He was a versatile author whose dedication to writing made him explore myriad forms of creativity, including novel, poetry, essay and film script. He was a down-to-earth writer, through whose mediation once the masses were introduced to rural and world literature on TV. He was none other than Alauddin Al Azad, who was born on May 6, 1932 and died on July 3, 2009. Azad witnessed the epoch-changing events first-hand, which informed his unique talent. Today is the 11th death anniversary of the poet.
Alauddin Al Azad’s given name was Alauddin, ‘Al Azad’ has been attached to it at one point in his life and his nickname was ‘Badsha’. His abode was in village Ramnagar of Raipura police station in the present day Narsingdi. As a child he lost his parents and his life struggle begins from that time. The financial instability of the lower-middle class families living in rural areas was one of his inheritances.
Marking the beginning of the distinctiveness of Bangladeshi literature, one of the leading author of the 1950s, Azad’s literary journey began before partition, at least in 1946. In Shraban 1353 (1946), his essay ‘Abeg’ and story ‘Janowar’, were published in ‘Saugat’ magazine famously edited by Mohammad Nasiruddin.
Azad’s literary journey started with contemplative compositions and narrative prose. He took to poetry at a later date. He also experimented with free verse, besides trying his hand in various genres. He was one of the most prolific writers of the country. He left behind twenty-four novels, one hundred and eighteen stories, twelve plays, eleven books of poetry, five essays and edited several books.
However, he earned his reputation as a poet and storyteller. The first book of stories ‘Jege Achhi’ was published in 1950. Eleven years later, his book of poems Manchitra (1961) was published.
The poem ‘Smritistambha’, which was written on February 26, 1952, at Iqbal Hall, is now considered the culmination of his poetic success. Written at the age of twenty, the poem ensured his immortality. At that time he was only a student of Dhaka University. His poetic exploration had begun even before he penned this memorable piece. At the tender age of 18, he wrote a melodic and imagery-filled poem entitled ‘Mukhbandha’.
Alauddin Al Azad wrote ‘Smritistambha’ in protest against the demolition of the first Shaheed Minar. He took part in the language movement. After the agitating students were killed after police opened fire in February 21, 1952, he conceived the first bulletin of Ekushey titled ‘With the spade of revolution we compose the grave of the oppressive regime’. Every line of this poem ‘Smritistambha’ testifies to the oath of protest and resistance that each Bengali took back then.
Among his novel, ‘Teish Nambar Tailchitra’ drew particular attention of the cognoscenti as it depicts an artist’s vulnerable beginning and lastly, his ascent to fame. It was his first novel and was first published in 1960 in the Eid issue of a magazine called Padakshep. Later, Nowroz Kitabistan published the novel in book form.
Teish Nambar Tailchitra’s remarkable success attracted the attention of the filmdom and it was made into a movie entitled ‘Basundhara’ in 1977 by Subhash Dutta. The film attempted to veer away from the commercial dross of the time.
‘Karnaphuli’ is another novel by this versatile author which is considered one of the most notable by many. Its background is Chittagong. ‘Karnaphuli’ is about the life of the people who live on the banks of the river by that name. He received a UNESCO award for excellence in the use of regional languages in novels. The dialect of Chittagong has lent ‘Karnaphuli’ an emotional current which was only made possible through a sincere attempt to fuse the chaotic life of creative people and art. The novel also features Chakma-speaking characters like Lalon and Dhalabi.
Alauddin Al Azad was closely associated with leftist politics and activities in his early life. The courageous role of Alauddin Al Azad in the progressive political-social and literary movement that began in the Pakistan era played a major role in upholding the Marxist ideals in the field of literature and art. The main themes of the stories of Alauddin Al Azad are Socialism and class consciousness. The identity of rural life, society, as well as the surrounding environment comes to life in many of his stories. In particular, the story of ‘Brishti’ tells how bigotry and superstition have taken root in this clime, how it has made our society miserable. As he spoke about the horror, he also presented the sky-high inequality between rich and poor. Inspired by Marxist ideals, Azad wrote, ‘There is no salvation from there unless socialism comes. Not mercy, not begging, not fitra-zakat, we want fair rights to crops, equitable distribution of wealth, only then will there be friendship and brotherhood.’
He is referred to as the mouthpiece of the lower-class people. He was afflicted with the scourge of poverty since his childhood. The life of the masses has been seen and appreciated at close quarters.
Azad wrote essays and diaries on children and adolescents. He has served as the organiser of several literary social organisations.
After working as an education attache at Bangladesh Mission in Moscow for five years (1976-81), he took on the responsibility of cultural adviser of Bangladesh Government during 1982-89. Alauddin Al Azad also served as a lecturer.
The accolades he earned included Bangla Academy Literary Award (1965), UNESCO Award (1965), National Film Award (1977), and Ekushey Padak (1986).
He obtained secondary school certificate and higher secondary school certificate in 1947 and 1949 respectively. From Dhaka University he earned his BA (honors) and MA in 1953 and 1954. He received his PhD from London University in 1970 for his work ‘Iswar Gupter Jeebon O Kabita’.
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