli and Kongka (Shila Ahmed and Meher Afroz Shaon), the very moody and quirky Ali Zaker, his younger brother Asaduzzman Noor right down to their domestic help Moti Bhai (Faruk Ahmed) and Fuli, was entertaining in a way no other TV show was.

"> A scene from “Bohubrihi”
There was another of Humayun Ahmed's finest creations from that era that I got to experience later, in my late teens, which remains special. After I'd read the novel “Bohubrihi” and was discussing it with my mother, she said that it used to be a TV serial in the late 80's. After quite some searching, I got my hands on the seven episodes -- downloaded painstakingly off the internet. While I thought I wouldn't be as amazed by it as I was of my childhood TV experiences, it proved me wrong to no end. What struck me was that the ease of the story-line; every character seemed not just possible, but probable to exist; the eccentric “Mama” (portrayed by Aly Zaker) to the sly Emdad Khondokar (Abul Khair) to the widowed father of two Asaduzzaman Noor whose children are more than a handful to Kader the servant (played by Afzal Sharif), all seemed incredibly lifelike, despite the set and background being barely convincing. Near the last episodes, the story took a bold turn, speaking about the Liberation War and turning hatred against the collaborators. In a time as politically difficult as that (1988-89), he managed to coin the immortal phrase “Tui Razakar” in it.
There are all types of storytellers in the world; what made Humayun Ahmed special how easily his characters walked into the viewers' lives, how their stories became the viewers' concern. At a time when television entertainment was not as abundant, Humayun Ahmed broke out of the TV screens and touched people's hearts. And that is what will immortalise him to us, his fans.

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