The Face That Changed The Way A Nation Saw Itself
Film Industry has been the most ignored field in Pakistan and a lot can be said on the way we have progressed (or regressed) in this arena in the last few decades, starting from the creation of Pakistan. Like all other industries, in the film industry too India got the lion’s share after the partition of sub-continent. In most cases, Pakistan did not even get its rightful share. Still Pakistani Film Industry took a decent start and did well till the 60s and even early 70s. After that, it was a downwards spiral which only ended in the beginning of 21st century with advent of films like Khuda Kay Liye (2007), Waar (2013) and Moor (2015) gracing the cinema screens in Pakistan.
Waar was a game-changer in Pakistan’s Film Industry and made the producers and directors realize that they could work outside the frame-work of cheap remakes of Bollywood masala movies. May be the credit also goes to the fast changing geopolitical scenario of the region and the fact that present times must be reflected in the film industry accurately. Realistic topics got highlighted, like Pakistan Army’s operation against terrorists and the everyday struggles of an ordinary Pakistani. Background soundtracks replaced replicas of mindless Bollywood dance numbers. May be the fact that the director of Waar has a degree in film making from the US explains his use of latest cinematic techniques in the film and why it was a box office hit all over Pakistan. It was a big relief from the films that presented dhoti-clad, gandasa-clenching larger than life male protagonists who had become the hallmark of the Pakistani films of the 80s and 90s.
Our failure to realize that Art (film, media, music) can be used both as a medium of education and as an instrument of anarchy, had a negative impact on the society as a whole. The elite never took Pakistan industry seriously and reverted to watching Bollywood films due the nonsensical work that was being produced by the Pakistani film industry during the 80s and 90s. That was my impression too because I had never taken any interest in watching Pakistani films, until I got hold of Khurram Ali Shafique’s book on Waheed Murad and realized that before the awful 80s and 90s, Pakistan indeed had a great era of movie making.
Before I read ‘Waheed Murad: His Life and Our Times’, all I knew about Waheed Murad was that he was known as the ‘Chocolate Hero’ of Pakistani cinema. I confess I had not seen any film of Waheed Murad till I read this biography, so I started by watching ‘Armaan’ and really enjoyed the profound simplicity and unparalleled grace of the lead actors in it. The songs especially are outstanding and memorable with timeless classics like ‘Akele na jana hamain chor kar tum’. I had not been a witness to the golden period of Pakistan’s cinema, a time when there were well-educated and sophisticated actors and actresses who took the art of acting seriously and did not just use it as a quick way of earning easy money. This book not only introduced me to one of the greatest legends of Pakistani cinema but also served as an insightful education in the history of that era of our cinema when two wars were fought against the enemy and nationalism in Pakistan was at all-time high.
I learned about the ‘team’ of brilliant four of the golden era of Pakistani Film Industry in ‘Waheed Murad: His Life and Our Times’, whom I would call the fantastic four of Pakistani films. They were:
Waheed Murad, the actor/filmaker,
Masroor Anwar, the writer/poet,
Pervez Malik, the director and
Sohail Rana, the composer.
You have to read the book to know how well these four synergized to create masterpiece after masterpiece in films, like Armaan, Heera Aur Pathar and Ehsaan to name a few. They were all avid nationalists, passionate about their work and well educated too. It was news for me that Waheed Murad was M.A. in English Literature and frequently quoted various well-known English authors and poets, with James Joyce being his favourite.
Interlaced with examples from various dialogues spoken in Waheed Murad’s films to the lyrics of the songs, Khurram Ali Shafique has done a remarkable job of explaining Waheed Murad’s and his team’s love for Pakistan and uncovering their desire of adhering to Jinnah’s and Allama Iqbal’s advice about building of a great nation. The reader also gets to read the rare letters written by Waheed Murad to his wife, Salma Murad, written during the time when he was in Japan for shooting of a film. These letters depict his deep and unequivocal love for his wife and daughter, and we get to see the man behind the legendary actor. It goes on to show that he was not just a suave hero but a good husband and a loving father as well.
Waheed Murad’s favourite song was one of the hit songs from his film Doraha:
“Bhooli huwi hoon dastan, guzra huwa khayal hoon,
Jiss ko na tum samjh sakay, main aisa aik sawal hoon.”
May be he was upset with the way things were going in the film industry because during the last years of his life he witnessed the downfall of the very industry he had worked so hard for. He clearly felt that his education was being wasted and an uncouth, illiterate person had a better chance in the film industry than someone like him.
This book answers many questions but also makes us think that we need to ignite that same passion in Pakistani Film Industry today which was there at the time of Waheed Murad. We need to utilize the latest technology and create our own unique films which depict true Pakistani culture and do not borrow from any other ideology. We can learn from Iran, which does not blatantly sexualize stories in their films, yet still gets recognition and awards at international level, for instance, The Children of Heaven (1997) and The Colour of Paradise (1999) by director Majid Majidi were huge hits internationally and earned many awards. Both of these films did not show a typical romantic melodrama. On the contrary, they portray daily lives of normal children in suburbs of Iran. That’s what Pakistan needs to do too; associate films with everything Pakistani and most importantly make educated and sophisticated people like Waheed Murad part of the film industry of Pakistan.
Last but not the least is the collection of rare pictures of Waheed Murad, with his family and friends which reveal more about his personality while one reads about his beliefs, ideology and dedication to work. The picture that struck me most was of Waheed Murad’s tombstone which has the names of the blessed Ahlulbayt of the Prophet (PBUH) engraved on it and a couplet follows below:
“Khuda ki tujh per rahmat ho, Muhammad (ﷺ) ki shafaat ho,
Dua meri sada ye hai, tujhe janat ki rahat ho.”
Ameen to that prayer. People belonging to the film industry are usually known to be godless creatures but we may be surprised if we learn about their reality.
I definitely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Pakistan’s literature, history and above all, in Pakistan’s film industry.
You can order the book Waheed Murad: His Life and Our Times By Khurram Ali Shafique online through the courier service and website here: http://yayvo.com/waheed-murad-his-life-and-our-times-by-khurram-ali-shafique.html and www.waheedmurad.com.