The story of his life in itself would make a formidable plot for a 1950s film. A young Ansar officer in the early 1950s, who was once elected the best cadet, was suspended from service following an altercation with a union board chairman. Despite financial hardship, he did not let go of his passion for acting, and was gradually picked up by a film producer. To his utter astonishment, he was offered the hero's role. Infuriated, his religious father ousted him from his house. The film, however, was a success and his acting career took off therewith.
Today marks the third death anniversary of Khalil Ullah Khan, the actor who left his audience in awe of his classy, baritone voice.
Khalil, the menacing villain of Bangla films, began his acting career for the big screen in 1953 through “Sonar Kajol”. The film was produced by Masud Chowdhury – who discovered him – and directed jointly by Kalim Sharafi and Zahir Raihan.
After being originally cast for Masud Chowdhury's “Preet Jane Na Reet” (opposite Shabnam, with whom he would go on to form a successful screen pair), he was replaced by the romantic hero Rahman who seriously injured one of his legs in an accident during the shoot. So Khalil was re-cast in the film.
From there, it was no looking back. He starred in Pakistan's first colour film – Zahir Raihan's “Sangam” – and became a successful lead actor, working in 11 films, before being detached from the filmdom for a while as Urdu films saw a decline in the erstwhile East Pakistan in the late 1960s. But after Bangladesh's liberation, he revived his career through films such as “Utshorgo” and “Ekhane Akash Neel”. Khalil also ventured into the small screen, most notably in “Sangsaptak” and “Bhangoner Shobdo Shuni”, and appeared in numerous adverts as well.
Spending his childhood in Sylhet, Khalil's love for acting had blossomed early. He was given his job as an Ansar officer back in 1977 – a year after he'd won the National Film Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for “Gunda” – and served the force with integrity. But he continued to work in films: be it as the heroine's rich father or the kingpin of a notorious gang.
Khalil never meant to be a professional actor, and began acting only to make ends meet when he was unemployed. But with his sincerity and discipline, he took Bangla cinema to a different height. The actor had been suffering from various old-age complications for long before his demise on December 7, 2014. He had fallen critically ill a year before he received the Lifetime Achievement Honours at the National Film Awards 2012.
His unique voice, square jaw and cold gaze will remain etched on the minds of film lovers and serve as a source of inspiration for the generations of actors to come.