As a schoolboy in the 1980s, Radwan Mujib struggled to convince his friends that his maternal grandfather Bangabandhu was a real-life superhero. He turns 42 today, but the burden of memory still weighs heavily after all these years.
Exposure to comics about political icons Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi sparked in him a desire to make comics about Bangabandhu to convey his real life story to the children of Bangladesh.
Decades later, he made it a reality with Mujib, a graphic novel about Bangabandhu – from his rural childhood to becoming the nation’s founding father.
Now, the entire series of Mujib, comprising 10 episodes, is available for readers.
Growing up with a steady diet of stories about his nana (maternal grandfather) being told by his mother and aunt, Radwan could conceive of the best way to present the legend of Bangabandhu through stories about his many exploits.
But he was appalled because his classmates didn’t know anything about Bangabandhu.
“To my surprise, I found that many of my classmates didn’t even know who Bangabandhu was. They used to ask who is your Bangabandhu girl? Mainly, the teachers were worried hearing about Bangabandhu,” Radwan said.
“Even one day a teacher said – your grandfather was not Bangabandhu (friend of Bangla), he was Bangashatru (enemy of Bangla).”
Little Radwan was uncomfortable with the political climate following the assassination of his grandfather which set back the great promise of the glorious war of liberation.
Born in 1980, he missed his grandfather, grandmother, and uncles, all of whom were murdered by disgruntled army officers on August 15, 1975. He was curious about his loved ones whom he hadn’t never seen. “I used to ask about my grandmother, Uncle Kamal, Uncle Russel. Did Uncle Kamal like football or cricket more? Uncle Russell?
Although Bangabandhu never returned in person, he did return through his writings.
In 2004, long after Bangabandhu’s death, his daughter Sheikh Hasina suddenly discovered notebooks written by Bangabandhu himself. It was also a moment of ecstasy for Radwan.
“I never saw him in person. But his life stories written by him were now with us. Then we wanted to talk to him. When two books were published, I had the idea that he there were so many stories,” Radwan recalls. “If we publish a comic based on his exploits, the younger generation will be able to relate. Bangabandhu played football like us. He was such a player in his childhood. He slept with his hands around his father’s neck. From this point of view . , to pique their interest in him, we might start a series of graphic novels.”
Radwan is now a director of the non-profit organization CRI (Center for Research and Information).
As he planned to push the comic book idea about his grandfather forward, he encountered a few challenges. Even genuine Bangabandhu admirers did not want to see a person of Bangabandhu’s stature in cartoon form. “We were lucky that my mother and aunt (Prime Minister) supported the project from the start. Without them, we couldn’t have made it. I used to give the script and the draft from sketchers to my mom and aunt. You know how busy my aunt (PM Hasina) is. I used to keep the documents on her table so she can check them after she gets back from the office. To my surprise, I found, after an hour or two, his observations were clearly written there.Sometimes my team was amazed by asking if it had been written by the Prime Minister herself.
Besides Mujib Graphic Novel published by CRI, Radwan has undertaken several initiatives to bring young people closer to history. He is the mastermind behind Joy Bangla Concert, a concert mixing historic war melodies with a choice of modern millennial rocks. He is also co-producer of Hasina: A Daughter’s Tale, a docudrama featuring his aunt Sheikh Hasina’s first-person account of her life after the assassination of her father Bangabandhu and his family.
The author is coordinator of the CRI
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