A versatile talent, Gazi Mazharul Anwar has been involved in the music scene since the 1960s. He once ruled the roost by copiously supplying the movie industry with strings of hits. His lyrics had mass appeal and they, along with his works as a director and cultural activist, turned him into an icon. Karoby Shihab of New Age spoke to him to trace his ascent to fame.
Living legend Gazi Mazharul Anwar, at once a film director, producer, lyricist, screenwriter and music director, was born in February 22, 1943 to lawyer Mozammel Hossain and Khodeja Begum in Daudkandi, Comilla.
He grew up in Comilla town and completed his schooling from Comilla Zilla School.
At early age he got involved in cultural activities. He used to write for the wall magazine in his school. The headmaster of the school gave him the responsibility of the magazine itself. That was the beginning. He was very good at it. Later Gazi Mazharul Anwar found that he had started enjoying writing.
On the other side, Gazi Mazharul Anwar’s grandfather and grandmother had a strict order to their children and grandchildren that they must visit the village during the holidays.
Gazi Mazharul Anwar used to go to the village with his family and other siblings at a certain time of the year. To entertain the kids, the grandfather used to arrange cultural programmes like jatra pala, musical drama and others, in the front yard of the home.
Performers used to entertain them all night long.
‘One day my grandfather asked me if I could remember the lyrics from a performance of the last night. If I could sing anything from that, he would reward me with Taka 5. I somehow managed to remember few lines and my grandfather gave me the reward. That was my first earning.’ laughed Gazi Mazharul Anwar as he harks back to his childhood days.
However, after completing school, he started his intermediate course in Comilla Victoria College. Gazi Mazharul Anwar became the cultural secretary of the college. He started writing for different papers and periodicals.
‘Jokhon ami chhotto chhilam, doyel koyel pakhay chhilam, boichi boner shakhay chhilam — these are the first few lines from my first poem. I was published in a paper, but now I cannot recall the name of that paper,’ recalls Gazi Mazharul Anwar.
He gradually became popular for his writings. But he had a regret that he shared with New Age.
‘When the language movement started in 1952, I was only 11 or 12. So I could not get involved in the movement for my age. This is one of my biggest regrets,’ added the veteran.
With this regret Gazi Mazharul Anwar started to address the language movement in his songs. Later he wrote the poem on 1952 titled ‘Pagol ta khepechhe’. He got huge appreciation from the University of Dhaka.
Meanwhile, he finished his college education. His family had a pharmaceutical business. His father Mozammel Hossain wanted him to be a doctor and take over the business. To please his father, Gazi Mazharul Anwar got admitted to Dhaka Medical College.
But he still could not see himself as a doctor. So, he also took admission in Jagannath College to study.
He continued to attend both institutions. In this second year of medical study, he had to face the dissection of a dead human body and note down the detail of the organs. Gazi Mazharul Anwar could not bear the trauma and he was sure that he could not grow up to be a doctor.
‘At that time one of my female classmate helped me. She did the dissection for me,’ recalls the maestro.
When at Dhaka Medical College, authorities arranged a drama for the students and Gazi Mazharul Anwar was asked to write a song for the drama. He happily accepted the challenge and penned a song titled ‘Bujhechi moner bone rong legeche.’
Farida Yasmin rendered the song both in the drama and radio. But Gazi Mazharul Anwar was hurt as radio did not announce the name of the lyricist. He was took offence and decided to create his own identity.
He started visiting radio on a regular basis. One day singer Ferdousi Rahman spotted him and she arranged a meeting with the composer, music director and singer Abdul Ahad. He was a scholar from Rabindra Bharati. But the meeting was not a pleasant experience for Gazi Mazharul Anwar. Abdul Ahad did not want to work with him as he was very young at that time. He did not even read the lyrics.
Gazi Mazharul Anwar felt so insulted. He became more focused on his goal.
However, in 1964 BTV started its journey and he went for an audition when they were tapping for lyricists and composers through a competition. It was a team based competition. A lyricist and a composer had to form a team and they were instructed to prepare a song and present it to the jury panel.
Gazi Mazharul Anwar as a lyricist and Khandaker Nurul Alam as a composer formed a team and own the first prize. Interestingly, Abdul Ahad and Ferdousi Rahman were on the jury panel.
‘It was a memorable event of my life. The person who once rejected me once had only words of praised for what I accomplished that day.’ said the living legend showing a glint of delight in his face.
Later music composer Satya Saha asked him to write for the film industry.
Satya Saha introduced Gazi Mazharul Anwar with filmmaker Subhash Dutta. In the first meeting, Subhash Dutta was not impressed by young Gazi Mazharul Anwar’s look and refused to give him a chance to write for his films.
Later, when Subhash Dutta hummed a tune Satya Saha was impressed by the lyric Gazi Mazharul Anwar had penned.
‘Akasher haate ache ek rash nil’ was the song that impressed Subhash Dutta and Gazi Mazharul Anwar got instant recognition in the film industry as a song writer with this number. He never had to look back again following the success of this song.
‘Later all the famous music directors including Subal Das, Khandaker Nurul Alam, Altaf Mahmud hinged their careers on my lyrics,’ says Gazi Mazharul Anwar.
On the academic arena, his studies led to the master’s degree from Jagannath College. His father was unhappy with him as he failed to fulfill his dream.
Gazi Mazharul Anwar was too devoted to the industry by then. He, along with Satya Saha, Dilip Biswas, Azizur Rahman took an initiative to make a film. Shabana and Uzzal acted in the film titled ‘Somadhan’. The film was a super hit. The film was released right before the liberation war in 1971.
Later, during the liberation war, Gazi Mazharul, along with other lyricists and composers, started producing songs to inspire the freedom fighters. They had to risk their lives as often Pakistani armies used to raid their homes looking for them.
Pakistan government listed 21 film industry people for execution and Gazi Mazharul Anwar was one of them. He had to take shelter in different places during the war yet he did not stop fighting through his songs.
‘Joy bangla banglar joy,’ the ground-breaking song that succinctly articulated the spirit of the war, was produced at the time. It served as the opening song of Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra, the radio station of the embryonic country.
‘I have lost about seven thousand songs during the war. Pakistani military burnt every single paper. I could not recover those. It breaks my heart just thinking about it,’ shared the multitalented war veteran in an emotion-chocked voice.
Gazi Mazharul Anwar wrote over 25,000 songs till date — highest number of songs written by an individual in this subcontinent.
Numerous patriotic songs like ‘Ek nodi rokto periye,’ ‘Swajan harano diner smarane,’ Ektara tui desher kotha,’ ‘Ekbar jete dena,’ ‘Amay jodi proshno koro’ and others were penned right after the country gained its independence.
Besides these songs, super hit film songs like ‘Hayre hay miss Lanka,’ ‘Chokher nazar emni koira,’ ‘Onek shadhonar pore ami,’ ‘Ami rajanigandha phuler moto,’ ‘Ei mon tomake dilam,’ ‘Aguner din shesh hobe ekdin,’ ‘Shobai to bhalobasha chay’ and others are the gifts that Bangladesh music industry got from Gazi Mazharul Anwar.
He was the lyricist of numerous popular movies included Bhat De, Orunodoyer Ogni Shakkhi, Biyer Phul, Madam Phuli, Dipu Number Two, Beder Meye Jyotsna, Premer Tajmahal, Phul Nebo Na Osru Nebo and others.
He has directed and produced more than 30 films including Shasti, Khuda, Samor, Amma, Jibaner Golpo and others.
He has been writing playback songs for more than five decades. For his contribution to the music and film industry Gazi Mazharul Anwar has been awarded with countless awards along with prestigious National Film Award in best lyricist category for the sixth times in best lyricist category in 1992, 1996, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2016. In 2016, he was awarded for writing the lyrics of ‘Amar mathay jato chul’ in Nader Chowdhury’s film Meyeti Ekhon Kothay Jabey.
‘The National Film Award is the most prestigious recognition for an artiste in the music arena. I am grateful to the authorities for the honour. I also want to thank the people of my country for supporting me all these years when the industry is experiencing a difficult time,’ said Gazi Mazharul Anwar.
For writing ‘Joy Bangla Banglar Joy’, he received the first President’s Award in Bangladesh from Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Among other prestigious awards, he won Zia Gold Medal and Ekushey Padak.
‘My father was unhappy with me. But, after I won the Ekushey Padak my father changed his perception. He was at his last stage after he fell ill with age-related complications and was in a hospital. He gave me a hug and said that I have proven my worth. Now he feels proud of me. This was one of the happiest moments of my life that my father finally accepted me,’ Gazi Mazharul Anwar shared in an emotion-laden voice.
He also got recognition from other countries.
His countless hit songs were rendered by renowned singers like Sabina Yasmin, Kanak Chapa, Badshah Bulbul, Shahnaz Rahmatullah, Khurshid Alam, Mitali Mukharjee, Kumar Sanu and others, the industry darlings whose popularity soared during the time his career also thrived.
With the silver screen icons, Gazi Mazharul Anwar had the opportunity to work with actors of many generations. Starting from the super stars of the early year in Dhaka such as Shabana, Razzak, to new generation actors like Salman Shah, Shabnoor, Moushumi and other prominent actors have lip-synched to the songs he penned.
Following independence, in September 24, 1972 Gazi Mazharul Anwar married Zohara Gazi.
Zohara Gazi has achieved numbers of prizes in the sports arena. She was a famous face during the Pakistan period for her stellar performance in different sector of sports. She was involved with few magazines too. But, after their two children — Sharfaraz Mehedi Anwar and Nusrat Farha Anwar — were born, Zohara decided to concentrate on family matters.
‘My wife supported me a lot. Just because her sacrifice I could concentrate more on my profession. Without her support it would not have been possible to be the person I am today,’ said Gazi Mazharul Anwar.
His son Sharfaraz Mehedi Anwar is now a successful industrialist and daughter Nusrat Farha Anwar has become a leading cultural personality. Both are working in preserving the creations of their father, said the proud father.
Gazi Mazharul Anwar has been involved in the local film industry for over five decades. He has witnessed all the ups and downs that went into shaping its past and present.
‘No matter what the odds, dedicated artistes, directors and producers have always continued working for the betterment of the film industry,’ he said.
Gazi Mazharul Anwar entered the cultural arena in back in 1963-64 with radio and television as his vehicle. In 1967, he began writing playback songs for films. Many years have passed and the film industry has drastic changes.
There was a time when people used to wait for new movie to release and going to the cinema hall was still part of urban middle class cultural life. But, nowadays things have changed. According to the critics, the quality has dropped, things have lost their vigour. Why is this happening? What does Gazi Mazharul Anwar think?
He replies in lamenting voice, ‘Sadly the industry is going through a difficult time. Divisions and infightings among the artistes are hampering the progress of the industry. Besides I think films, their stories, could not connect to the viewers anymore.’
He hastens to add, ‘People should study more before producing anything. Nowadays songs have melody but they lack the magic of the combination of music and lyrics. I hope that the crisis will end as I feel there will be solutions at the hands of the young, educated and talented filmmakers and actors who are now working in this industry.’
Gazi Mazharul Anwar wants to help the newcomers as much as he can. He always encourages the newly initiated into this arena to come to him for hands-on learning and suggestions. He loves to share his knowledge.
Photos by Abdullah Apu
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