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March 10, 2019

Tribute to Riaz Shahid


March 10, 2019

Islamabad : Lok Virsa Mandwa Film Club pays tribute to screenwriter-director-producer Riaz Shahid with his unforgettable film ‘Susral’ on Saturday (March 9), at 3 p.m.

Riaz Shahid was born in 1927. He received his education at Islamia College, Lahore and started his writing career at ‘Chattan’ and later ‘Lail o Nihar’ under Faiz Ahmad Faiz. He later published novel ‘Hazar Dastan’. Sparks of left-wing socialism were in-built from childhood. Working with Habib Jalib in the years to follow strengthened his fight against poverty (Clerk), social injustice and physical disability (Susral), prostitution (Khamosh Raho), Kashmir (Yeh Aman), Palestine (Shaheed, Zerqa) and Muslim Rule in Spain (Gharnata). Each one of these films, both as writer and as writer-director, dismissed the box office and moved beyond run-of-the mill casual entertainment.

His immense respect and loyalty for Palestinian guerilla fighter Leila Khaled were scripted and dramatise for his central characters Musarrat Nazir (Shaheed) and Neelo (Zerqa). In the later film ‘Zerqa’, socio-political currents were added with Habib Jalib's ‘Raqs zangeer pehan ker bhikia jata hai’ as Palestinian heroine Neelo is humiliated and forced to dance before Jewish army general Talish torturing her with lit cigar. Riaz Shahid was badly hurt by the outcome of his daring and ambitious film ‘Aman’ on Kashmir struggle and atrocities which was heavily excised and re-titled as ‘Yeh Aman’ (compulsions under Shimla Agreement). He was not able to complete lensing of his last film ‘Behisht’. The film was later completed by Hassan Tariq. As we go down the memory lane of Riaz Shahid's filmography from portraying betrayal in ‘Bharosa’, poverty in ‘Clerk’, decoit and dancing girl opting for civilised life in ‘Aag Ka Darya’ to lust and greed in ‘Badnaam’, the choice of painful but socially relevant subjects with harsh realism went on and one-without a break.

His collaboration with director Khalil Qaiser in ‘Clerk’, ‘Shaheed’ and ‘Farangi’ could have gone one had it not been the tragic murder of Khalil Qaiser on a dark night at his doorsteps.

Riaz Shahid's film ‘Susral’ in 1962 was a watershed in our film history. With a low-budget, absence of the high production effects (sets, wardrobe) were more than compensated with strong script, powerful characters, and downtown low middle-class Lahore interiors and ambience. Disabled Nighat Sultana is sent to her in-laws in cover of her younger sister Laila. And it is here where poet Munir Niazi, Noorjahan and composer Hassan Latif come out at their best with ‘ja apni hasratoon pey ansoo bahaa key soo ja.’ ‘Susral’ in all manners was Riaz Shahid's film as he produced, scripted and directed it. Major players included Allaudin, Yousaf Khan, Laila, Talish and Nighat Sultana in her only lifetime performance. —[email protected]

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