Waheed Murad – The chocolate hero of Pakistan
The Pakistan film industry can easily be categorised into two eras – Before Waheed Murad, After Waheed Murad – such was the impact of his entry into films. Before he took up acting, he produced a couple of films, and once he understood the game, he entered it and changed it for the better.
Born on October 2, 1938 to filmmaker and film distributor Nisar Murad, Waheed was one of the first actors to venture into films after completing his education – a Master’s in English Literature from the Karachi University. Insaan Badalta Hai and Jab Se Dekha Hai Tumhen were his first productions which brought him closer to films, while Heera Aur Pathar, was his first flick as a leading man, snatched him away from the world for a life in movies.
It was always a difficult ride for him since he was an outsider in the world of Santosh Kumar, Darpan, Habib, Aslam Pervez, to name a few. But after his entrance, it was character role time for Santosh Kumar and Habib, while Darpan faded away as a hero, and Aslam Pervez turned to the dark side to extend his career. They belonged to the old school heroism where the hero had to be righteous, while Waheed heralded the era where a hero could be a rebel and get away with anything.
It wouldn’t be incorrect to say that there was a little bit of James Dean and Elvis Presley in Waheed, who was aided in his quest for stardom by his friends and colleagues Ahmed Rushdi (the voice), Pervez Malik (the director), Sohail Rana (the music composer) and Masroor Anwar (the lyricist). Together, they gave hits like Heera Aur Pathar, Armaan, Ehsaan and Doraha (which wasn’t a huge hit but had evergreen songs).
It was during the early years of his career that he was labelled ‘Chocolate Hero’ for his romanticism, and softness that helped him woo leading ladies like Zeba Begum, Shamim Ara, Shabnam, Babra Sharif, Nisho and Deeba. Despite facing competition from Mohammad Ali (who switched from a villain to a hero in the mid-60s), Nadeem (who made his debut as Pakistan’s Dilip Kumar) and Shahid (who ventured into films in the 70s), Waheed kept delivering hit songs and films, and can easily be labelled as the actor on whom the most famous songs were filmed in Pakistan.
After all, not everyone gets a chance to dance on Ko Ko Ko Rina, romanticise with Akele Na Jana, show his disappointment with Mujhe Tum Nazar Se and anger with Dil Ko Jalana. And when it came to being labelled as a failure, he picked up Ek Main Hi Bura Hoon Baqi to take the blame himself. Not many fans are aware that Waheed sang a couple of songs in films, including the sad version of the famous song Saathi Tera Mera Saathi from Samandar and Jaise Taise Beet Gaya Din from his only directorial venture Ishara. Both the films were released in the 1960s.
Many actors, both at home and across the border, copied his inventive style of acting and film songs, and that included Jeetendra in India and many Waheed lookalikes in Pakistan including his Samandar co-star Hanif. There was no reason why they wouldn’t follow him because, in an era when a respectable middle-aged man would wear a sherwani, or don a two-piece suit to stand out, Waheed introduced Western attire and a distinct hairstyle that added sizzle to the sixties.
The 70s was a tough time for Pakistan’s film industry as it had just lost East wing of the country and TV became more popular than films due to its quality content. However, that did not stop Waheed from experimenting in movies. Be it playing a good-hearted goonda in Jab Jab Phool Khilay, a scary double role in Hill Station, an obsessed villain in Sheeshay Ka Ghar, and a foreign returned Pakistani in Mohabbat Zindagi Hai, he was always there to try different things. His performance in his home production Armaan (Pakistan’s first Platinum Jubilee film), Devar Bhabi, Andaleeb, Anjuman, Mulaqat, and Awaz can never be forgotten, for he brought romance to normal roles like never before.
Between the 1960s and the mid-1980s, Waheed Murad worked in nearly 123 films out of which 114 were Urdu feature films. In the 1970s, he tried his hands in Punjabi cinema and excelled with his first movie Mastaba Mahi that had the famous Noor Jehan number Sayonee Mera Mahi. He worked in seven more Punjabi flicks and one Pushto movie titled Pakhtoon Pa Vilayat Kamba that was released in Urdu as Kala Dhanda Goray Loag. Out of these flicks, 38 were shot in black-and-white while 85 were in colour, and he received as many as 32 prestigious film awards, including a few for the best producer, best film, best story and obviously, best actor.
During the 1980s, with the arrival of younger actors like Faisal Rehman and Ayaz Naik as well as the ascent of Nadeem and Ghulam Mohiuddin, Waheed’s career began to fade. His inability to try character roles (Mohammad Ali, Nadeem and Shahid did play older men in films), play the bad guy or even work with newer filmmakers cost him his career and he couldn’t sustain the string of flops he delivered between 1980 and 1983.
Ironically, he passed away the same year as Ahmed Rushdi who lent his vocals to Waheed’s first and final film and was considered his voice for the duration of his career. He died of a broken heart that couldn’t believe that the icon of the sixties and the seventies had to look for work in the succeeding decade. Although he did try to make a comeback with Hero, his final film as an actor and a producer was released two years after his death on 23rd November 1983, while Zalzala went on to be known as his final release as an actor in 1987. He lived a hero and died as one too, and that’s why he is remembered even after 38 years of saying his final farewell.
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