Though nascent at the time of Independence, the Pakistan film industry did not lack anything in terms of actors, crew, locations and, above all, the creative ideas and the skills needed to translate them to celluloid. No wonder then that the Lahore-based film industry got on its feet within five to six years, where other professions and departments took decades to mature.
The golden period of Urdu movies started from the mid-50s, and produced countless gems. The movie genres were a motley array of topics — musical, action, comedy, romance, social issues, and even taboo topics few would dare now to tackle.
The stretch continued till the mid-70s, when triple attacks put it on another track: first came the loss of the filmmaking hub and talent of Dhaka, then the invasion of the video cassette recorder, or VCR, in homes, and finally, the resurgence of state censorship and the subsequent rise of commercial Punjabi films catering to rural audiences.
But a decade before, in the ’60s, the cinema industry was thriving like never seen before, not only in Lahore and relatively a new hub, Karachi, but also in Dhaka, formerly East Pakistan. Some might call it the ‘Swinging ’60s’ but for Pakistan, it should be remembered as the ‘surging ’60s’, as the country progressed by leaps and bounds in almost every sphere of life.
The year was 1966. Two films — Armaan and Badnaam — would change the landscape of Urdu cinema in Pakistan. Set in two completely different millieus, the two also shared many similarities. And some say one began where the other left off
Just the year 1966 alone is considered significant for Urdu movies in so many ways. For the two previous years, both the East and the West wings of Pakistan had stepped into full-length ‘colour feature films’; Sangam (1964) and Naila (1965) had made their mark and a new crop of actors, producers and directors were making their way to stardom.
The first generation of superstars were at the twilight of the careers, but future superstars, such as Mohammad Ali, Zeba and Waheed Murad, were ready to step in and replace them.
The 1965 war between Pakistan and India had just ended, and Indian movies were banned in Pakistan. Hence, Pakistan’s flourishing film industry was challenged to provide quality productions to satisfy regular cinema-goers. The challenge was to produce a miracle — and it happened on March 18, 1966.
On that day, Armaan, a collaboration between Waheed Murad (producer), Pervez Malik (director), Sohail Rana (musical score) and Masroor Anwar (dialogues, songs) began screening in cinemas across Pakistan. These educated young men belonged to Karachi, and their teamwork gave Pakistan its first film to complete 75 weeks of exhibition in the country’s box-office history.
The year also saw the releases of Himayat Ali Shair’s Lori, Humayun Mirza’s Aag ka Darya and Mohsin Sherazi’s Jaan Pehchaan (first co-production between Pakistan and Iran). But it was Iqbal Shahzad’s Badnaam, released in September 1966, which left a lasting impact and immortalised Saadat Hasan Manto’s short story Jhumkay in celluloid history.
Armaan tells the story of a rich boy and a poor girl in love, who get a bitter taste of life before actually getting married. The first half of the film was inspired by the Shammi Kapoor-Mala Sinha-starrer Dil Tera Deewana (1962), where a brat, played by Shammi Kapoor, switches places with his driver, played by actor Mahmood.
In Armaan, Nasir (Waheed Murad) swaps places with his friend Shahid (Nirala), when his father Nawab Wajahat Ali Khan (Zahoor Ahmed) tells Nasir to go to Murree to choose between two girls as his prospective bride, which Nasir paraphrases as “Shaadi, do larrkiyaan, intikhab aur Murree” in the film. The drama comes in the form of a child born out of wedlock, and the second half of the film deals with its after-effects.
Nasir loves Najma (Zeba), who is bound to protect the true identity of Seema (Tarannum) who, months earlier, had handed over her illegitimate son to Najma. With the scenic location of Murree set as the backdrop and unforgettable melodies by Sohail Rana — such as Ko ko korina, Akele na jaana, Oont pe baith and Zindagi apni thi ab tak, along with a gripping storyline, Armaan was like a breath of fresh air.
The September release Badnaam, an adaptation of Saadat Hasan Manto’s short story Jhumkay, was written by Riaz Shahid, produced and directed by Iqbal Shahzad, (many say it was ghost-directed by director Hasan Tariq), and had a soothing musical score by Deebo Bhattacharya.
For Iqbal Shahzad — the eldest brother of Test cricketers Waqar Hassan and Pervez Sajjad — who started his career as an audio recordist and slowly graduated to becoming a successful producer, turning a story by Urdu’s greatest short story writer into a screenplay was a very big task.
Badnaam is the story of a tonga driver Deeno (Alauddin), whose wife Hameeda (Nabeela) has an eye on a pair of expensive jhumkay (earrings). The husband secretly works extra hours to be able to afford to buy his wife the pair, but when he finally gets them and reaches home to present them to her, he finds her already wearing similar ones.
Hameeda is accused of adultery by Deeno, who delivers one of the most iconic dialogues ever to emerge from Lollywood: “Kahaan se aaye hain yeh jhumkay?” [Where have these jhumkas come from?]. Deeno then goes on to dump Hameeda, with yet another powerful dialogue: “Jab main paseena baich kar jhumkay laa sakta tha, tu tum izzat baich ke jhumkay kyun le ayeen?” [When I could have gotten you these jhumkas by trading my sweat, why did you sell your honour to get them?]
Deeno, left with their only child, a girl called Saeeda, faces another similar situation later when his now grown-up daughter accepts a pair of jhumkas from her male colleague, and he again faces a similar situation. Besides the confrontation between Deeno and Saeeda, the return of Deeno’s ex-wife Hameeda, now a prostitute, towards the climax, adds further fuel to the fire.
For the cinema-goers and film critics, Badnaam begins where Armaan ends.
In May of the same year, Riaz Shahid and Hasan Tariq collaborated for Sawaal, which had a story very similar to that of Armaan. Sawaal was the last film in which the real-life husband and wife pair of Sabiha Khanum and Santosh Kumar played the lead. Rasheed Attre rendered the music score, and which had songs such as Lutt uljhi suljha ja re baalam and Arrey o bemurawwat.
Ejaz Durrani played a negative role in Sawaal, but in Badnaam he was the colleague of Saeeda (Neelo) who presents her with the jhumkay. The short story Jhumkay was earlier cinematised in pre-Partition India, but achieved nowhere close to the success or the impact Badnaam created, and which was even praised in the former USSR.
Critics gave Armaan’s original music score a better rating, but the background score by Deebo for Badnaam, casts a shadow on the former. The way the music highlights the feelings of lust, deceit, betrayal and helplessness of the characters was, until then, a rarity in Pakistan.
Armaan took on a contemporary subject, along with Nawab saheb’s dismissing night-time cricket matches by uttering, “Bhalaa raat me kaun si cricket hoti hai? [What kind of cricket is played at night?]”, to referencing ‘trunk calls’ and the hip nightclubs depicting the proverbial swinging ’60s scene.
The scene where Waheed Murad’s Nasir convinces Nirala’s Shahid to “playback”, that is play songs so that he can lip-sync to them, also mentions the names of India’s then hugely popular playback singer Muhammad Rafi, and his Pakistani counterpart Ahmed Rushdi, both singers who were at the peak of their careers during the ’60s. The “playback” or lip-sync scenario was also used in Bollywood’s Parrosan (1969), when Kishore Kumar does it for Sunil Dutt in the song Mere saamnay wali khirrki mein, to impress the girl.
Apparently set in different milieus, the two blockbusters from mid-60s had some similarities too. The central characters of both films had a fear of badnaami (reputation being tarnished), while the second half of both films dealt with the harsh realities of life.
The most popular songs of both Armaan and Badnaam were not actually conceived for these movies. Akele na jaana was originally composed for a film of the same name, but Waheed Murad, the producer of Armaan, convinced Sohail Rana to hand it over to him, to be used in his film. Similarly, the song Hum bhi musafir, by Masood Rana, was recorded for a film titled Safar, but producer Iqbal Shahzad found it perfect for the situation in Badnaam. Shahzad, being the producer, later shelved Safar.
Besides, there’s a lot of trivia to share about the two films. The late comedian Agha Sarwar, who was introduced in Armaan as a munshi (company treasurer), also played the guitar in Ko ko korina (the tall, lanky guy who, before Waheed Murad, dives in the frame to render the ‘Mere khayalon pe chhaayi hai’ line). The indoor scenes that depict Murree were shot miles away, in Karachi.
“Those were the hottest days of August when these scenes were filmed at Eastern Studios, the fireplace had to be added to the scene where Zeba’s character renders Akele na jaana, without music. Sohail Rana once stated that the fireplace was a necessity for the scene, because they were portraying Murree,” recalls veteran actor Raju Jamil, son of the renowned Urdu poet Jamiluddin Aali.
Jamil claims to have witnessed most of the shooting of Armaan. “Cecil Hotel [Betaab ho udhar tum], Lockwood Hotel and Kashmir Point [Akele na jaana] were used for the picturisation of some songs in Armaan,” Jamil tells Icon, while sharing priceless nuggets of information.
In Badnaam, Alauddin played Deeno, the father, to Neelo’s Saeeda, while he had earlier played father to Ejaz Durrani’s character in Ashfaq Malik’s Gehra Daagh (1964). The Punjabi film Nizam Lohar (1966), released a week after Badnaam, had Alauddin paired with actress Neelo. This shows the versatility of Alauddin — a feat only achieved by Mohammad Ali, and Bollywood actor Sanjeev Kumar, who have played such roles opposite Babra Sharif and Jaya Bahaduri, respectively.
Armaan changed the local film scene forever. Rock ‘n’ roll found its way to Pakistani films, while the movie established Karachi as a major film hub for the next couple of years. Eastern Studios, Modern Studios and International Studios got busy producing movies for quite some time, until the separation of East Pakistan that is now Bangladesh.
With the loss of Dhaka, Karachi also got neglected as most of the stars moved to Lahore. After Armaan, the dress, body language and mannerism of Waheed Murad impacted the youth, while Pervez Malik’s blockbusters entertained the audience throughout the ’70s and then the ’80s. Sohail Rana had bid adieu to composing music for movies by the mid-70s, but emerged as a top draw on television with his milli naghmay (national songs) and the children’s music show Sang Sang Chalein he hosted on PTV.
As for lyricist/writer Masroor Anwar, he remained active till his last days. The super-hit track from Very Good Dunya Very Bad Log, Ghoonghat utha zara ghoonghat utha was recorded just a day before he died, in 1996. Masroor was the only common factor in both Armaan and Badnaam. The song Barray bemurawwat hain yeh husn walay was penned by him, and is still popular.
Hameeda in Badnaam was actress Nabila’s best performance and TV actor Hamid Wyne, famous for his fatherly roles in the ’80s, played the jeweller who handed the jhumkay to Hameeda. Ahmed Rushdi, who rendered five songs in Armaan, was missing from Badnaam, despite being a regular for Alauddin.
At the Nigar Awards the following year, Armaan bagged with six gongs (film, director, actress, comedian, music, playback singer), Aag Ka Darya notched four (actor, lyricist, cinematographer, female singer) while Lori (screenplay, sound editor, child actor) and Badnaam (scriptwriter, supporting actress and special award for Alauddin) won three awards each.
Armaan did the same for Karachi that Chakori (1967) had done for the Dhaka film industry. Chakori had introduced Nadeem as a star, who has been shining till now in whatever movies are being produced. Armaan similarly made Waheed Murad into a star.
In the present make-or-break situation for Urdu films, another miracle such as Armaan or Badnaam is badly needed. But given the current situation of the pandemic, there seems no inkling of any such miracle on the horizon any time soon.
Published in Dawn, ICON, May 9th, 2021