Chasi Nazrul Islam

Trying to become Dilip Kumar
Chashi Nazrul Islam tells Mushfique Wadud that his films on the war of independence are his greatest achievement and reveals where he got his very original name

Little Tinu goes to Mumbai to become a hero like Dilip Kumar, though he has no idea about the place and does not know anyone there.

He leaves his home without letting anyone know of his journey to Mumbai. In Mumbai he meets a well-wisher who tells him to return after completing his Masters degree, after which she would help him become a hero. Tinu returns to his home in Jamshedpur , India .

Little Tinu was veteran filmmaker Chashi Nazrul Islam. ‘When Dilip Kumar came to Dhaka , I told him that it was he for whom I left home at a very little age and who inspired me to enter film industry. He did not believe me,’ Chashi Nazrul says. ‘When Dilip Kumar said “Chashi bhai, I am very happy to meet you”, I think it was my great achievement since I left home to become a hero like him,’ he laughs.

Chashi reveals that his unusual name originates from his childhood dislike for the nickname Tinu. One day, his uncle took him to Sher-e-Bangla’s house. Sher-e-Bangla did not like his name and renamed him Chashi Nazrul Islam, taken from his uncle’s name Chashi Imamuddin and Kazi Nazrul Islam who were there at Sher-e-Bangla’s house at that time.

Born on October 23, 1941 in Bikrampur, Chashi Nazrul Islam is the eldest of four brothers and two sisters. His father was a service holder in Jamshedpur . When he was sixteen years old, his father died, leaving all the responsibilities for this big family on Chashi’s shoulders. The first change that happened was the end of his education.

‘After passing A Levels, I could not continue,’ he says. His maternal uncle was deputy auditor general of Pakistan that time. He helped his nephew to get a job in the Auditor General Office. The salary was 110 rupees. ‘With this job I got the opportunity to stay in Dhaka , which played a very important role for me in becoming a film director,’ he says.

Chashi was not regular in the office. He would usually not go in to work for whole months, only coming in on salary day to pick up his pay. On that day, when he walked in, all the other employees would burst into laughter. But one colleague, Zahid Hossain, backed him, saying ‘If one employee does not work, what will happen? He is doing cultural work and we all should support him.’

‘With Zahid bhai’s support, and since my uncle was the deputy auditor general of Pakistan I got the chance to concentrate more on cultural work,’ Chashi says.

He spent most of his time at theatre. He assisted famous actors of that time – Ali Monsur Ahmed, Kazi Khaleque, Tulip, Mukta Akbar, Hasan Imam and many more. ‘I helped them and sometimes I performed some less important roles,’ he says. Chashi was a member of Krishti Sangha that time. ‘You can say that is the start of my cultural journey.’

As a child, he was famed as a singer, dancer, Jatra performer and cultural activist in his birth place, Jamshedpur . And he used to watch many Dilip Kumar films. ‘I was adamant to watch any newly released movie by Dilip Kumar. Sometimes I even sold my books and stole my friends’ books to sell so I could manage money to watch movies,’ he recalls, laughing.

One day Chashi got a show cause letter asking why he should not be dismissed. ‘I then lost that luxuries job. But that job played a very important role in my life,’ he says.

After being so deservedly sacked, Chashi regularly made radio programmes in 1965. He voiced the radio drama Ramer Sumoti (1965) and also performed in Socrates (1966). He was also involved in direction of these two dramas. Radio was the first media where he started his work. In 1974, he directed Sokhina Birongona on Bangladesh Betar.

‘That was the first and last radio drama for famous actress Suchonda. She performed there on my sincere request,’ he says.

Chashi started his work in visual media in 1964. He was selected through a television audition. ‘Many of my mentors were not selected but I was chosen for my pronunciation,’ he says. Then Chashi got the chance to work as an assistant director in Obaidur Rahman’s film Dui Digonto. After that, he assisted veteran filmmaker Fateh Lohani.

‘Syed Awal helped me find work as assistant director with some good directors. I worked as an assistant director in many movies. And in this way I learned the techniques of making film,’ he says.

‘Now I have nothing to achieve. I now direct movies to satisfy myself,’ he says. He has won many awards for his outstanding work, including the Ekushey Padak, the Jatiyo Cholochitro Padak and Jagadish Chandra Basu Gold Medal.

As for today’s upcoming filmmakers, he says some are doing well, but feels that more talented young people must come to the film industry. About the debate of mainstream film and alternate films, Chashi says ‘No one should debate about this. Every movie should be a mainstream movie.’

Commenting on some filmmakers who receive international awards though their work is unknown to their home country, he says ‘Films must be for people. If people do not like what is the point of getting an award?’

When the liberation war started Chashi participated in the war. He met many cultural activists in the war. At that time he thought if Bangladesh was freed he would make a movie. ‘I witnessed the war and it is easy for me to visualise. So I started with the liberation-based film Ora Egaro Jon.’

Chashi has directed a total of six liberation war-based movies, of which Songram, Hangor Nodi Grenade, Megher Por Megh are very remarkable. In all, he has directed 26 movies and three documentaries. He also concentrates on literature-based movies. Devdas was his most famous one. At the age of 68, Chashi does not intend to leave off directing movies. His film Dui Purush is about to be released. And now he is working on Ekaturer Ekti Raat and Ishakha.

Chashi is proud of his work, as his movies are a source of learning for the young generation. ‘Many youth who did not see the war of independence know about it by watching my films. This is my great achievement.’

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