A delicious but sad story by Nadeem Paracha about our childhood film hero, Waheed Murad. (F. Sheikh)
One of the paan shops where I usually buy my cigarettes from once had a fading poster of bygone Pakistani film star and icon, Waheed Murad. I had noticed the poster pasted in one corner of the shop ever since I first began buying my cigarette packs from this place almost 20 years ago.
I know the shop owner well. Today he is a white-haired man in his late 60s and his name is Yameen. He owns three more such paan and cigarette shops in the area and has done well for himself and his family.
He lives in a three bedroom apartment (which he owns) with his wife and three children (two sons and a daughter). The sons are college graduates. One of them looks after two of Yameen’s three shops, while the other son works in the sales department of a tea company. Last year Yameen’s daughter completed her intermediate from a local college.
Yet, despite the fact that I have known Yameen for over 20 years now, I had no idea that before he set up his first paan shop in Karachi’s Boat Basin area 31 years ago, he used to be a barber.
I came to know about this only recently after I finally asked him about the fading, dusty Waheed Murad poster that he just refused to peel off.
He began to laugh: ‘Arey, aap nahi jaantey …?’ (You still don’t know about this?).
One of Yameen’s, employees, Kudrat, smiled as well: ‘Yaar Paracha Sahib, aap nein Yawar Bhai ki dukhti rug par haath rak diya hai …’ (You have hit a sore nerve).
It turns out that the poster is over 40 years old! Yameen bought it from a street vendor in Saddar’s Regal area in 1974 when he was in his early 20s. He was a huge Waheed Murad fan.
At the time Pakistan’s film industry was thriving and Waheed Murad was one its biggest stars.
Yameen had joined one of his uncles’ barber shop in the city’s Guru Mandir area after he dropped out from a government school in the 10th grade.
‘I had become a barber because of Waheed Murad,’ he told me. ‘His hair style was all the rage in those days. Women were crazy about him and all the men wanted the barbers to give them the Waheed Murad Cut …’
In 1979 Yameen managed to set up his own barber shop. But four years later he suddenly sold it to a friend and used the money to open a paan shop in Clifton.
Wasn’t the shop doing well?
The shop was doing very well,’ Yameen replied. ‘I was making good money from it.’
But then why suddenly sell it?
‘Murad Sahib ki wafat hogayee thi …’ (Waheed Murad died), Yameen explained.
After Murad’s demise, Yameen stopped going to the cinema and anyway, by then the country’s Urdu film industry had already begun its downward slide and the extroverted and populist characteristics of the pre-1980s’ society had begun to fold inwards.
‘One day, just like that, I quit being a barber,’ Yameen explained. ‘I was heartbroken by his (Murad’s) death. But more saddening was the fact that people simply forgot about him. He had brought such joy and colour to so many Pakistanis, but very few mourned his death.’
When Pakistan’s film industry began its decline, a number of actors and filmmakers who had been joyfully reaping fame and fortune suddenly found themselves stranded and abandoned.
Some took to drinking and slipped into obscurity; some compromised their egos (and fee) and began doing TV plays; while others ventured into taking roles in loud, kitsch Punjabi films whose stock and popularity rose rather bizarrely in the 1980s. Click link for full article.