Nazim Panipati, a poet and a lyricist, groomed several film stars of the subcontinent
By Mohammad Javed Pasha
It was a hot afternoon of Jun 18, 1998, when an anonymous poet, story writer and copywriter was buried in the Model Town graveyard in Lahore. It was Nazim Panipati, who wrote Lata Mangeshkar’s first song, ‘Dil mera tora’, in film ‘Majboor’ in 1948. The song became popular throughout India.
When the first song of Lata was being recorded in Bombay, many people sitting around did not like her voice. Master Ghulam Haider told Nazim, “Mark my words, a day will come when this girl will become the biggest singer of India after Noor Jahan.”
Nazim Panipati too earned fame and famous actor and director Sohrab Modi booked Nazim as songwriter for his next film ‘Sheesh Mahal’.
Nazim Panipati was born in Lahore in 1920, fifth son of a schoolteacher Abdul Karim and the younger brother of Wali Mohammad, known as Wali Sahib, an eminent film director, producer and storywriter of the subcontinent.
Nazim owed much to Wali Sahib who started his own career by writing songs and Naats, which became popular in Lahore including, ‘Aaya hai bulawa mujhe darbar-e-Nabi say’ sung by Shamshad Begum. The filmmakers from Bombay who used to come to Lahore were impressed by Wali Sahib and Nazim Panipati and requested them to come to Bombay.
Nazim Panipati collaborated with some of the great composers of his time: Master Ghulam Haider, Ustad Jhanday Khan, Bhai Lal Mohammad, and G. A. Chishti. The songs and scripts of films ‘Shireen Farhad’ and ‘Shalimar’ were written by Nazim. This established him as a leading songwriter of that time. During 1939-1952 Nazim wrote songs, dialogues and scripts of over 300 films in Bombay.
He also served the industry by grooming and spotting talent, “Pran (Krishna) was my discovery,” he once told me. “It was in the year 1939 that I spotted a young man working for a photographer at Lakshmi Chowk Lahore this was where most film offices were located then. He seemed photogenic to Wali Sahib and me. We inquired if he would like to work in films. At first, he was wonderstruck, but after thinking about it, he agreed.
“I trained Pran for proper dialogue delivery in Punjabi and Urdu, after which Pancholi studios employed him. A year later, he played the leading role against baby Noor Jahan in ‘Khandaan’. The music was scored by Ustad Ghulam Haider and Syed Shaukat Husain Rizvi was the director. The film was a super hit and Pran became big!”
It was again Nazim who brought Johnny Walker to Bollywood. “It was sometime in late 1951 or early 1952 when, in the public park in Bandra, a young man in his early 20s Badruddin, who knew all about me, my profession, and my connections within the film industry, tried to befriend me and a few other colleagues. He would fetch us tea and sometimes even give us head massage. It seemed he was doing these favours for a purpose. A good imitator, Badruddin tried to impress me by mimicking the acting of several popular Urdu, Gujarati, and Marathi actors. Soon it became clear to me that he was hankering for a minor role in a film”.
“After some pestering and cajoling on his part, I took him to Wali Sahib for an audition. On my request, director of film ‘Baazee’ engaged Badruddin there and then. His first assignment was to act as a drunken inmate. Badruddin performed the role impressively. Thereafter, luck shone on him and he rapidly climbed the ladder of success. He adopted the name of Johnny Walker, perhaps to serve as a reminder how he broke into the industry: by playing the role of a drunkard carrying bottle of Johnny Walker whisky in his hand”.
Helen, India’s most famous dancer also owes Nazim her breakthrough. While his wife was in hospital in Bombay, a Christian nurse sought his help in earning some extra money to meet her domestic expenses. She had an 8-year-old daughter, whom she wanted to groom as a dancer. Nazim took the girl to a friend who ran a dance school. He accepted Helen as a pupil. Panipati visited frequently to watch her progress. After some time, with Nazim’s help and recommendations, Helen was introduced to the film world.
In 1950, Nazim Panipati was asked by the management of AVM Studios Madras to teach Urdu to actress Vijayanti Mala, who had been signed for AVM’s Urdu film, ‘Bahar’. The company engaged him on a contract basis and arranged for his one-year stay in Madras while he tutored her in Urdu.
Nazim returned to Lahore in 1953. He wrote songs and scripts for Shabab Keranvi’s films ‘Aaina’ and ‘Insaniyat’. He wrote songs for Lakht-e-Jigar, Saheli and Beti. His famous Lori Chanda Ki Nagri Say Aa Ja Ri Neendia, song by Noor Jahan for Lakht-e-Jigar became very popular. The first song sung by Ahmad Rushdi and Nayyara Noor was also written by Nazim. In 1965, his closest friend, singer Saleem Raza, joined an advertising agency in Lahore as a singer and composer. He suggested Nazim to join him as copywriter. It was a new and creative field. Since Nazim was a poet as well, he turned into a successful jingle writer. Advertising was a much higher paid profession and it was a new era, so Nazim became popular, and most of his work here was for advertising agencies.
He worked for the newborn Pakistan Television in Lahore as a songwriter for the first TV music programme ‘Jhankar’. He also wrote scripts for comedy plays in PTV’s early days. Nazim’s closest friends included Saleem Raza, Naseer Anwar, film actor Saqi, film journalist Saeed Malik, Indian film director and producer Rajender Shing Bhatia, singer G. M. Durrani, music director Khayyam, Agha G.A. Gul, Shaukat Husain Rizvi, cameraman Raza Mir and Saadat Hasan Manto.
The writer is son of Nazim Panipati. He lives in Lahore.