A tale of two clones
Waheed Murad tells his friend Shahid (played by Nirala), to practice ‘playback’ in the way Dilip Kumar and Santosh Kumar do. This was the popularity of Dilip Kumar in Pakistan even after the 1965 war and inspite of the fact that Indian films were not being screened in local cinemas.
Born as Yousuf Khan in Peshawar in 1922, then part of the undivided India, Dilip was adored by Pakistanis just the way Indians loved Madam Noor Jahan. A constant search for a replacement was always there for both. Pakistanis wanted their own Dilip and the song, ‘Main Dilip Kumar Ban Ke’ in East Pakistani film Begana was proof of that.
It was the early sixties when Waheed Murad was producing his debut venture, Insaan Badalta Hai. Being the son of a leading film distributor Nisar Murad, our beloved actor was well informed regarding the basics of filmmaking.
Simultaneously, a retired ICS officer, Fazl Ahmed Karim Fazli was busy with his maiden venture Chiragh Jalta Raha. Saeed Fazli, son of FAK Fazli recollects an incident: “Waheed and I were close friends, being in the same post-graduate English Literature class at the University of Karachi. Waheed would often visit our place. Abba was struck by his good looks and it was in a meeting at the sets of Chiragh Jalta Raha in June 1961 that he told Nisar Murad: ‘make this boy a hero’.”
Murad did venture into acting but only after completing his studies. In 1964, he was busy with his first film as a protagonist in Heera aur Pathar under the direction of Pervez Malik, who had himself just returned from the United States of America after completing his studies. It was at Murad’s wedding in September 1964 where a 23-year-old Nazir Baig Mughal caught attention of some when he sang a couple of songs. Desperate to make it big, Baig performed what he thought he knew best.
In 1965, Nisar Bazmi, the music composer of Waqt ki Pukar, brought Baig to Fazli’s residence in Karachi. A man with an eye for talent, Fazli sahab uttered the same sentence he said to another Nisar years earlier: ‘make this boy a hero,’ but no one paid attention.
Baig then went to East Pakistan and was spotted by the legendary Firdausi Begum at Dhaka TV Station. From there he was introduced to musician Robin Ghosh which led him to Captain Ehtisham, the famous director who is considered the pioneer of Urdu films in the East Wing.
Ehtisham took control of Baig’s career and recorded the famous ‘Kahan Ho Tumko Dhoond Rahi Hain’ for his cinematic venture Chakori. Baig had been selected for a side role but when the original protagonist had a disagreement with Ehtisham, Baig had to fill in for the lead role.
It was around the same time Fazli sahab started working on his new film Waqt ki Pukar with Tahir, a 25-year old lad who resembled the thespian. It is reported that Dilip Kumar once had a look at Tahir’s picture and exclaimed, “bhaee, yeh tu hamara bhai wayi lag raha hai!”
Unfortunately for Tahir, his career was halted by the war of 1965 for several reasons. Firstly, the production of Waqt Ki Pukar got delayed in the West Wing. Then, Saeed Fazli got entangled in politics. Finally, all references of India were removed from the film. With the release date fast approaching, reshoot was not possible. The film bombed at the box office on its release on March 23, 1967. Tahir’s career failed to take-off.
Chakori was released on the same day in East Pakistan. Shabana was cast as a heroine with Baig, christened as ‘Nadeem’ in the film. A simple love story with a new cast failed to attract distributors in West Pakistan, but was a massive hit in the East. The extraordinary music by Robin Ghosh went on to shatter all records. The movie, when released later in West Pakistan, became a blockbuster making Nadeem an overnight star.
Nadeem Baig became so famous that he even posed a threat to Waheed Murad. The Nigar Award for the best actor also went to Nadeem that year, despite Murad giving films like Ehsan and Doraha. In 1968, Nadeem married Ehtisham’s daughter, becoming the son-in-law of his mentor.
On the other hand, Tahir is now living a private life in Karachi, away from showbiz. He failed to get more offers after Waqt ki Pukar despite being advised by Muhammad Ali to sign more films. His next film Sangtarash was his own production. Started in 1972, it stalled due to financial constraints and Tahir had to change his career from that of an actor to a sculptor in order to make a living. The film was completed in 1988 but when it was sent to censors, it got banned.
Nadeem continued with his imitation of Dilip Kumar for some years. His films Nadaan and Zameen Asmaan were lifted from Dilip Kumar’s Gopi and Aan, but by then, the budding star had developed a style of his own.
It was during the 1970-86 period that Nadeem joined hands with Pervez Malik, Nazrul Islam and Javed Fazil to give blockbusters which were copied across the border. Every Indian actor of those days, sans Amitabh Bachchan, has worked in a Nadeem Baig inspired film.
The veteran actor has now completed 50 years in the film industry in March 2017, but it was in May 1967, when people of this side of Pakistan finally got their own Dilip Kumar. Tahir, who was provided with a ‘full chance’ to become Dilip’s clone, was deceived by fate, while Nazir Baig, someone who wanted to pursue a music career, first became the clone and then emerged as the country’s greatest star.