Khurram Shafique’s Waheed Murad: His Life and Our Times is a fluid prose knitting the life and times of the Pakistani cinema stalwart Waheed Murad thread by thread as the title promises. It evokes the fragrance of yesteryears but grounds itself in the longing of today’s Pakistan for recognition and pride.
Shafique introduces a greater philosophical question in the prologue A Question that draws from England’s posthumous celebration of William Shakespeare as a literary icon and asks: “Can Pakistan do it the other way around, and find through recent heritage the much-needed confidence in their existence as a people?” The answer to this question is sought through putting the pieces of Murad’s life and career together to paint the cultural scene of Pakistan as it was before the period of Zia ul Haq’s Islamization.
It is a precise read but efficiently divided into chapters that shed light on major parts of Murad’s life. The first chapter ‘The Man Behind the Legend’ is packed with details to recreate his childhood, adolescence and youth and sets the reader in the right mood to learn more about his craft. Shafique’s command on his sources and research is reflected in the fact that this part of the book portrays Murad as the hero of his own life that he was.
Testimonials from friends and colleagues reflect Murad’s influence on his peers and the nation. Perhaps this is what motivated Shafique to label him as someone who became the way a nation saw itself. The nation saw in and out of Waheed Murad and was completely in trans of his life and work.
In the second chapter, the author explores Murad as a filmmaker through reflections of the socio-cultural state of Pakistan in late 60s in his films. He wasn’t just catering to the audience’s demands but constantly enlightened them and influenced their taste in cinema.
The last part of the book sheds light on Murad magnanimous screen power as the ‘Chocolate-Cream Hero’ alluding to George Bernard Shaw’s Arms and the Man. Murad played a plethora of characters in his movies from the sophisticated romantic to the relatable local. The author explores these characters in light of the changing political scene in South Asia in that period as the separation of East Pakistan came close.
Shafique wraps this extraordinary journey through the life of Waheed Murad by circling back to The Answer to the question asked in the prologue. The author deems cinema and intellectual stars as a way to explore one’s history and revive a nation. Murad’s austere characters and persona did so by bringing Muhammad Ali Jinnah and his philosophical contributions to Pakistan Movement back to life.
As cinemas are packed with Bollywood and Hollywood films and the Pakistani cinema is being considered at its peak with frequent productions, Shafique’s book stands as a reminder that there is more to cinema. It is one of the keys to the doors of a nation’s intellect and connection with heritage if we breathe it a new life and philosophy.