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A symbol of film

Paying homage to Khawaja Pervez

A symbol of film

Friends and artistes from the world of literature, art and show business gathered at Lahore’s Alhamra Cultural Complex, to pay tribute to one of the most popular lyricists of Pakistani films — Khawaja Pervez.

Pervez died about three years ago, in 2011, at the age of about 80.

The programme organised by Shakir Ali Museum, under the Pakistan National Council of the Arts, was a well-attended homage to the one who gave the best years of his life to Pakistani cinema. Though one would have liked leading personalities of the film world to be present on the occasion.

Tribute was paid by the likes of director Syed Noor, actor Habib and composer Wazir Afzal. However, film numbers were not rendered by today’s top-of-the-line vocalists. It usually happens that contemporaries of the dear departed pay homage and reminisce about him or her in their own manner but the subsequent generation is neither really aware of their contribution nor keen to establish a link of the present with the past. It should be conceded that the songs of Khawaja Pervez were sung by the likes of Noor Jehan, Mehdi Hassan, Masood Rana, Ahmed Rushdi, Mala, Irene Parveen and the present day vocalists are no patch on them.

Also, when Khawaja Pervez was active in the cine world, about a hundred films were made every year but now the film industry is struggling and hoping to recover and regain lost ground.

The poets, or even writers, who are into theatre and music are looked down upon by the mainstream writers. It is considered below a poet to be writing songs for films or theatre. Similarly, writers are not supposed to write for the stage for it is considered a lesser activity.

One wonders why this dichotomy is prevalent in the first place — because it was not there during Shakespeare’s time. But, later, probably during the Romantic period, the prejudice against the playwright pushed him lower down the hierarchical order. He was considered to be a lesser writer as most of the plays by Shelley, Wordsworth and Keats were not meant to be staged; only to be read as poetry.

It is possible the same bias was transferred on to the colonies during the British Raj when the academia was totally controlled by Oxbridge types. The London theatre too after the Elizabethan era had descended into a combination of stunt shows, song and dance affair, circuses, and variety programme type. The playwrights like Shakespeare and Marlowe were edited to make way for spectacle and melodrama. European theatre, and later the British theatre, regained its dignity with Ibsen and Shaw in the late 19th and early 20th century.

In colonies like India, for example, Amanat Lakhnawi and even Agha Hashr were not granted the same status as, say, Ghalib and Iqbal. The latter even went on to call theatre an experience that depersonalises, and hence went against the grain of his main philosophical thesis of the supremacy of self or khudi. And, about film as a medium, he even wrote a poem, thoroughly dismissive of it as only catering to the baser elements.

It was the progressive poets in India who chose to write for the films because they envied the mass following of the medium. The outreach could not be imagined by the most popular of poets, even if they were published in large numbers and were there on radio all the time or reciting their verses in public gatherings. Sahir Ludhianvi, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Raja Mehdi Ali Khan, Jan Nisar Akhtar and Akhtar ul Iman all wrote for the films in a way obliterating the distinction that existed but in Pakistan it remained despite some forays into it by Josh Malihabadi, Habib Jalib and Munir Niazi.

Many poets in the films were or are considered good poets like Madhok, Tanvir Naqvi, Shailendra, Saifuddin Saif, Anand Bakshi, Qateel Shifai, Ahmed Rahi, Riaz ur Rehman Saghar, Nazim Panipati, Shakeel Badayuni, Gulzar and Javed Akhtar.

Born in Amritsar, Khawaja Pervez’s real name was Ghulam Mohayudin. It is said that he wrote nearly 10,000 songs for Urdu and Punjabi films in his 40-year career. Since he was the class fellow of Zafar Iqbal, the son of Wali Sahib, he got to know the latter and became his assistant in three films, Guddi Gudda, Lukan Mitti and Sohni Kumharan.

After Wali’s production house ceased to function, Pervez became assistant to Saifuddin Saif. That association helped him nourish his talent for film song writing. His first film as a lyricist was Rawaj in 1965 and his number sung by Mala, ‘Kehta hai zamana kaheen dil na lagana’ composed by Master Inayat Hussain was noticed. Pervez became associated with the production house of Shabab Keranvi, where most of the songs were composed by M. Ashraf — like ‘Sun ley o jane wafa, samne aa kar tujh ko pukara nahi’ but he got a real breakthrough from the song ‘Tum hi ho mehboob meray’ for the film Aina in 1966.

His other songs included ‘Sun way balori akh waleya’, ‘Jub koi pyar sai bulai ga, tum ko aik shakhs yaad aiy ga’, ‘Kisay da yaar na wichray’, ‘Mahi aavey gaa’, ‘Meri chichi da challa mahi la liya’ and ‘Do dil ik doojay kolun door ho geye’, ‘Teray bina yun gharian beetien’, ‘Jan-e-Jan tu jo kahay’, ‘Dil veraan hay’, ‘Teri yaad hay’, ‘Pyar bherey do sharmele nain’ and  ‘Apnoon ney gham diye to koi yaad aaya’.

Pervez was also a playwright and worked as a theatre director.

The theatre in the Muslim world never had the stature to be considered a respectable form. It only grew in the shadows, so to say, and has so remained all these centuries — a playground for the tukbands and those writing sensational, salacious stuff and film was a logical continuation of that. Poets like Khawaja Pervez had to struggle against this prejudice all their lives.

Sarwat Ali

sarwatali
The author is a culture critic based in Lahore

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