PESHAWAR: As celebrations mark the 100 years of the subcontinent’s cinema in India, a new book that goes beyond the already available information on the contribution of artistes, producers and lyricists from Peshawar and other parts of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to the theatre and cinema has hit the book shelves.
The 570-page “Peshawar Key Funkaar (Theatre Aur Filmon Mey)” complete with 430 rare pictures, has been penned by noted cultural activist and film and theatre historian from the walled city of Peshawar, Muhammad Ibraheem Zia. The writer also has to his credit another two books on the city’s past - “Peshawar Maazi Key Dareechon Mey” (Peshawar through the ages) and “Khattatti Aur Musavveri” (Calligraphy and painting).
The well-researched book explores the life and work of Peshawar artistes and those from other parts of this province who acted in the silent movies and talkies of the Indo-Pak subcontinent and earned name.
Apart from gathering information from local sources, the author who is the son of a known painter and calligrapher from Peshawar, Mohammad Shareef, popularly known as MS Janbaz artist, visited India twice for research on his book.
The writer has mentioned 72 artistes from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, majority of them from Peshawar, who starred in the films produced in the subcontinent before and after partition. The publication is dedicated to a handsome artiste of the Indian cinema from the Pirpiai town of Nowshera district, Gul Hameed, who died at the age of 28 after having an acting career spanning eight years.
The initial part of the book is about the advent of theatre and cinema in Peshawar. It reveals how art and culture enjoyed much love and scope in Peshawar a century ago. It gives a vivid description of the first theatre company of Peshawar, launched by Agha Fazl Ali Shah in 1915. The next portion describes the theatre companies, artistes and the venues where these plays were staged in the city. It fondly mentions the “Natak Serai” or the theatre inn that was famous for arranging theatre plays. The “Natak Serai” was sited where we now have auto workshops near the Shoba Bazaar. It goes to show the cultural philistinism now underway for quite some time.
With the passage of time, the theatre started giving way to cinema. The period of the silent movies that started with “Raja Hareesh Chandar” by Dadasaheb Phalke on May 3, 1913 in Mumbai went on till the first talkie or sound movie “Alam Ara” produced by Ardeshir Irani was released on March 14, 1931.
Interestingly, the first Mumbai talkie had three artistes from this region. Two were from Peshawar — Prithvi Raj Kapur and Wazir Muhammad Khan — while the third, Mehboob Khan was from Sherawan area of Abbottabad. Wazir Muhammad Khan who sang for the first talkie studied for 10 years at the Edwardes High School located inside the Kohati Gate.
The chapter on the cinema houses of Peshawar has a lot of information as unlike the widely held belief that this city had 15 movie theatres, it mentions several others as well.According to the author the first bioscope cinema of Peshawar was set up at the entrance to the Qissa Khwani Bazaar near the Edwardes Memorial Gate (Kabuli Gate). This portion has pictures of some cinema houses that no longer exist, thanks to militancy and commercialism.
The book has 26 pages on the greatest cinema legend of the subcontinent from Peshawar, Muhammad Yousaf Khan, popularly known as Dilip Kumar, who will celebrate his 91th birthday on December 11 next month. According to the film historian, Dilip Kumar was born into a Hindko-speaking Awan family at Mohallah Khudadad sited at the back of the Qissa Khwani Bazaar.
The author has given two pictures of Dilip Kumar donning a typical Peshawari Karakul cap. One picture is from his childhood while the other goes back to March 1998 when he was in his hometown for the last time.
Apart from consulting the resource material, the author took great pains to gather information about Dilip Kumar and his pictures by meeting his family members who are respected businessmen and still live in Peshawar. He is indebted to Haji Ishaq Jan and his son Fuad Ishaq for the information they gave him about Dilip Kumar.
The publication devoted 12 pages to the beauty queen of the Indian cinema, Madhubala, who was born as Mumtaz Jehan Begum in Delhi on February 14, 1933 to Attaullah Khan, a Yousafzai Pakhtun from the Maneri area of Swabi district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
According to the author, Attaullah Khan first moved to Peshawar from Swabi, where he worked at a tobacco company, but later shifted to Delhi. He married Ayesha Begum and Madhubala was born there. The publication gives an account of the tribulations the family had to face due to poverty. The pictures of Madhubala, who died at the age of 36, and her love affair with Dilip Kumar has been mentioned in the book.
There is ample information about the legendary Kapurs as the writer has devoted 35 pages to the family. There is detailed description about Prithvi Raj Kapur, his brother Tarlok Kapur, sons Raj Kapur, Shami Kapur and Shashi Kapur along with rare family photographs of the first three stars who were born at Dhakki Munawwar Shah near Qissa Khwani and whose family home is still located at the place, though in a poor condition and crying for preservation.
Among the other Bollywood actors this region have produced are great character actors of the Indian cinema, Avtar Kishan Hangal (grandpa of the Hindi cinema), Achala Suchdev (grandma of the Indian cinema), Premnath, Jaint (Zikria Khan, father of Amjad Khan of Sholay fame), Manoj Kumar, Surender Kapur (father of Anil Kapur), Vinod Khanna,Shahrukh Khan, whose father Taj Muhammad was from Peshawar, Rafique Ghaznavi, Gul Hameed, Akbar Peshawari, Kareem Jan Peshawari, Habib Sarhadi, Beg Sarhadi and others.
Writing about the actors from this region who made a name in Pakistani cinema, the author mentioned Lala Sudheer (Shah Zaman Khan Mohmand), Qavi Khan Yousafzai, comedy king Rangila (Mohammad Saeed Khan), Zia Sarhadi (Fazle Qadir Sethi), his son Khayyam Sarhadi, known Pashto and Hindko singer Hidayatullah, Firdous Jamal and others.
The author has dwelt at length about poet Qateel Shifai hailing from Haripur and Saeed Gilani belonging to Peshawar. There is extensive description of Qateel Shifai, whose actual name was Muhammad Aurganzeb Khan and who earned fame by writing songs for movies. He also produced films, including the first Hindko feature film Qissa Khwani that he made in his mother tongue in 1970s.
A reader gets a sense of pride after going through the book when noticing the contribution of Peshawar and other parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to the art and culture. But one is overwhelmed by sadness while drawing a comparison of the glorious past with the present due to the decline of the city of flowers and artisans.