Pakistan’s film industry has produced many great actors, actresses, music composers, and filmmakers. However, the country has also been blessed with film comedians who made a name for themselves and sometimes carried the entire film on their own shoulders. Today we will discuss those extraordinary comedians who came and worked their way to our hearts. Be it as leading man, sidekicks or even villains, they eachhad a long innings, and raised the bar for those who followed. Their success can be judged by the number of hit songs they are associated with.
Safeer Ullah Siddiqui aka Lehri
Active: 1956 - 1986
Famous Films: Anokhi, Daman, Paigham, Kaneez, Mein Wo Nahi, Aag, Jaise Jante Nahi, Shehnai, Saiqa, Anjuman, Mere Humsafar, Chahat, Shararat, Zanjeer, Dekha Jayega, Amber, Prince, Saima, Biwi Ho To Aisi, Nadani, Halchal
For thirty years, Lehri was the flag bearer of Pakistan’s comedy club; he worked with all the big names of his era and formed a great team with Mohammed Ali, with whom he delivered the most hits. Not only was he the first comedian who ventured into character acting when he was young, he was also famous for delivering his dialogues extempore. And when it came to filming songs, he had no equal. Who else could play as many as five characters within a song? In Waheed Murad’s only directorial flick Ishara, Lehri played the drummer, the guitarist, the cello player and the keyboardist besides being the soloist, all in one song. The act was previously executed by Buster Keaton in Hollywood, and it took a Lehri to recreate it in Pakistan.
Saeed Khan Rangeela
Active: 1956 - 1999
Famous Films: Diya Aur Toofan, Rangeela, Dil Aur Dunya, Parde Main Rehne Do, Rangeela Aur Munawwar Zarif, Insaan Aur Gadha, Kubra Ashiq, Meri Zindagi Hai Naghma, Aurat Raj, Miss Colombo, Baghi Qaidi, Sar Kata Insaan, Aik Aur Love Story
If someone had told Saeed Khan from Afghanistan that he would grow up to become the most accomplished comedian in Pakistan, he would have laughed out loud. But that’s exactly what happened. Rangeela came to Pakistan from Afghanistan and made the country his home. He wasn’t hero material when he entered films so began his career as a sidekick; with the passage of time he developed his own style. Rangeela directed his first film in 1968 and even sang ‘Gaa Mere Manwa’ that was filmed on filmstar Ejaz, and became one of the biggest hits of the year. He acted with every actor of his generation but his most notable work was as Mangu Gadha in Insaan Aur Gadha where he became a human from a donkey and acted accordingly. With Munawwar Zarif, he formed a lethal partnership that reminded one of classic Hollywood duos like Laurel & Hardy, Abbot & Costello etc. Mehdi Hassan’s hit number ‘Ek Husn Ki Devi Se’ was filmed on two Rangeelas in Meri Zindagi Hai Naghma.
Active: 1961 - 1976
Famous Films: Shararat, Khamosh Nigahen, Baharon Phool Barsao, Parday Main Rehne Do, Rangeela Aur Munawwar Zarif, Shararat, Zeenat
In just 15 years in the film industry, Munawwar Zarif achieved what many others couldn’t in their entire lifetime. He was the pioneer of Poker Face comedy in the country; his dance moves were so subtle and magical that they were hailed by actors in India and later copied by Govinda, Umar Sharif and Jan Rambo. He had his own style when it came to picturizing songs, one that would relegate even the great Waheed Murad to the second position. Amongst the countless songs he performed to,‘Gurya Japani’ is the one song where he literally set the screen on fire. His untimely death at the age of 35 dealt a huge blow to Pakistan’s film industry.
Rafi Khawar Nanna
Active: 1966 - 1987
Famous Films: Insaaniyat, Afsana, Mann Ki Jeet, Naukar, Shabana, Bharosa, Susral, Playboy, Zindagi, Miss Hong Kong, Saathi, Aahat, Khoobsurat, Kamyabi, Love Story, White Gold
For 20 years, Rafi Khawar Nanna entertained the audience both on TV and in films; he wasleading man in Punjabi cinema but had a different persona when it came to Urdu films. While he was in his 30s, he played the hero’s father or the heroine’s dad becoming so skilled in the roles that people got confused when he played his own age, mostly in Punjabi films. He may not have been as creative as others when it came to film songs but many were written for him. In Naukar, he actuallysang alongside Ahmed Rushdi who was playback singer for Mohammad Ali, and won over the audience. Nanna was at the peak of his career when he tragically committed suicide at 41; with his departure ended a great era of comedy in Urdu and Punjabi films.
Afzal Khan aka Jan Rambo
Active: 1991 onwards
Famous Films: Hero, Haathi Mere Saathi, Munda Bigra Jaye, Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman, Chor Machaye Shor, Zever, Jungle Queen, Donkey King
In an era when Moin Akhtar and Umar Sharif were trying their hands at films (with the latter achieving limited success as a leading man), another import from TV won the race. Afzal Khan was cast as Jan Rambo in Guest House and became so popular that he took the character’s name as his filmi name. He copied both Rangeela and Munawwar Zarif in his initial days but eventually evolved into his own. Dancing was his thing, which is why whenever a pop song was used in a film, the first name that came to mind was that of Jan Rambo. Not only did he revolutionize synchronized dancing in Pakistan, he was one of the best things to come out from the 1990s mini-revival. Jan Rambo made a huge comeback with Donkey King, in whichhe not only inspired the title character but breathed life into it too.
Near Misses: Nazar (performed mostly as a sidekick), Moin Akhtar (all his films as leading man or sidekick flopped), Umar Sharif (was successful but only for a limited period), Ali Ejaz (was more popular in regional cinema), Muzaffar Nirala & Ismail Tara (remained sidekicks all their lives).
– Omair Alavi is a freelance broadcast journalist who can be contacted at [email protected]