I met Ezatola Entezami when I was around 16 at the Iranian cinema museum thanks to a mutual friend who introduced me to him and as soon as he heard my surname he vigorously asked if I was related to Sarvarian family. I replied by saying that I was Mushegh’s grandson and he suddenly began telling all these old backstage stories about working with him and his brother Napoleon. He seemed overjoyed remembering those good old days and kept talking about his vivid memories on theater stage while I was overwhelmed that a man at his scale of fame and age could be so down to earth and good in memory. I had grown up watching him as the unfavorable “Khan-e Mozafar” in “Hezardastan” series on Iranian television and probably because of his fine acting, I had developed a certain sense of negativity, but all that changed after our conversation. This memory was the first thing that occurred to me as soon as I read about his passing today and triggered me to write about him as beside this personal connection I find him to be the most iconic acting figure of the Iranian cinema whose absence next to the likes of Abbas Kiarostami, Ali Hatami, Davoud Rashidi and Khosrow Shakibayi marks the closing chapter of the amazing Iranian cinema that is so vacant from independent thoughts and cultured talents these days.
Entezami died aged 94, leaving behind an enormous legacy for Persian speakers and art lovers alike, who thanks to his fastidious screenplay choices, will find some of the greatest films of Iranian cinema in the list of his fruitful collaborations with a gifted generation of Iranian filmmakers of his time.
His long-lasting collaboration with Ali Hatami not only led to production of “Hezar-Dastan” but it also formed some amazing sequences of the national Iranian cinema in films such as Satarkhan, Haji Washington and Kamal Ol’molk. The Cow made by Dariush Mehrjooyi was also instrumental in establishing him as an art house cinema figure and also led to a few more unforgettable scenes in Mehrjoui’s later works such as Aghaye Haloo, Ejare-neshinha, Hamoun and Banoo. I personally enjoyed two of his more recent collaborations with Behrouz Afkhami, “Rooz a Fereshteh” and “Gav’e Khooni” which I was lucky to see in the theater and for some reason they have stayed with me intimately to this day.
Entezami’s great potential for dramatic roles was as good as his comedic talents. He had a captivating screen presence that was partly because of his mimic and unique facial features and in part a result of his acting training in theater. He knew very well how to use his voice and some of the best moments of Iranian cinema are simply the result of his masterful way of conducting dialogs with the lucky actors that he played against. He was an extremely versatile actor and while the range of the characters and genres that he played were extremely diverse, yet his thorough character study and immense knowledge of Iranian culture were definitely instrumental in bringing to screen an amazing set of personalities, one after the other.
Like few other actors of his generation, Entezami was a man of principles both in his artistic choices and public life. Being a popular personality, his image was often hijacked by politicians to serve agendas, but he never sided with the dominate system and remained faithful to his deep belief of standing with people. In a world driven by celebrity culture where the big, but empty names shift opinions of the masses from one topic to another according to directions by the power circles, Entezami chose his own narratives of helping his fellow people by initiating campaigns that aimed for real problems not political gains.
To serve as a closure to this writing I’m sharing a part of his reflection on life with readers, because I believe no matter where in geographical terms and when in historic spectrum we stand the following is a universal wisdom that specially in consumer societies such as ours few can really appreciate or understand.
“Fortunately, art has this unique peculiarity that it cannot be acquired by money and such… An individual must live a real life and love what they do. No amount of money or fame can bring happiness, in contrary it will take away the tranquility in life. I’m just happy for living a healthy and peaceful life. “