Waheed Murad in a still from a film.
Waheed Murad (October 2, 1938 – November 23, 1983), the legendary Pakistani film actor, producer and script writer, was a sentient human of a transcendental reality, existing within the subliminal cinemas of his mind, and essentially, in the full outreach of his arts
Who isn’t smitten by the dashing Waheed Murad? Despite his meteoric success in the stardom, Waheed is a metaphor for the fashion world and romantic nostalgia to boot, as Elvis Presley is in rock and roll. When I pay a visit to his filmy website to catch a glimpse of him, I am both intrigued and intimidated just being here. Because, this world is much beyond my comprehension. Yet, I am here. Come to think of it, that’s exactly the kind of effect Waheed Murad has on people. And trust me, as an outsider who knows nothing about movies, let alone Waheed, I am just as enchanted as anyone else, drawn into his aura. Far apart we maybe, but he seems to be hovering on the outskirts of my mind’s eye, whom I now try to fathom. Is he unfathomable? Most likely, but at the cost of being laughed at by all of Waheed’s associates, and perhaps against my better judgment, I set out in a bid, to explore his artistry. The best that there is by a long shot in the Himalayan peninsula.
Not inconsequentially, I cannot but help thinking of the obvious. Very rarely, does one comes across a personality of Waheed’s stature in the movie world. Regardless of age, he strikes a chord even with the fourth graders, particularly one girl that comes to mind, who watch his movie, Armaan in grade four and take a fancy to him. She cannot be made to wake up the next morning to go to school because, her eyelids are laden with lovesick potion; he who is a senior by 30 years at least; the same age as her parents. This “chocolate” hero, gives her a flavour of his maddening charms, like he does to millions of crazed, intergenerational women, back in the day, and today. A zesty king of the hearts, this tall man with slightly drooping shoulders, but not rugged necessarily. He stalks them in their dream and day dream as though Venus, Cupid and Aphrodite with the entire pantheon of love gods collude to shoot random arrows with this love message that it is expressly vital.
Waheed Murad with Beena Kanwal in a still from a film.
In the meantime, as the time passes, that fourth grader notably, continues to suffer from love affliction at the risk of being precocious. If this sweet sensation is corrupting in Socratic measure, then so be it. Because, this puppy love, which no hemlock can slay, grows and flourishes like a secret garden in her charmed heart. She does not outgrow this any time soon, although she may grow out of her dresses. It sinks deep, and freezes in the moment’s rock bottom, with many historical chain of events piled up over it. Primarily, the bad blood and tensions between the East and the West Pakistan, culminating into a brutal civil war, ending in a severed relationship. I don’t want to go into the gory details of the war or its causes. I only want to celebrate the magnetic Waheed Murad to prove a point; that he is rightly an atypical idealist.
Having said this, it is not an easy feat. Being a Bangladeshi, it is not easy to put only Waheed with his ideology in a bubble without the historical rubble. Because his fans, even in the aftermath, imagine him to be just that, uncontaminated as the raindrops, pure as the driven snow, never to be betrayed by a poet’s imagination. For many years after the war, when I rekindle my frozen memory of the somewhat snapped link with my dark hero, since I am that precocious fourth grader, I retrieve him from a memory storage in a holographic projection, as it were, with awful clarity. Curious as it is, this shocking revelation isn’t a case of a novelty wearing off, rather one of idolatry, loyal enough to awaken him from his crypt. Here he is, in the forefront of my thoughts, this dandy, debonair hero, pulled up from my memory storage. With little hope, or none at all, for all that is worth, and much for his fans’ sake, as well as mine, this figment of my imagination lends itself to a legacy within a legacy. Like Hamlet’s ghost, it haunts to goad me farther to the brink of God-knows-what, to unravel a mystery about him that the world knows not. This spell, fogs all my critical thinking; an insane craving resurfaces, strong and ravenous that cannot dispel my thoughts about him. Even better that I retreat into a fantasy world to shape him as whatever I wish in my story, a full blooded lover, or platonic, as decreed by our circumstance.
Platonic, now there’s a thought. At best, this can clue me in to seek out a new dimension in Waheed’s gripping love scenes. That which may assist in eliciting his personal thoughts on romance through his movies. He is not an incidental hero, who perchance takes Lollywod by the storm. What is it after all, that makes Waheed’s love scenes a cut above the rest, thus far special? Watching Waheed, in circumspect and maturity, I say this, that even in his most flirtatious roles, there is a fascinating underlay. An aspect, a missing link to a shadow reality, which elude the viewers. In essence, an urgency to define love as fulfilling and undying, which Waheed the persona, exudes almost involuntarily. His nuanced performances of intimacy, the touches, the facial expressions, the linguistic flourishes of sweet endearments, poured into the ears of his leading ladies, are all accomplished with such dexterity that the self and the art bond indistinguishably. Hence, Waheed the mask, and Waheed the man, converge into one whole inseparable entity, alluding to an unscripted streaming.
To tie up the loose ends, his romantic roles translate, by far, into a fusion; a fusion of the physical and the spiritual which dictates the former to be a stepping stone to reach a higher ground of love. And in his passionate pursuance, this zeal for love is akin to bandagi and zindagi; an atypical ambition, he struggles to attain. Something, not sought after by the majority of actors, but all too uncommon a concept; an idea of resolute love, which resides in the soul to mean that he is never really in love with the person, but with the idea of love itself in the spirit, which he strives to conceptualise and perfect in its abstraction.
Waheed Murad with Aliya Begum in a still from a film.
What’s more? To understand Waheed, I delve deeper into his fundamental ideals. It dawns upon me that Waheed’s movies unveil not just his artistic endeavour, but his life and death, and a potent philosophy all entwined in one seamless composition. It is very convincing that the man that he is, the lover that he acts, are all but in pursuit of love for humanity, truth, beauty and fairness. And as I stumble on the newspaper, Dawn: In Memoriam,The Mystery Behind Waheed Murad, my inkling is corroborated; that the coded messages conveyed in Zubaida, Bandagi, Samundar, Mastana Mahi, and Naag Mani are all but well thought out allegories, central to his core beliefs of religious equality, and mutual bonding in a country torn apart by ravages of war and zealous stupidity. This uncompromising situation to find a common-ground for union, empathy and egalitarianism, disturbs his equilibrium profoundly. The irreconcilable wave of religious apathy, social and political disparity, precludes him to achieve poetic justice, to a fatal consequence; an irreparable loss pushing his fans to the edge of inconsolable grief.
As he dies in carelessness, for all it may seem, a death most tragic, but certainly not in vain. Because, he is never off-limits to his fans. His remains burn aflame in their tender love for him; in fact, Elvis has never left the building. His signature writ large on the silver screen, the appealing smiles of youth, moody, blues looks, and croaky, sexy voice-overs with a marked air of romance, sets him apart from casual ordinariness; a cast, not from the same mould as the other actors of his time.
Lest the world forgets, he is that Sufi steeped in love, that poet lost in lyrics, and that postmodern visionary drunk with idealism. But also an actor who lives to die another day. He, who offers himself to posterity in all earnestness, not in the sense of a celebrity hero, but as a question for those, who pine away for him, to wonder, and to ponder timelessly about Waheed Murad, the man. Hence, his fans remember this powerful enigma, as mei aisa ak sawaal hu, that he is a question, nobody can answer. He is that mystery, nobody can unfold.
It may very well be that Waheed is none of this, but exceptionally talented entertainer, made larger than life. However, to picture him as an iconic image at the behest of my inspiration, necessitates retracing this journey, which hints at all these possibilities. To conclude Waheed Murad’s inconclusive tale, one may gauge him to be a sentient human of a transcendental reality, existing within the subliminal cinemas of his mind, and essentially, in the full outreach of his arts.
Some of my favourite songs of Waheed sung by Ahmed Rushdie are:
Jaab pyar mein do dil miltehe mein sochta hun (Armaan)
Akele na jana hamein chod tumko (Armaan)
Mere dilke mehfil (Andaleeb)
Mujhe tumse muhabbat (Heera Aur Patthar)
Jaane bahaar jaane tamanna tumhi to ho (Insaniyaat)
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The writer says about my article "In Memoriam,The Mystery Behind Waheed Murad" that it corroborated her inkling. May I say that likewise, this article -- especially coming from Bangladesh as it is -- corrorates my propositions, and for that I am very grateful to the writer. This is an amazing perspective, and extremely valuable for me as the biographer of Waheed Murad. Thanks, once again.
Khurram Ali Shafique
Jun 5, 2018 at 07:39