Director, Screenplay: Hassan Tariq
Music: A. Hameed
Lyrics: Saifuddin Saif
Camera: Nabi Ahmad
Sets: Haji Mohiuddin
Cast: Rani, Shahid, Waheed Murad, Husna, Aslam Pervaiz, Talish, Allaudin, Bahar.
Lok Virsa Film Club Mandwa screened film ‘Surriya Bhopali’ from 1976 on Saturday.
How was 1976 for film entertainment? In Hollywood films like ‘Rocky’, ‘Taxi Driver’, ‘Network’ and ‘All the President's Men’ made world film history and ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest’ won Academy Award (Oscar) for Best Film.
On our screen, then TV superstar Roohi Bano was seen on big screen in Shabab Kairanvi's ‘Insaan Aur Farishta’, actress Sangeeta made her successful directorial debut with ‘Society Girl’, ‘American Gangster’ and mafia drama ‘Godfather’ came as ‘Andaata’ and director Nazar Shabab's Shabna was smash hit of the year.
And now Fallen Women. Films with fallen women have been popular all through the ages worldwide. At times redemption but often self-sacrifice has been highlighted as integral part of such melodrama. Social divide between rich hero and poor fallen heroine have been turned into tear jerkers several times, even after Women Liberation took over. Director Hassan Tariq holds a major credit of bringing such women with golden hearts on screen in several hits like ‘Neend’, ‘Anjuman’, ‘Umrao Jan Ada,’ ‘Shikwa,’ ‘Sawal’ and ‘Ek Gunah Aur Sahi’.
On his visit to Moscow Film Festival in early seventies, where ‘Umrao Jan Ada’ was screened, Hassan Tariq was asked if prostitutes and fallen women (seen in most of Hassan Tariq's films) was the only issues Pakistani society was facing! Hassan Tariq did not respond to that question.
Let us turn back the movie history clock. ‘Umrao Jan Ada’ of Mirza Ruswa was a courtesan of Lucknow. Nawabs used to send their children to these courtesans to grasp social norms and finesse in language, attitude and manners. The fallen women in almost all our films are seldom redeemed. Going back to ‘Umrao Jan Ada’, the biggest of them came with Kamal Amrohi's ‘Pakeeza’ in early seventies. Incidentally, the film took over ten years in the making but played modestly at the box office in the first week of release but with the tragic news of Meena Kumari's demise, ‘Pakeeza’ gradually picked up and became hit of the seventies.
‘Suriya Bhopali's’ beginning titles with female hands clapping in multi-screen shots, prepares us of what is about to follow - Qawali Music.
Hasan Tariq as screenwriter, has made sure that he is never far from ‘Umrao Jan Ada’. Of course, new characters have been added: Waheed Murad as poor Qawal and Husna as fashionable vamp (adding not much to the plot of the film, anyway). Nawabzada Shahid is invited at a musical concert of ‘Surriya Bhopali’, who has just arrived from Bhopal. Needless to comment that Shahid would instantly fall for this glamorous ‘qawalan’. Formula-ridden script forbids that. Even Waheed Murad, as the underdog tragic character, in a supporting role, can't help and must shed tears in silence. He too loves the ‘qawalan’.
The major highlight of ‘Surriya Bhopali’ is Rani, not just with her well choreographed dances, wardrobe, tons of jewellery and make up with her performance on impressive sets.
The entire film has almost been filmed in the studios, including the outdoors of Waheed Murad's muddy hut with make-believe plastic bushes, flowers, plants and even trees. The film begins and ends on flashbacks. In the final moments, now aged and bearded Shahid and Waheed Murad, meet on Rani's grave. She had earlier, bleeding to death, rendered her swan song on Shahid's wedding, Shahid must now also follow her, of all the places, in the graveyard.
Apart from rich glamour of Rani and production effects, A. Hameed's exceptionally good score (with soft notes of sittar) are the very best in ‘Surriya Bhoopali’: "Naam aye na tera", "Tha yaqeen key ayen gi", "Jis taraf aankh uthaoon teri tasweeran hai".
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