(By Hossein Panahi)
Today (August 4) coincides with the death of Hossein Panahi, Iranian actor and poet. Two years older than my mother he was, yet I never felt the distance between his world and that of my generation, partly because of his fragile physique that had wrapped him in an air of timelessness, and party because of his character, acts and mimics that best revealed the never-growing innocent child within him. He was the sane fool of our times, the true heir of Don Quixote, a cavalier that tried to fight the cruel world with bare hands and the twinkling light of his pure heart.
Panahi was born on 28 August 1956 and after a vein of various experiences, he passed away on August 4, 2004 to join the row of great creative writers who leave the world on their birth months (remember Shakespeare and Salinger?)
Hossein was a simple rustic man and yet with a deep and limpid insight to the world. He was born in the remote village of Dezhkooh in Kohgiluyeh Province and after graduation from high school and to his father's advice he joined the seminary to become a clergyman. It is said that he succeeded in his studies and returned to his hometown to serve people as a clergyman, until one day a poor woman asked him to arbitrate on a religious issue. Based on canon laws, he had to tell the woman to throw all her store away as it was defiled, and on the other hand he knew that this was all the poor woman had to nourish with. The dilemma left him stricken and he finally stated that the food was clean only to leave the clergy service for good. Then rejected by his family he migrated to Tehran and studied arts, acting and playwriting for four years.
When tracing his biography I found really interesting pieces of information: Panahi received primary education at Maktab (a traditional pre-modern school in Iran that was still held during the Pahlavi Period), tried different jobs at different occasions, joined the frontiers in time of Iran-Iraq war, and dwelled in a mausoleum in Tehran for a whole year before he became fully devoted to the world of art and theater.
Panahi became famous as an actor and scriptwriter. His screenplay 'Two Ducks in Mist' made an immediate success, yet he was also popular as a unique actor with his peerless childlike and distinct way of speaking, his rural accent, and sincere acts.
But what makes Hossein Panahi memorable for me is his poetry as I have found him first a mighty poet and poetry ran like rivers in his soul.
According to his family, he passed away at age 49 due to heart attack. However, an Iranian lyricist has claimed that he committed suicide. Whatever the cause of his death he remains one of my favorite contemporary Iranian poets.
A scene most probably from the movie 'Bab-Aziz'
- Official Website of Hossein Panahi in Persian ; managed by his son Sina Panahi
- Hossein Panahi at Wikipedia
- You can read excerpts of his poetry at Poetry in Our Time, translated into English by Maryam Ala Amjadi
- A Filmography of Hossein Panahi at IMDB