Masud Rana was the daring star of a series of spy thrillers that have captivated Bangladeshi readers for over five decades. But the death of Rana’s creator, author Qazi Anwar Hussain, has raised doubts about whether those fans have already seen Rana’s last hurrah.
Hussain, whose James Bond-esque character was beloved by teenage readers across the country, died on Wednesday at the age of 85.
But, according to the Bangladesh Copyright Office, those who inherit Hussain’s estate can keep the adventure going, if they are willing to do so, reports bdnews24.com.
The spy thriller series may continue if Hussain’s heirs plan to write them, or if they contract the work to other writers, said Jafor Raja Chowdhury, registrar of the Copyright Office.
Anwar Hussain began writing the Masud Rana series in 1966, when the first book 'Dhongsho Pahar' was published by his own publishing house, Sheba Prakashoni. The fictional espionage agent quickly rose in popularity.
Hussain wrote the stories until his last breath and used his most famous creation - a smart, intrepid agent of Bangladeshi counterintelligence – to lead readers to a world of action and adventure.
Hussain laid a strong foundation for the series, writing the first 11 books.
Later he appointed Sheikh Abdul Hakim as a 'ghostwriter’. Hakim went on to author 260 books in the series.
According to a Copyright Office order, Qazi Anwar Hussain lost ownership of most of the 400 books in the series to Sheikh Abdul Hakim but was credited as the creator of the Masud Rana character.
As such, no one can write the series without prior permission from the estate of Anwar Hussain.
Throughout his life, Hussain never filed a copyright for his character or the books in the series. Despite this, the copyright agency acknowledges him as the creator of Masud Rana.
The first 11 books in the series were written by Hussain and there is no debate on the matter, which means the character Masud Rana was undoubtedly his creation, said Jafor Raja Chowdhury.
The Copyright Office has, however, urged Hussain’s family to apply for the copyright of the Masud Rana character to avoid any legal complications.
According to the Copyright Act, Sheikh Abdul Hakim, Iftekhar Amin and the other writers who wrote books in the Masud Rana series with permission from Hussain will have ownership over those books, but not the character.
The character of Masud Rana now passes to Qazi Shanur Hussain, Qazi Maymur Hussain, and Shahrin Sonia, the heirs of Anwar Hossain’s estate.
Maymur Hossain helped his father to write some recent books in the Masud Rana series and is named as a co-author in the books ‘Shornolipsha’, ‘Count Cobra’, and others published in 2021.
Many in literary circles believe he took over the job when his father became unable to continue. The news agency was unable to get a comment from the estate on the matter.
Hussain’s family also holds the rights that control the Masud Rana character’s appearances in films and other adaptations.
The first film adaptation of Masud Rana was based on the book ‘Bishwaron’ and was released in 1974.
Anwar Hussain won awards for best screenplay and best dialogue from the Bangladesh Cine-Journalist Association for the film. Sohel Rana, an eminent actor, starred in the movie as Masud Rana.
Some TV plays were also made based on the series. Atikul Haque Chowdhury made a drama titled ‘Prachir Periye’, which starred Nobel and Bipasha Hayat.
Jazz Multimedia has also secured the rights to make two other Masud Rana films.
It is producing a movie titled ‘MR-9’ based on the first book of the series, ‘Dhongsho Pahar’. Asif Akbar, a US filmmaker of Bangladeshi origin, is directing the movie.
Hussain himself chose young actor ABM Sumon to play the role of Masud Rana, while Bidya Sinha Meem will play Sulota Roy, an Indian agent.
The production house is also scheduled to announce another Masud Rana feature soon.