The Pakistani film industry can easily be classified into two eras – before Waheed Murad, after Waheed Murad – such was the impact of its entry into cinema. Before he became an actor, he produced a few movies, and once he got the hang of the acting, he got in 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 cinema after completing his studies – a Masters in English Literature from the University of Karachi. Insaan Badalta Hai and Jab Se Dekha Hai Tumhen are his first productions which bring him closer to cinema, while Heera Aur Pathar, was his first film as a leading man, snatched him from the world for a life in the movies.
It was always a tough race for him as he was an underdog in the world of Santosh Kumar, Darpan, Habib, Aslam Pervez, to name a few. But after his entry, it was time for the character role for Santosh Kumar and Habib, as Darpan passed out 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 fair, while Waheed heralded the era where a hero could be a rebel and get away with anything.
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that there was a 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 some evergreen songs).
It was during the early years of his career that he was called a “Chocolate Hero” for his romanticism and sweetness that helped him seduce prominent women like Zeba Begum, Shamim Ara, Shabnam, Babra Sharif, Nisho and Deeba. Despite competition from Mohammad Ali (who rose from villain to hero in the mid-1960s), Nadeem (who debuted as Pakistani Dilip Kumar) and Shahid (who ventured into films in the 1970s) ), Waheed has gone on to deliver hit songs and movies, and can easily be tagged as the actor on whom the most famous songs were filmed in Pakistan.
After all, not everyone gets the chance to dance Ko Ko Ko Rina, romanticize with Akele Na Jana, show disappointment with Mujhe Tum Nazar Se and anger with Dil Ko Jalana. And when it came to being labeled as a failure he picked up Ek Main Hi Bura Hoon Baqi take the blame himself. Few fans know that Waheed has sung a few songs in movies, including the sad version of the famous song. Saathi Tera Mera Saathi of Samandar and Jaise Taise Beetroot Gaya Din of his sole directorial business Ishara. Both films were released in the 1960s.
Many actors both at home and abroad have copied his inventive style of comedy and film songs, including Jeetendra in India and many Waheed look-alikes in Pakistan, including his Samandar co-starring Hanif. There was no reason they couldn’t follow him because in a time when a respectable middle-aged man would wear a sherwani, or don a two-piece suit to stand out, Waheed introduced a western outfit and a distinct hairstyle that added sizzle to the sixties.
The 1970s were a difficult time for the Pakistani film industry as it had just lost the eastern wing of the country and television became more popular than movies due to its quality content. However, that didn’t stop Waheed from experimenting in films. Whether playing a good goonda in Jab Jab Phool Khilay, a frightening double role in Mountain station, a villain obsessed with Sheeshay ka ghar, and a foreign Pakistani deported to Mohabbat Zindagi Hai, he was always there to try different things. His performance in his in-house production Armaan (Pakistan’s first Platinum Jubilee film), Devar bhabi, Andaleeb, Anjuman, Mulaqat, and Awaz can never be forgotten, as he brought romance to normal roles like never before.
Between the 1960s and the mid-1980s, Waheed Murad worked in nearly 123 films, including 114 feature films in Urdu. In the 1970s, he tried his hand at Punjabi cinema and excelled with his first film Mastaba mahi who had the famous Noor Jehan number Sayonee Mera Mahi. He worked in seven other Punjabi films and a Pushto film titled Pakhtoon Pa Vilayat Kamba which was published in Urdu as Kala Dhanda Goray Loag. Of those films, 38 were shot in black and white while 85 were in color, and he received up to 32 prestigious film awards, including a few for best producer, best film, best story and of course, the best actor.
During the 1980s, with the arrival of young actors like Faisal Rehman and Ayaz Naik as well as the rise of Nadeem and Ghulam Mohiuddin, Waheed’s career began to fade. His inability to try out character roles (Mohammad Ali, Nadeem and Shahid played older men in films), playing the villain or even working with new filmmakers cost him his career and he was unable to support the series of flops he delivered between 1980 and 1983.
Ironically, he passed away the same year as Ahmed Rushdi who lent his voice to Waheed’s first and last film and was considered his voice throughout his career. He died of a broken heart who couldn’t believe that the icon of the sixties and seventies had to look for work during the next decade. Although he tried to make a comeback with Hero, his last film as an actor and producer was released two years after his death on 23rd November 1983, while Zalzala went on to be known as his last outing as an actor in 1987. He lived as a hero and died as a hero too, and that is why he is remembered even after 38 years of his final farewells.