Instep looks back at the life and time of the unforgettable actor, producer and director, who would’ve turned 80 this month.
From the tribute paid to the actor (among others) by Strings in their terrific music video (and single) ‘Titliyan’ to the borderline cringe-worthy tribute to Waheed Murad in one of the episodes of the now concluded third season of Pepsi Battle of the Bands, Waheed Murad’s shadow continues to loom over the cultural vernacular of Pakistan and perhaps it always will.
There is a good reason for it. He came, he changed the film world, gave it the boost it yearned for and in the process found fans who revere him, decades later. That is the mark of a great artist. And he certainly was one.
An actor, producer and director, Waheed Murad, the evergreen chocolate hero, would have turned 80 this month. He came, he conquered but disappeared quietly after ruling the box office for over a decade.
Waheed entered the film universe, first as a producer in 1960 when he produced Insaan Badalta Hai. Written by the upcoming Iqbal Rizvi and directed by Munawwar Rasheed, it had Darpan (real name Ishrat Abbas) and Shamim Ara in the lead. Rizvi had earlier written hit films like Saathi and Gulfam, both starred Darpan.
The only son of distributor Nisar Murad, Waheed gave another successful film with Jab Se Dekha Hai Tumhain (JSDHT). Belonging to a family with links, he knew tricks of the trade from an early age.
Waheed picked Zeba, the recently introduced actor from Chiragh Jalta Raha, for the lead role with Darpan in JSDHT. Similarly, he introduced Sohail Rana as a music director with the same film.
Waheed was making a team of his own and had succeeded in creating one by 1964; a Karachi-based team. By then, Habib Jalib, Khalil Kaiser, Riaz Shahid and Rasheed Attre had become a team in Lahore and so had Ehtisham, Robin Ghosh, Dossani and Suroor Barabankvi in the East.
Waheed Murad, Zeba, Sohail Rana, Masroor Anwar and Pervez Malik emerged as an unbeatable combination of artists who gave the Pakistani film industry its first platinum jubilee film, the iconic Armaan.
However, Heera aur Pathar that had released 16 months prior to Armaan, can be credited as the film that first saw Waheed’s rise, as a producer and as an actor. It was also his childhood friend Pervez Malik’s debut movie as a director. Zeba also had a role to play in convincing the producer to take up acting. She persuaded Waheed Murad to pick up the acting baton, when he was shuffling between studies and production back in 1962.
“I asked Waheed to become a leading man but his reply stunned me. ‘Kya tum mera mazaaq ura rahi ho (are you mocking me?) In reality, Waheed wanted someone else to consider him for acting first and director/producer S.M. Yusuf sahab granted his wish. He was selected for a role in Aulad,” Zeba recalled while speaking to Instep from Lahore.
Zeba and Waheed went on to star in several films together such as Heera Aur Pathar, Kaneez, Jaag Utha Insaan, Eid Mubarak, Armaan, Insaaniyat, Ehsan, Maa Baap.
The pair broke away; beginning in 1962 and by 1967, when Pakistan’s first film to be shot abroad, Rishta Hai Pyar Ka was in the offing.
Zeba married Muhammad Ali, another star in the making; never appearing with any other hero. Pervez Malik and Sohail Rana production Doraha was a failure, which allowed Pervez Malik to go for ‘the new kid’, namely Nadeem while Sohail Rana opted for TV.
Waheed Murad sustained the next 6-8 years by churning out hits as well as producing meaningful films. Shabnam replaced Zeba in Samandar for which Waheed had roped in music director Deebo and veteran director Rafiq Rizvi as Sohail Rana and Pervez Malik were also replaced. Samandar met with mediocre success.
However, the dynamic duo of Lal Muhammad Iqbal gave soulful music for his next venture, Naseeb Apna Apna. Songs like ‘Ae Abr-e-karam’ and ‘Dil Tumko De Dia Hai‘ are the unforgettable numbers from the film. Released in 1970, the film was written by Iqbal Rizvi.
“It was a story narrated to me by an assistant of mine while sitting at (now defunct) Royal Hotel in Karachi,” Iqbal Rizvi told Instep. “His sister used to dance at a brothel in order to provide for his fees. I asked the waiter to get me paper and pen and I wrote down the pointers, which I described to Waheed sahab the next day. Years later, when I tried to cast him as a lead in Tere Mere Sapne, he declined. Maybe he did not want to act opposite Sangeeta, who he thought was quite younger to him. Later, he had to act opposite Kavita, (Sangeeta’s younger sister) and Anjuman just to keep himself in.”
Many films had stories that tackled the issues of Pakistanis who ‘lose’ their way after going abroad. Dosti (1971), Mere Humsafar (1972) and Playboy (1978) proved lucky at the box office.
However, the only brave attempt, which tried to depict the other side, met with moderate success. It was Asif Khan, Waheed Murad, Sangeeta starrer-Kaala Dhanda Goray Log, a revenge saga based entirely in the United Kingdom.
The story begins with a truck driver Ashraf who brings his sons to the United Kingdom after his wife’s death. Ashraf, having witnessed too much while working for Peter becomes compromised. One of his sons, Asif Khan, in order to pacify himself, turns to crime. The other, played by Waheed Murad, is completely unaware of his brother’s criminality. A well-shot climax and lots of action finally leads to the ending of Peter’s life and brings Asif back to Shama, ‘a light’ played by Sangeeta.
Asif Khan, recalling the days of KDGL, told Instep: “I stayed in Birmingham for 6 months in 1979. We selected Javed Sajjad as director who had just finished Smuggler, starring Badar Munir and Mustafa Qureshi. Javed had been assisting ace comedian/film maker Rangeela in his early career days. Waheed sahab came later for his scenes.”
“He sounded very much like Rafi, as is evident from the songs. People still remember ‘Yeh Hawaa Yeh Fizaa’ which A. Nayyar and Mehboob rendered for me and Waheed Murad. Because of Mehboob, I was fortunate to meet Rafi sahab, who was in London for some concert. Another Bollywood star I encountered was actor Jeetendra. It was in a shopping mall in London that the Jumping Jack came to me and said a few appreciative words about my frequent co-star: ‘Yaar yeh tumhara waheed murad kia cheez hai’.”
Kala Dhanda Goray Log was released on May 29, 1981, in Urdu and months later in Pushto as Pakhtun pe Vilayat Kunb. The subject was too hard to digest for the common man.
“The Urdu film could not do well despite having a strong dosage of action and songs. Cultured people told me that the film was made ahead of its time. The dialogues in English could also have been a problem,” said Asif Khan. “A film called Kashish, produced by a US-based Pakistani (comprising Indian actors) was allowed to be screened by President Zia-ul-Haq just a week after KDGL’s release. As a counter measure, Sultan Rahi’s super-hit Basheera was re-screened, which ruined whatever chances KDGL had of a good run. However, the Pushto version was a hit, especially in KP.”
The film, however, managed to get the Best Editing Nigar Award. It was the last film, starring Waheed Murad that was shot abroad. Waheed died in November 1983 in Karachi.
“I was shooting for a film in Naran when I got the news of his death through a newspaper. It was indeed a sad moment. We have worked together in many remarkable films,” recalled Asif.
Waheed’s last film, Zalzala, was released in 1987, which had Rani, Sudhir, Sultan Rahi and Asif Khan in the cast.
It has been 35 years (1983) since the death of Waheed Murad but no one has been able to forget his performances, imitate his style, acting or depiction of songs. People may have forgotten him in his time but he is alive in the hearts of millions even today.