Article: Lost icons of Pakistani music and their lost causes

February 26, 2009


Lost icons, lost cause

By Seema Faruqi

Ahmed Rushdi gave this country countless hits from Ko Ko Korina, Akele Na Jana, Haan Issi Morr Par, Alif Se Aachi and Bandar Road Se Keamari, literally ruling the air in the ’60s and ’70s … but he was awarded the ultimate prize of Sitara-i-Imtiaz by the Government of Pakistan in 2003, 20 years after his death.

Same was the case with Akhlaq Ahmed who carried the torch after Rushdi’s demise in the ’80s, till he was diagnosed with blood cancer. But once out of the country for his treatment, he was out of sight … and out of mind.
Shahenshah-i-Ghazal Mehdi Hassan has been in and out of hospitals for various diseases due to old age and ill health. But for us Pakistanis, it was a moment of pride as well as shame when Indian ghazal singer Jagjit Singh came to Pakistan in 2004 to support the maestro financially by performing only for the second time in the country.

Pakistani actors have also been at the receiving end, especially when they are out of work. Although many have been saved by the arrival of private productions as they pay better, but those who lived before were at a loss.

Waheed Murad was an icon during the ’60s and ’70s and is still considered the best film actor we ever had. His decline did not happen due to aging as a chocolate hero; the major factor being his friends who opted for younger actors such as Faisal Rehman, Ayaz Naik and Javed Sheikh in the ’80s, ignoring him despite his huge fan following. He died on November 23, 1983, just days after appearing on a PTV show in which he appeared dejected and disheartened. Rangeela, the comic genius, singer, actor and producer and Waheed Murad’s sidekick in many films also breathed his last in relative obscurity despite being active as recent as the late ’90s.

Same is the case with Safeerullah aka Lehri, the great comedian of yesteryears who brought smiles to millions of faces for more than three decades with his unique style of dialogue delivery. He suffered a paralytic attack 20 years ago which ended his glorifying career, and since then he has been battling for his life in Karachi. Despite being helped by many including his biggest fan Moin Akhtar, he presents a sorry state to say the least.

Musicians as gifted as Nisar Bazmi and Sohail Rana would have been treated differently had they been in another country. While Nisar Bazmi got just one offer to make music in the last 20 years of his career (Very Good Duniya, Very Bad Loge in the ’90s), Sohail Rana chose to settle abroad rather than face the music after his last film Hisaab in 1986.

When, during his lifetime, Bazmi sahib was asked by Images (August 8, 2006) whether he would like to make a comeback to the music industry, he replied with astonishing honesty. “I am still the composer I used to be. Agar woh mujhe is qabil samajhte hain to mujhe film dein gay. I have done quality work all my life and it is they who should come to me if they want me to give music for their films.” When singer Mehnaz sang for Aik Aur Love Story a decade back, film actor Nadeem was left dumbfounded by the freshness of the vocals and asked the director Sajjad Ali who the vocalist was, to which he replied: “Saari zindagi aap ne inn kay gaane sune hain, ab aap naam pooch rahe hain?”

The worst part of all this is the fact that if Amitabh Bachchan is hospitalised, people in Pakistan feel bad and pray for his recovery. In fact, millions in Pakistan cried and were left devastated when Doomsday destroyed Superman in comics during the ’90s, but hardly a tear was shed when local celebrities such as Rangeela and Akhlaq Ahmed battled for their lives in local hospitals.

If ever there is a popularity poll for singers in Pakistan, pop singing sensation Alamgir will top it due to his amazing contribution to the music industry and his ability to relate to all generations. But how many people know that a couple of years back the iconic singer was diagnosed with failing kidneys while he was busy doing concerts in Karachi. His fans abroad have helped him because he doesn’t have the means to go through the three-days-a-week dialysis … a fact that proves that for us — his fellow countrymen — out of sight is out of mind.

link: DAWN.COM | Images | Lost icons, lost cause