Actor Aly Zaker dies after four-year battle with cancer

  • Senior Correspondent,
    Published: 2020-11-27 09:06:03 BdST

Aly Zaker, a towering figure in theatre, television and film arena in Bangladesh, has died in hospital care after a four-year battle with cancer. He was 76.

The legendary actor passed away at United Hospital in Dhaka at 6:40 am Friday, his advertising company Asiatic 3Sixty said in a brief statement. Aly tested positive for the COVID-19 illness two days ago, his son Iresh Zaker wrote on Facebook.

Aly left an indelible mark on audiences with memorable performances on stage and television over a span of more than 20 years.

President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina led the tributes for the acclaimed thespian in the wake of his demise.

In a condolence message, Hamid said, "Aly Zaker was a shining star in the country's cultural arena. With his death, the country has lost a great actor and cultural figure.”

He will be “remembered for his contribution to the Great Liberation War and the country's art and cultural arena”, said Hasina.

State Minister for Cultural Affairs KM Khalid also expressed grief over the death of the actor and said, "Through his acting and creative endeavours, he will live forever in the hearts of audiences in this country."

Aly's mortal remains was taken to the Liberation War Museum premises around 11 am for people to pay their respects to the revered artist, according to the museum's trustee and former cultural affairs minister Asaduzzaman Noor. He was later laid to rest at the capital's Banani Graveyard following a Namaz-e-Janaza or funeral prayers after the Asr prayers at the graveyard mosque, according to the Asiatic 3Sixty.

The cancer-stricken actor was hospitalised two weeks ago after suffering a heart attack amid the coronavirus pandemic.

After a week of treatment at the Bangladesh Specialised Hospital in the capital, Aly made a recovery and returned home earlier in the week. But his health subsequently took a downturn and he was taken to United Hospital on Thursday.

Aly's body will not be taken to the Central Shaheed Minar for fans and well-wishers to pay homage as he contracted the coronavirus in the final stages of his treatment, according to Ghulam Quddus, president of the Sammilita Sangskritik Jote.

During his childhood, Aly moved from one city to another due to his father Muhammad Taher’s job in the civil service. The family finally settled in Dhaka after his father became the secretary of the provincial government.

Aly completed his schooling from St Gregory's High School and Notre Dame College before being admitted to the Department of Social Welfare of Dhaka University. He later became entangled with drama as well as student politics during his time in university.

He was involved with the Chhatra Union and remained in the pro-Moscow camp led by Matia Chowdhury after the union split into two factions.

He served as a freedom fighter during the 1971 Liberation War. He was one of the trustees of the Liberation War Museum in Dhaka.

For his contribution to Bangladesh theatre, he was awarded with the state award of Ekushey Padak in 1999. Aly was the president of Nagorik Natya Sampradaya and directed and acted in several plays for Nagorik. He adapted plays by Moliere, Brecht, Zuckmayer, Chekov, Albee and Shakespeare.

Aly, a popular director and actor, was a part of over 2,000 plays. This includes lead roles in Shakespeare's Macbeth and Tempest and Dewan Gazir Kissa. He was also a part of Man Matti, Syed Shamsul Haque’s Nurul Diner Shara Jibon, Khatta Tamasha, Bidogdho Romonikul (based on Molière’s Les Femmes Savantes), Nishiddho Pollite (based on Edward Albee’s Everything in the Garden). He also played the leading role in a Bangla adaptation of Bertolt Brecht's 1943 play The Life of Galileo.

He acted in more than 300 television plays and serials, including Ghorshowarer Shopno, Pathor Deyal, Baki Itihash, Oboshor, Tothapi, Aj Robibar and Bohubrihi.

Aly studied sociology at Dhaka University. He started his career in Karachi in 1966 with WS Crawfords Ltd, a UK-based advertising agency. Aly joined East Asiatic Advertising Ltd in 1968 and pioneered the concept of modern advertising and consumer research in the then East Pakistan.

Aly was the group chairman of Asiatic 3Sixty, a communication group in Bangladesh that started with a single company employing just eight people in independent Bangladesh in February 1972, according to his website.

Apart from acting and directing, he was a playwright and had a knack for writing.

He has also received various other honours throughout his illustrious career, including the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy Award, Bangabandhu Award, Munier Chowdhury Award and the Naren Biswas Award.

A trustee of the Liberation War Museum, Aly was also a member of the Royal Photographic Society of the United Kingdom.

Aly leaves behind wife Sara Zaker, a media personality, entrepreneur and social activist, and their children Iresh Zaker and Sriya Sharbojoya.