Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pashto Cinema Super Star Badar Munir Biography

Badar Munir was born in a small village Shagram in Madyan, Swat in 1942. His father Maulvi Yaqoot Khan was an Imam (prayer leader) of the village mosque. He hailed from the Mian Khel tribe of Pashtoons. Being from a poor family, he was sent of to Karachi when he grew up. He started earning livelihood as a rickshaw driver.
At that time Karachi, like Lahore had plenty of movie studios. Badar Munir got his first taste of movies when he was appointed as a lightsman in a movie studio of Wahid Murad, the popularly called "chocolaty hero" of Pakistan. He developed good relations with everybody in the studio and was liked by many. Time went by. A notable Pashto poet Ali Haider Joshi started with a Pashto movie for which he had already written a story. It was based on the famous Pashto folk story of Yusuf Khan and Sherbano. Work started on the movie in 1970 when Ali Haider selected the crew and cast for it. Aziz Tabassum was it's director. Badar Munir, as usual was selected as a lightsman. In an interview, Ali Haider recalled that he was not satisfied with the actor playing the role of Yusuf Khan and that he had noted that this lightsman would frequently give the hero guidance. He thought that if a lightsman can teach, he can certai
nly perform as well. So it was decided to give Badar Munir a chance. Everybody was taken by surprise. Badar Munir himself joked regarding this incidence in one of his interview. He mentioned that Ali Haider would always carry a pistol with himself and that initially he had refused to act in that role citing his family background, at which Ali Haider took out his pistol and threatened to kill him. He joked that he had no choice but to adopt a career as an artist.Yusuf Khan Sherbano turned out to be a successful movie of its time. It was the first Pashto movie which saw the emergence of Badar Munir as a full fledged artist. Afterwards, he was cast in other successful movies notable of which are Adam Khan Durkhanai which was also based on a folk story, Orbal, Baghi, Didan, Kochwan, Mairnay Wror, Khana Badosh, Topak Zama Qanoon, Dehqan, and Naway da Yaway Shpay. All in all, Badar Munir got the credit of well over 750 movies under his belt. He became the Pashto film industry, an institution in himself. Of these 750, 85 were in Urdu, 31 in Punjabi, 11 in Sindhi, and 1 in Hindko. For any researcher studying about the Pashto movie industry, going through Badar Munir's personality would be unavoidable. Badar Munir served in the era where vulgarity had not creeped into Pashto movies. He preferred to sideline himself from the sleaze which had crept in due to the Islamization drive of General Zia-ul Haq which foresaw repression of cultural activities. The movie production business went underground and censor boards lost their role. Badar Munir was perturbed over this development but as a person he was helpless.
I was acquainted with Badar Munir only once in 1993 when by coincidence we were in the same flight en route to Moscow. In those days he was associated with Bari Studio's of Lahore. He was travelling in connection with shooting for a movie while I was going for my studies. When the flight took off from Karachi airport, I saw Badar Munir roaming around immediately after the seat-belt signs went off. He would meet every Pashtoon on board, and was happy that there were more Pashto speakers than Urdu ones on board the flight. The airhostess would repeatedly stop him from freely roaming around like this but he would refuse to comply and insisted that he be left alone to meet his fellow Pashtoons. Ultimately, we were all re-seated in one portion of the plane ... us around him. We started questioning him about his life and profession. I asked him that although Pashto movies are seen widely in Northern and Southern Pashtunkhwa, Afghanistan and the Middle East but why is that all the movie studios are based in Lahore? Shouldn't it be that one movie studio is established in Quetta, Peshawar, and Jalalabad? He answered that it was a problem that faced all Pashtoons, not just those associated with this business. He said that it is common for Pashtoons to head off to Lahore for the smallest possible essentials because some facilities or services are not available to us locally. Those who are associated with such professions whose sources can only be obtained in Lahore or Karachi ultimately settle in these cities for no choice of their own. He said that establishment of a movie studio is not the work of a single person, it requires a team of professionals, investors, and government patronage or at least an interest. Alas we are not in that position otherwise it would have been done long ago.Badar Munir died at an age of 67 on 11th October 2008. He had suffered from stroke for four years and was brought to a hospital in Lahore after complaint of cardiac arrest. His funeral and burial was performed in Lahore as well. It is a sorry state that an artist of such calibre had never been given due coverage in radio, television, and print media which he truly deserved. It is common to see unknown female artists who have virtually nothing to their credit splashed across magazines and newspapers as a selling point. The media has never been fair in promoting deserving artists. However, Mian Farooq Faraq of Voice of America, who is also a journalist with Peshawar based Pashto newspaper Daily Wahdat, specially went to Lahore to report about the death of this legend. On the 11th of October, the radio suspended it's normal programs and made a special telecast on Badar Munir projecting his services for Pashto and Pashto culture. 

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