Published:  12:18 AM, 12 February 2019

The passing of Rashed Suhrawardy

The passing of Rashed Suhrawardy in London brings to an end a part of history, in that certain sense of the meaning. As the child of Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, he was certainly a powerful symbol of the politics his father pursued in his lifetime.

In a larger sense, Rashed Suhrawardy was more than being a mere apologist for his father, who has in these past many decades been the object of great devotion and equally great condemnation for the politics he epitomized till his death in Beirut in December 1963. For his son, it was always the principle that his father symbolised the best of western political tradition in pre-partition India and later in post-1947 Pakistan. The younger Suhrawardy was thus the proud son of the father.

But there was too something larger, something of the individualistic about Rashed Suhrawardy. He was, in simple terms, a whole lot more than the son of a reputed political figure. He was a brilliant stage and cinema actor in Britain, where he lived and died.

The offspring of HS Suhrawardy's marriage to a Russian lady, Rashed Suhrawardy early on made it obvious that the world of movies and drama was what he was intended for. Indeed, his portrayals of the many characters he played on stage and in cinema were remarkable for the finesse and sophistication they came wrapped in. His English diction was perfect, making him an artiste who could come level with any of the significant figures in western cinema and theatre.

In the late 1990s, in the movie 'Jinnah', clearly a riposte to the movie 'Gandhi', by the UK-based Pakistani academic Akbar Ahmed, Suhrawardy played the role of Jawaharlal Nehru to Christopher Lee's Jinnah. He acquitted himself well despite the huge demands which came with a proper portrayal of one of the foremost figures in the struggle for Indian independence. Rashed Suhrawardy won plaudits for his role.

Rashed Suhrawardy's interest in Bangladesh politics never wavered. One would have thought that for a man for whom no links, literal of course, remained for him to underpin any attachment to his father's land, he turned out to be a surprise.

At a time when his half-sibling was busy extolling the actions of the murderous Pakistan army in occupied Bangladesh in 1971 from Karachi, he was busy rooting for Bengali independence in London. His condemnations of the atrocities of the army are a matter of historical record. In distant Britain, Rashed Suhrawardy was the patriot of whom the Bengali nation was justly proud.

As for his post-1971 interest in Bangladesh, Suhrawardy was exhilarated by the return of the Awami League to power under Sheikh Hasina in 1996 after a twenty-one-year forced hiatus. His expectations of the Awami League government were always high. They did not waver.We mourn the passing of Rashed Suhrawardy. He was his father's son. He had made the West his home. And yet he was always one of us.

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