Veteran film director Kazi Hayat broke into the scene in the early 1980s with an unusual debut — The Father. The next two decades saw him rise to prominence in the film industry. Karoby Shihab had recently interviewed the maestro. Below are some excerpts through which to retrace this multitalented personality’s life and works.
Multitalented veteran film director Kazi Hayat is simultaneously a producer, screenwriter, scriptwriter, storywriter, dialogue writer and actor. This genius was born in village Tarail of Gopalganj to the couple Kuti Mia Kazi and Afroza Begum.
Kazi Hayat is the eldest among six children of the couple.
He was born with the name ‘Hayat Ali Kazi’, later he became Kazi Hayat when he entered the film industry.
He mentioned about having two birth dates. Kazi Hayat was born into a modest family. His father was a farmer and mother was a housewife, so nobody noted the exact date and year to celebrate his birthday.
During the school registration one of his teachers made up a date and year to fill up the form. That was February 15, 1947.
Later Hayat discovered his actual birth date and year was April 13, 1948.
However, his education started in the village institution, directed by a person named Hrishikesh Mukherjee, where he learnt the basics.
‘I can still remember we used to write on palm leaves with bamboo sticks soaked in ink. My mother used to prepare this for me,’ said Kazi Hayat, harking back to his childhood days.
Later he got admitted to Primary Model School and he again took admission in Fokra Madan Mohan Academy, where he finished his SSC.
Since school days, Kazi Hayat developed a desire to be involved in cultural activities. He used to take part in recitations and stage plays on a regular basis.
Besides these, he was a regular viewer of the village programmes like Ram jatra, kabigaan, jatrapala and other forms of traditional performance.
‘When I was in class four, I took part in the recitation competition for the first time. But when I stood on the stage, I was very nervous seeing houseful of audience and my memory failed me. I started crying after that,’ the veteran film director recalled.
But young Kazi Hayat was persevering, so he decided to overcome his fear and later he proved his talent.
However, his parents and relatives wanted him to be a chartered accountant. But from that tender age, Kazi Hayat started dreaming of becoming a filmmaker. The thought of any other career never crossed his mind.
‘I visited Khulna with one of my uncles and we watched a film named Sagarika at a cinema hall. I told my uncle that I want to make films like this. He said I could not because we didn’t have enough money,’ Kazi Hayat related.
He finished his intermediate-level education from Ramdia Sree Krishna College and enrolled to avail the bachelor of commerce degree in accounting. In 1967, he was elected as the vice-present of students’ union of his college.
During that time he raised his voice against corruption and the administration expelled him and gave him force transfer certificate.
However Kazi Hayat decided to move to Dhaka city after the incident. He got admission in the TNT Night College but he could not cope with his fellow students and the environment he faced there.
His friend from Gopalganj, who was a student of Jagannath College, suggested that he should get admission in a regular college. Accordingly, he got transferred to Jagannath College.
Kazi Hayat followed his friend’s suggestion and again started his education in accounting though he failed to acquire pass marks in the final examinations.
As he failed, he decided to go back to his village and started roaming around his previous college campus.
In the meantime, in 1971, the war began. Kazi Hayat was still in his village. The situation worsened and in that vulnerable situation people started fleeing from the cities and flocked to the villages.
In that restless period, he, along with others, started helping refugees in their area. Later he went to India to train as a freedom fighter. Trainers didn’t allow him to go out in the battle fields as he was very thin and weak.
‘Though I could not join the battle directly, I worked in the camps,’ Kazi Hayat shared his memory of the liberation war.
Later, after the independence of Bangladesh, principal of Ramdia Sree Krishna College asked him to complete his education from that institute and Kazi Hayat availed of this opportunity and completed his bachelor degree from that college. He later acquired his master’s in commerce from Jagannath College.
All these years he did not abandon his goal to be involved in the film industry. Through sheer luck, he got a chance to work with Momtaz Ali in his film ‘Ke Ashol Ke Nokol’ as the chief assistant director in 1974.
Kazi Hayat worked in Momtaz Ali’s ‘Shonar Khelna’ as well.
Later he had to take a break as he was not getting any offers from other directors. At that time he auditioned for the radio and joined as an announcer of a programme titled ‘NobinKontho’. Later he was promoted to be engaged in the main programmes, but could not continue as he had to visit Golapganj following his mother’s sudden demise in 1976.
After few days, Kazi Hayat returned to Dhaka and another renowned director Alamgir Kabir asked him to assist in a movie that was half way into shooting. He helped in shooting it till the end and also in editing it. Thus Kazi Hayat’s name became forever attached the film Shimana Periye which was shot in 1977.
After assisting few directors, Kazi Hayat got married to Romisha Hayat, sister of music composer Azad Rahaman. He was preparing for his first film and went to Azad Rahaman’s home for some reason. There he saw Romisha for the first time and he proposed. Later they got married.
The couple has two children namely Kazi Rubiat Maruf and Kazi Afroza Mim.
As a father, Kazi Hayat wanted his son to act in films. So Kazi Maruf appeared in several films as the lead character though he did not continue his acting career. At present, Kazi Maruf is living in America and Kazi Afroza Mim is involved with an educational institution.
However Kazi Hayat debuted as a film director in 1979 with a film that explored out of the box ideas — it was ‘The Father’.
John Napier Adams, an American expatriate and IT consultant who was working for USAID in Bangladesh acted in the film. The film also stared Suchorita, Bulbul Ahmed, Shaukat Akbar, Tele Samad and others.
Azad Rahaman was the music director of that film. Shammi Akhtar, Khurshid Alam and Runa Laila rendered the songs of the film, which became instant hits.
When the film was being shot, many people from the film industry taunted him saying he is making something rubbish. But later as the film was appreciated by the masses, film giants also praised Kazi Hayat for his unusual film.
He used to be inspired by the positive words and was preparing himself for the long run.
At that time, there were two cine-papers named Chitrali and Purbani. They used to publish interviews of the film directors whose films were being released. Kazi Hayat was dreaming to be interviewed in those newspapers.
‘I was preparing myself to face the interview as I was sure that journalists will come to me to know about my film. I even rehearsed the answers in my head. I used to roam around in front of the journalists to draw their attention in FDC. But none approached me,’ Kazi Hayat shared his painful memory about his first film.
‘The day of the interview never came. The film got released without the director’s interview. I was heartbroken. Even my wife was asking me about the interview and I had to lie to her,’ he added again.
However he started his career as film director since then and never looked back.
Kazi Hayat is one of the most successful directors of Bangladesh.
His second film is ‘Rajbari’. This film was based on story ‘Khudita Pashan’ penned by Rabindranath Tagore. Anjana Rahman, Sohel Rana acted in the film. It was released in 1984.
Kazi Hayat informed that he did not complete the production of the film as he was facing some issues with others in the films.
However, he became busy with directing films on a regular basis. He directed back to back commercial films.
In 1980, Kazi Hayat directed ‘Dildar Ali’. He showed off his excellent directorial technique in the film named ‘Traash’ and ‘Chandabaaz’ in 1993. He made a blockbuster film ‘Shipahi’ in 1994. In 1997 Kazi Hayat made a wave through his hugely successful film ‘Loot-toraj’.
After years in the film industry, many other successful movies followed — ‘Ammajan’, ‘Itihash’, ‘Minister’, ‘Kabuli Wala’ etcetera — blockbusters that sealed his reputation as successful filmmaker. Apart from direction, he has acted in different roles in different films like ‘Pitar Ashon’, ‘Dehorokkhi’, ‘Rangbaz’, ‘Chalbaz’, ‘Apon Manush’ and others.
Kazi Hayat has directed 49 films till date. For his long career in the film industry, he has been awarded with various prestigious awards in different times.
He won Bangladesh National Film Awards eight times respectively for best story for ‘Dayi Ke’ (1987), best dialogue and best screenplay for ‘Traas’ (1992), best story for ‘Chandabaz’ (1993), best director and best screenplay for ‘Deshpremik’ (1994), best cinematography for ‘Ammajan’ (1999), and best director for ‘Itihas’ (2002).
Besides, he has won Bashas awards for three times for ‘Dayi Ke’, ‘Ammajan’ and ‘Itihash’.
At present, Kazi Hayat has a film in his hand named ‘Bir’, where Shakib Khan is playing the lead role.
The legend passes his free time by writing poetry. Besides, he has created a Youtube channel named ‘Thought of Kazi Hayat’ where he uploaded contents which represents his thoughts on film and life.
He has directed many films all these years. Could he yet direct the film which is his favorite?
Kazi Hayat replied, ‘Films are like children for the directors. I love all my works, but I still hope to make two films through which I think people will remember me even after my death. In these films I want to depict two stories, one about a woman facing sexual harassment in her every steps of her life, another about the life of a boy who is in search of peace.’
‘People will get to watch the two films with one ticket. I still dream about these two films in my mind,’ he observed.
On culture and its function, Kazi Hayat has an array of suggestions.
Revisiting his own days, he said, ‘It was part of our education system and students participation in cultural activities was compulsory. I have taken part every year in the annual stage drama. Nowadays educational institutes don’t have this practice anymore,’ he said.
He thinks if children get involved in cultural practices from their childhoods, the social values will be automatically be inculcated in them.
Kazi Hayat wants to draw attention of government to instruct the educational institute to include some essential cultural elements into the education system. He again said that a budget should be fixed for that particular purpose.
‘This way the students will be able to keep themselves engaged in good things. Apart from developing skills they will have healthy entertainment,’ he argued.
‘A culturally involved person is much more sophisticated than others. They develop sound moral values alongside skills. The sense of helping others grows in them and they become more human,’ Kazi Hayat pointed out by way of suggestions for the new generation.
On current state of the film industry, Kazi Hayat felt that there were lots of talented filmmakers in our industry. ‘But,’ he explained, ‘Most of them are concentrating on making films for the international award programmes. They are also not giving time to commercial films.’
Kazi Hayat thinks that the young filmmakers should use their talent to prove that commercial films can be something of value as well. Only commercial films can bring viewers back to cinema halls again.
‘If we are able to save the cinema halls, it will breathe new life into the industry and to save the cinema halls commercial films are needed,’ said Kazi Hayat.
Film is a form of art. Kazi Hayat requested the artistes involved with the industry to be helpful to each other, to be caring and to spread positive vibes across its length and breadth.
Lastly, he mentioned about the ‘power of appreciation’.
‘Every good piece of work should be appreciated. Appreciation inspires someone to do better and develop. When I started my career, luckily I had the blessings of few persons. They used to appreciate and guide me. I am grateful to them. For their support and courage, I could be the person I have become today,’ said Kazi Hayat.
Photos by Abdullah Apu
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