Waheed Murad: His Life & Our Times tackles certain aspects of the
legendary actor’s life but isn’t an expansive biography.
Technically Waheed Murad: His Life & Our Times is the first book written on the legendary actor who changed the way films were made in the country. And outside of the yearly dose of Nigar (Weekly) that makes its annual appearance on the death anniversary of the great actor, there isn’t much data available in print on the life and times of one of Pakistan’s most acclaimed actors. The book does address some important aspects of Murad’s career but isn’t a ‘complete’ biography - if you are looking for one.
Waheed Murad: His Life & Our Times is penned by one of the best film historians we have – Khurram Ali Shafique. He is not only a widely-read author but also authentic and is followed by many, including this scribe.
Several years ago, Shafique even penned an article about Waheed Murad and how he saw Pakistan of the day; something that has been elaborated upon in this book as well. However, there was life beyond Armaan and other home productions for Waheed Murad, which is something this book fails to comment on.
Yes, you get to learn a lot of things about the ‘chocolate hero’ such as how he proposed to his wife Salma, what was his reaction on becoming a father, how he corresponded with his family when abroad and similar matters but other than writings about a handful of his productions, there isn’t much mentioned about his films. What was his relationship with his co-stars – both male and female – is something one would have loved to read about. How was his career affected by the sudden rise of Nadeem, the emergence of Shahid and later of Ghulam Mohiuddin, Ayaz and Faisal is what people want to read; why he switched to A. Nayyar and others after the downfall of Ahmed Rushdi; what made him revive his film banner in the ’80s and what were the reasons behind his own decline despite being young and full of life. Such important questions loom in the background of the reader but are given a miss in this work.
However, the writer must be commended for bringing to light some letters of Waheed Murad and their content, some unseen pictures of the maestro with his friends, posters of his movies and comments of his dear friends including the late Pervez Malik, Sohail Rana and others. How Waheed saw Pakistan forms the crux of this book, which at times resembles a history lesson – some might like it, some might not. In my humble opinion, a separate chapter could have been dedicated to Waheed and his love for his country. There should’ve been full length pictures of Waheed Murad here and not of Quaid-e-Azam and Allama Iqbal. Even the mention of the late Mughal ruler Bahadur Shah Zafar looks awkward when referred to in what is primarily a film book.
The comparison between Waheed Murad’s ideas on filmmaking and Hollywood is something to read about in this book; Murad tells his new-age fans that he wanted his viewers to learn from his movies. Waheed Murad was the top actor when the decline began and despite trying hard, he was unable to change the taste of the audience who preferred action over romance, VCR over cinema and Bollywood over local films. His death on November 23, 1984 is mentioned as a passing reference whereas a lot could have been written on the issue.
Waheed Murad: His Life & Our Times is one of a kind and one hopes that a complete biography of Waheed Murad is in the offing since there is a lot to discuss about the man who changed cinema. The way he filmed songs, his decision to bring back Ahmed Rushdi for what turned to be their final film (Hero, released in 1985), his relationship with Nadeem and Mohammad Ali - all would make for great subject matter for those who have grown up watching Murad’s films. He was our ‘superstar’ long before Rajesh Khanna became India’s so we need to preserve his legacy the way he would’ve wanted. Nations that forget their heroes become forgotten themselves and this book is one way to pay a much-needed tribute to one of our heroes. One also hopes that there are other such tributes for all those who gave their lives to entertain their countrymen.
— Omair Alavi is a freelancebroadcast journalist and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org