Book Review: “The Role of Saeed”

Dr. Saeed Keshanfallah in the Words of others

“Written memories and oral memories”

Jafar Golshan Roghani
Translated by: Fazel Shirzad



Note: During the funeral of martyr Kamran Nejat-Ullahi on December 27, 1978, the Pahlavi regime's military forces fired at the mourners and killed several people near the current Enqelab (Revolution) Square. Hossein Qashqai was one of the martyrs of that event, who graduated from the University of Tehran Faculty of Dramatic Arts in 1973 with a degree in theater and had written and staged several plays.



The play "Hurufiyya Movement" was one of the Qashqaei’s plays which were performed by some of his friends shortly afterward on March 31, 1979, as the first revolutionary theater in the incident Hall of the City Theater. Yadollah Vafadari, one of the actors in the play, describes his behavior and how the play was performed as follows: "Martyr Qashqai was one of our very good friends and a very committed artist. He attended the funeral of Dr. Kamran Nejatollahi, which was held in Enqelab Square. The military forces attack a number of people and one of them is shot, injured, and fell on the ground. According to friends who witnessed the incident, when Hussein Qashqai went to pick him up from the ground and take him to the hospital, the military forces shot him several times in the head and chest. His brother said that we looked for him for a few days until we found him in the morgue, Behesht Zahra. Members of the Islamic School of Dramatic Arts Association decided to stage a play in honor of Hussein Qashqai. He also collaborated with Ayat Film. A number of friends had a role in this play such as Dr. Keshanfallah, Tajbakhsh Fanaian, Kazem Baluchi, Jalil Farjad, Seyyed Mehdi Shojaei, Majid Majidi, Abdolreza Faridzadeh and I, and A number of other members of the Islamic Association. Its director was Mr. Davood Daneshvar. Mr. Fereydun Aliari was also the decoration and stage designer. We performed a Hurufiyya Play there for about a month and students and people came and saw it. All in all, it was a good play. Both in terms of directing and acting. Master Keshanfallah played the role of Major General in that play. I played the role of Shahrokh Shah. Mohammad Kasbi played the role of minister. Mr. Fanaian, Kazem Baluchi, and a few others also played the role of the members of the Hurufiyya Movement who came and assassinated Shahrokh Shah. Majid Majidi and a few others also played the role of soldiers. "(Pp. 612 and 613).

Thus, the first revolutionary theater was performed in the early months of the victory of the Islamic Revolution and it added to the list of plays in which Saeed Keshanfallah  had a role. He entered the Faculty of Dramatic Arts in 1975 to study drama, and he became one of the founder students of the Islamic Association of this faculty in late 1977 or early 1978. It was an association that was established in those days was a very important and special step and activity among the countless population of the art community far from Islam and along with the cultural and artistic policies of the Pahlavi government. In fact, establishing such an association in that special atmosphere governing artistic issues was considered a great movement. There were other students who formed this association such as Davood Daneshvar, Seyyed Massoud Shojaei, Yadollah Vafadari, and Shokri. On the other hand, Keshanfallah was active in the Islamic Association of South Mehrabad neighborhood and people like Majid Majidi collaborated with him.

The mentioned memoirs and words are part of the life of the late Dr. Saeed Keshanfallah from the language and pen of others; they have been brought and compiled in a book entitled "The Role of Saeed: Being Familiarity with Saeed Keshanfallah " by the efforts of Mehdi Mozaffari Savoji and has been published by Surah Mehr Publications in 2020; it is a thick book with about 1000 pages that contains numerous and varied and almost comprehensive contents about Keshanfallah. In addition to the collection of articles and writings and some of the sayings of the translator that have been collected and presented in this work (sections two to five), sections six to nine of the book (about 500 pages) also contain very good information about him. In this regard, this book is remarkable from the perspective of oral history and presenting the life memories of Keshanfallah , who was undoubtedly one of the most important and influential theatrical officials in Iran in the 4 decades after the victory of the Islamic Revolution.

The ninth section of the book, entitled "Dialogues", is the most characteristic chapter of this work in the field of oral history and memoirs, but, in the other mentioned sections, there are scattered and more or less thought-provoking materials that are valuable. In this section, seventeen persons among his friends' colleagues and students and colleagues have been interviewed. Although there are weaknesses in the way conversations are conducted and presented, they are generally worthwhile. Unfortunately, the personal identity of the interviewers and the date of each interview is not mentioned. It is also not clear exactly what the interviewees are like and why they have been selected from the countless qualified interviewees. It was appropriate for the author of the book to clarify the situation of the interviewees by mentioning a few sentences at the beginning of each conversation.

Some of the interviewees such as Tajbakhsh Fanaian, Yadollah Vafadari, Sohrab Salimi, Karim Akbari Mobarakeh, and Muslim Ghasemi, some artists and figures were his classmates in university and had artistic contacts and friendships with him before the revolution. From their memoirs, we can be familiar with Saeed Keshanfallah before the revolution. There are some people who were with him in different places and positions in the years after the revolution, such as Mohammad Ali Khabari, Ismail Banyardalan, Majid Sarsangi, Mohammad Baqer Ghahremani, Mehrdad Rayani Makhsus, Azam Boroujerdi, Hossein Faraji, Kourosh Zarei, Ahmad Mortezaeifar, Tohid Masoumi, and Sirus Hemmati.

Saeed Keshanfallah was born in a religious family in Kermanshah in 1956, grew up and studied in the Mehrabad neighborhood of southern Tehran from the age of five. Since high school, he has had a special interest in the Performing Arts, and as an actor, he has performed several amateur plays at his family Welfare Center and high school. From one year before the beginning of university education, he worked as a teacher of children's and adolescents' theater in the Center of Intellectual Development of Children and Adolescents; Muslim Ghasemi stated: "He used to enter the meetings with strange special make-up; everyone was surprised and laughed him, and he replied them that he was on filming and did not have time to clean his make-up and had to go back to the filming after the meeting. It was very interesting for me and for the friend as well."(p. 742).

During his educational time, he became one of the theater instructors of the Children's and Adolescents' Intellectual Development Center along with Karim Akbari Mobarakeh, Tajbakhsh Fanaian, and several others. He and Akbari Mobarakeh also received special training courses in this field from the Intellectual Development Center and worked there until the victory of the revolution. According to Akbari Mobarakeh, "Children and students came to the Center, told a memory, and then turned those memories into plays, and performed the plays and,in fact nowadays, it is the creative way for children and teenagers) p718). The Keshanfallah and Akbari Mobarakeh continued cooperation with the Center after the revolution and they worked according to the method considered by the manager, Behrouz Gharibpour. "That is, they described what the students had seen, and we did it with the help of the children and the students ... Saeed was very good; He made great progress in this field, and all students and children loved him" (p. 719).

In 1975, although Saeed Keshanfallah was accepted in the university entrance exam in the fields of road and construction, dentistry and theater, he chose the field of drama (acting and directing) and studied at the Faculty of Dramatic Arts in Tehran.

In the very first year of entering the college, he acted in a play entitled "Zhang or Tialeh" written by Dr. Mostafa Rahimi and directed by Mohammad Reza Kolahdoozan, which was performed in the same college (p. 681). In 1978, he completed all his courses, but according to himself:" Due to political and religious activities in the community and the military in the Islamic Association of the College, which had a limited number of members, his graduation was postponed to June 1980 as he was the top student. He went to do military service and immediately enlisted in the army and served on the battlefields against the Ba'athist aggressors.

Tajbakhsh Fanaian mentions his presence on the stage of the play named "Wandering Boat" written by Slavmir Marjuk in 1980 and adds: "After the revolution, Mr. Kasbi and I went to the radio and ran the radio show. Because of my friendship with Saeed, I invited him to join us. We performed the play Wandering Boat as the first radio production, and those who had a good record on the radio confirmed us."(P. 605) According to the Fanaian, at the request of Majid Haddad Adel, the then head of the radio, they became full-time employees of the radio.

Keshanfallah should be considered as one of the founders of the Art Center. He believes: "During the years 1978 to 1980, he was one of its founders and in charge of the theater" (p. 33) and after a break, he joined it again in 1982. Fanaian describes how he joined: "Then, we were invited to the Art Center by Mr. Farajullah Salahshour because he was one of the founders of the Art Center. They also wanted to work in radio, and they got to know us and found out that we were educated in theater, and in the Art Center, most of the coworkers had no education in this field, so they asked us to go to the Centre and help them." Majid Haddad Adel went to the army and it did not take long he became martyred in his military uniform; we lost our manager who was very agile, smart, eloquent and at our age, and the radio was no longer attractive to us, so all of us three - that is Saeed and Mr. Kasbi and me - accepted to work in Art Center. "(P. 606)


Keshanfallah remained in the Art Center until 1990 and did artistic works, especially in the field of theater. For example, he acted in the play "Prison and Unveiling" directed by Fanaian. According to Fanaian: "We worked in the field of theater one after another, and the theater of the Center became active in this way with the presence of Saeed and the friends who entered the Center through him, such as Fereydun Keshanfallah, Majid Majidi, Jafar Dehghan, Akbar Mansour Fallah and a number of other friends.  In addition to directing, acting, and theater production, we also produced scripts. We edited and printed many texts that came from the cities. we worked with Akbar Mansour Fallah, Saeed and Jafar Dehghan, Mr. Yari, and Mehrdad Khoshbakht in the play "The Unseen Arrow" written by Mohsen Makhmalbaf; Saeed played the role of Iraqi commander because of his big body (p. 606).

Simultaneously with working in the Art Center, he entered Tarbiat Modares University in 1984 as the first and only student of directing. Years later, he received a doctorate in art research. After leaving the Art Center, he was hired by the University of Arts and revived the Department of Drama. A few years later, he became the director of the Department of Drama, and also ran the Department of Directing and Dramatic Literature, and became its manager. Along with Fanaian, he had educational and managerial activities in that university and at the same time, he was active in university jihad. According to Fanaian: "During the activities in university jihad, I, as the head of the theater field, and Saeed, as the deputy director, organized 14 theater courses for the students of the country together. The student theater festival had become very prosperous and effective, and many of the country's artistic personalities, who are now active and among the most influential people in cinema and theater, came out of it. The festival competed with the Fajr festival and was very well received, and that is why the active friends in that festival were recognized "(p. 607).  After many years of activity in the student theater festival under university jihad (about 17 years) and cultivating many artists, he was the president of the University of Arts until 2014. He has other managerial and scientific records such as being director of the Faculty of Cinema and Theater and years of teaching are other.

He was in charge of managing the Rumi Hall of the University of Tehran from 1984 to 2004. He joined the Art Centre again in 2004 and until 2011. He took over the management of the Center for Performing Arts and became the source of many fruits. He held several festivals. He had been suffering from diabetes for many years and even had his leg amputated to prevent the disease from progressing and became a wheelchair user. Secretary of Fajr International Festivals, Sacred Defense Theater, Student Theater, and membership in various artistic councils and associations.

The people of theater believe that Keshanfallah was one of the most powerful and extremely talented actors in the field of theater. If he did not enter the executive work, management and university teaching, he would certainly be among the few prominent artists of the country. They also claim that he played the role of Lirshah; that play was directed by Fanaian in 1992. Fanaian stated: "Saeed was an extraordinary actor who played the role of King Lear. He was a talented and capable actor.  Few noticed his capacity and talent. He was very literate and his field of study was very wide and he had up-to-date information and he had a lot of great talent and hard work and I knew him because I worked with him. The role of King Lear Is for someone who has talents and creativity. In addition, he should have the appropriate ability, the body; it was a good role for him. He responded positively to all moments of the role. Everyone who saw her role (during the two months that the play was staged) acknowledged that he played his role as well and completely. I think he will still the best choice; I mean and if he is alive and I want to work for the play King Lear, I definitely won't choose anyone else. "(608, 609)

Keshanfallah did not accept any theater, but only believed in God-centered theater and wanted the audience's belief in God to become stronger and greater when they left the hall. (P. 744) Therefore, Yadollah Vafadari believes that God-centeredness was present in his works. "He was hidden in the choices he made and in his performances, directing and teaching. He used to cooperate just with those who had God-centered thoughts; I have never seen he cooperate with someone else" (p. 616) During his lifetime, he directed several plays according to the same idea, such as "Unseen Arrow", "Patience", "Russian Roulette", "Marriage Proposals", "Justification", and plays "Vaclav", "Death of Sound", "Judgment of the Court", " "Dark Light" and "Rootless". Muslim Ghasemi considers him a talented actor and director in the theater who "was oppressed by the management duties and if the duties did not limit him, he would be a very capable and good actor and director" (p. 752). He also had a role in several movies such as Boycotts, gravediggers, contracts, sharks.

Keshanfallah had trained many students over the years of teaching at various universities and training centers; all of them emphasize the teaching style and productivity of his classes. Yadollah Vafadari, one of his friends before the revolution, quotes from his students: "He was very precise, disciplined, and consistent in his work. We do not pass the time of class with no purpose, and he carefully manages the time with faith and commitment and remembers everything and takes notes and follows. As soon as he entered the classroom, he turned off his phone; because he did not want to waste the student's time, although he had several responsibilities and he always had to use his phone, but he believed that this time belonged to the student and he should not spend it on other things" (p. 615)

"Mr. Doctor had a mentor-disciple relationship with the students," said Tohid Masoumi, an activist in the field of theater, " and I'm sure everyone felt the same way about the teacher, both direct students and people like me who were his employees. This relationship really developed between us, and interestingly he respected this relationship. He valued us and always had a prejudice against the students and officials of the play. Despite such a relationship, when he evaluated our work, we accepted it wholeheartedly even if our work was rejected because he acted with reason and logic and the same masterful position His behavior in evaluating plays was acceptable for everyone, and his words were as valuable as the words of an expert in the field of theater. Both the students and others who were somehow connected to wholeheartedly accepted his evaluation." (Pp. 754 and 755).

Cyrus Hemmati is one of the artists who has been strongly influenced by the behavior and artistic judgment of the Keshanfallah. During the seventh season of the Moon Theater Festival, he performed an impromptu act on stage, which provoked a protest from an official, because he believed that this act was not part of the play. But, Keshanfallah and Ezzatullah Entezami supported him as a judge and gave him the first acting award because that act was part of the work and character that played that role. (p. 760)

Keshanfallah's friends emphasize his good morality in telling memoirs. Muslim Ghasemi, for example, who had known him since 1974, called him an ethicist and believed that he had been influenced by Keshanfallah. He says about his behavioral characteristics:" I can only say about Saeed's behavior that Saeed was very kind. He was good and sometimes his goodness breaks the hearts of some. He was very friendly and kind. He did what everyone asked of him; if someone asked him to be a judge or to open some somewhere, he would accept. I considered the requests of some people as abuse, but he said that he absolutely could not say no to requests. I said that it was better for him sometimes to say no. If he really was busy, he should refuse their request. When he accepts any request, in my opinion, it would damage his credibility. He said he couldn't refuse their request. I told him that he should not be somewhat optimistic about everything and sometimes he shouldn’t respond positively; he should let them follow him more and use him more. "(Pp. 743 and 744). Yadollah Vafadari also adds: "He was very sincere in his friendship and it was impossible for him if a friend asked him to do something and he wouldn't do it. He was actually benevolent, and I had never seen that he say anything bad about anyone, and if someone said something bad about someone, he would immediately advise him to give up and not continue, and he would say good things, and he would not allow anyone to slander and backbite." (P. 619)

He has remained some interesting sayings among students and artists: "It's too early for you!", "It's not what we want!" or" you are still able to try more!"(p. 761)

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