Instep Today

The many shades of Nadeem Baig

Instep Today
By Omair Alavi
Fri, 07, 19

As living legend Nadeem Baig celebrates his 78th birthday today, Instep looks at his work from television to film.

This year on July 19, that is today, the countless fans of Mirza Nazeer Baig aka Nadeem will be celebrating his 78th birthday. The living legend is still a force to be reckoned with when it comes to the mediums of films and television – even though he made his debut back in the late 1960s. What better time to read about him than his birthday so Instep presents the many shades of the man who has been carrying the flag of Pakistani cinema for over half a century and making us proud around the world. Read on:

Chakori (1966) – Enter the 1960s

Significance: Debut film where he was first the villain, then the hero

Before he became a film star, Nadeem was a part of a Pakistan Television program where he used to sing in Urdu and Bangla. It was from there that film director Ehtesham picked him to play the villain in Chakori and after the hero, Azeem dropped out for unknown reasons, Nadeem was cast as the leading man. According to the veteran actor, he wasn’t anxious to leave his job at an advertising agency and was only convinced when his boss Zahir Raihan (director of Sangam, the first ever Urdu film in color) assured him that he would take him back if he didn’t do well in films. Thankfully, there was no stopping Nadeem who used his likeness to Bollywood star Dilip Kumar to his advantage and went onto deliver back to back hits in both East and West Pakistan.

Aaina (1977) – The highlight of the 1970s

Significance: Playing a mature role, that of a young father

It may have been an amalgamation of a handful of Bollywood films but Aaina was so superior to other Pakistani films of that era that it was copied back in India, as Pyar Jhukta Nahi. While talking about the offer of Pyar Jhukta Nahi in his autobiography, Bollywood actor Rishi Kapoor said that he refused the role because he wasn’t ready to play father to a 7-year-old on the big screen. Considering that, we must commend Nadeem’s decision to play the role of a father at a time when he was wooing the most beautiful heroines in Pakistan and was in his 30s. Only Mohammad Ali had played mature roles till then as Nadeem’s contemporaries Waheed Murad and Shahid stayed away from such experiments. Besides Nadeem’s outstanding performance, the film was blessed with a beautiful soundtrack by Robin Ghosh, Nazrul Islam’s brilliant direction and Shabnam’s outstanding acting. Combined, you get a film that is still relevant after 42 years!

Bandish (1980) – moving into the 1980s

Significance: A revolutionary new hair style

The same team of Aaina returned to produce Bandish and changed the face of Pakistani cinema, literally. Nadeem sported a different hairstyle in the film and although it was hailed and copied by all, when asked about it, he revealed that it was done to hide his growing baldness. Baldness or no baldness, the film was an outstanding success and steered Nadeem to the top, where his colleagues from the previous decade including Waheed Murad, Mohammad Ali and Shahid were unable to stay relevant because of their old school styling. In the film, Nadeem played the leading man opposite both Shabnam and Diana Christina, an East Asian actress, who befriends his character after he loses his memories in an accident. How he gets them back and what happens to his family from the other life is what makes Bandish a film that you can never forget.

Door Desh (1983) – The real angry

young man

Significance: Showing the world what an angry young man is!

He had played negative roles in many films including Samaj, Shama, and Suhaag, but the way Nadeem proved his credentials in Indo-Canadian-Bangladeshi flick, Door Desh aka Gehri Chot was remarkable. He not only stood his ground in front of Shashi Kapoor, Sharmila Tagore, Raj Babbar, and Parveen Babi but also showed the world that an angry young man isn’t just tall, dark and handsome but has to act like one as well.

No offense to Amitabh Bachchan but after re-watching Nadeem in the international film, many in India should be thankful that he decided to come back to Pakistan. As Tony, a gangster who falls in love with the girl he has kidnapped, he was at his very best. During my first interaction with Nadeem, some 20 years back, I asked him why he preferred the minor role over Raj Babbar’s hero, he said that the ‘minor’ role gave him a chance to prove himself. He was right.

Jeeva (1995) – welcome to the 1990s

Significance: A young to old act, with perfection

And then there was the film that actually kick-started the revival of Pakistani cinema, Syed Noor’s Jeeva. In his first major film as a writer-turned-director, Syed Noor chose to pay tribute to the man who was the sole representative of the industry at that time. Nadeem played debutant Resham’s father in the film, a person who escapes from his old life in Pakistan to Turkey where his past catches up with him, in the shape of his daughter’s beau, played by Babar Ali. At a time when his contemporaries in Pakistan were either dead (Waheed Murad), retired (Mohammad Ali) or semi-retired (Shahid), Nadeem was still a force to be reckoned with and gave veterans Javed Sheikh and Ghulam Mohiuddin a tough time in Jeeva. He decided to go for mature roles long before Amitabh Bachchan did, who being one year younger, did Lal Baadshah as late as 1999. Both his leading ladies in that film (Manisha Koirala, Shilpa Shetty) were born (1970 and 1975) after Big B had made his film debut in 1969! Nadeem, on the other hand, last worked with any of his leading ladies from the golden era in the early 1990s. For his TV debut, he wasn’t far behind Amitabh Bachchan though.

– Omair Alavi is a freelance broadcast journalist who can be contacted at [email protected]