There was a natural actor in Anwar Hossain. Or you could say that in him came a spontaneous presentation of life as it is generally lived. Be it the story of an ill-fated monarch or an elder son trapped in helplessness wrought by misplaced marriage, Anwar Hossain successfully persuaded everyone into taking him for who he was. And in that special way he gave to Bengali movies in our part of the world an essence that was to stand it in good stead, given particularly the competition from across the frontier.
Of course, it was his defining role in Nawab Sirajuddoulah that gave Hossain an all-time perch in the annals of Bengali cinema. He was every inch a king; and watching him in that role, all these years after 1967, when the movie was released, you tend to forget that he was one of us. In that portrayal of Sirajuddoulah's role, in that articulation of thoughts crowding into the mind of a hapless nawab, he was certainly not one of us. But --- and this is important --- when he declaims of the Bengal skies falling under the spell of darkness, he speaks for a people, for an entire race. Anwar Hossain, in that movie, was our voice of despair as evening descended in our lives. We have not known the real Sirajuddoulah, but we do understand that Sirajuddoulah was somewhat in the form of Anwar Hossain.
Anwar Hossain, as we have it from the record, was initially reluctant to don the role of the nawab. A sign of the humility, of an awareness of his own abilities or the lack of them came when he advised Khan Ata that the latter approach Ghulam Mustafa, another powerful thespian, for the role. In the end, an insistent Khan Ata persuaded Hossain into accepting the role. The rest, as the old cliché goes, is history. Anwar Hossain went on to perform other and varied roles in the world of celluloid.
For all his success as an actor, Anwar Hossain did not permit an intrusion of ego into his view of himself. Not for him a strutting about on the stage. Not for him any conscious attempt to inform the world around him, even in subtle manner, that he was around. He would not want to be regarded as a celebrity, though he was much more than that. The movies that bear his name --- before 1967 there were Palanka, Tomar Amar, Shurjo Snan, Jowar Elo, Kancher Deyal, Shutorang, Dui Digonto and others and after Nawab Sirajuddoulah there were Poroshmoni, Neel Akasher Neeche, Jibon Theke Neya, Ato Tuku Asha and a wide range of others --- remain a testimony to the versatility which he brought into Bengali filmdom. Remember his state of helplessness as the elder child of a rural family suddenly caught in marriage to an arrogant, urban woman in Ato Tuku Asha? When the physically challenged younger sibling --- in this case Altaf --- sings 'tumi ki dekhechho kobhu jiboner porajoy' --- Hossain's predicament in his role takes on greater poignancy.
Anwar Hossain brought a sense of purpose, an absolute comprehension of realism in his playing out of the many roles in his cinematic career. Not a hint of a strain was there in him; no sign of immaturity or artificiality in acting was to be detected in him. In that sense, he belonged to the world of men who made the camera live and thrive but by his leave. His deep voice, his piercing eyes and his stately gait gave his personality a dimension you do not spot in many of the actors you see around you.
It was an age that Anwar Hossain symbolized, along with his peers --- Mustafa, Syed Hasan Imam, Khalil. It was a time that will not return. And because it will not, it is the timeless in Anwar Hossain that will be a metaphor for him, now and always.