Dir: S. Suleman
Starring: Nayyar Sultana, Darpan, Zeba, Lehri, Talish, Aimi Minwala, Panna
One of the things that I got most excited about over the last year or so, cinematically speaking, was the discovery of the lost Pakistani classic, 1963's Baji, directed by S. Suleman (one of our best directors) and starring the always graceful Nayyar Sultana, Darpan, and, in only her fourth released movie, the very young and gorgeous Zeba (in her prime she was one of the most beautiful faces from the sub-continent to grace the big screen). Ever since I heard its soundtrack (one of the very best in sub-continental history, in my humble opinion) almost two decades ago I've been longing to see the film. But supposedly no print had survived. And, then, there it was on YouTube in its entirety (I think it may have been taken down since then but at least one knows that it is out there). Thanks to people like Dr. Hasan Bukhari who are providing an invaluable service in helping to preserve our film history, YouTube is proving to be a treasure trove for sad sacks like me who have a fondness for old Pakistani films and especially old Pakistani film songs (on this front we matched our neighbours all the way from the 50s to the mid-70s) which we can't find anywhere else, particularly in their original recordings (jhankaar is one of the banes of my life).
Baji itself may not have aged as well as it could have (primarily the screenplay could have been pruned a bit and the pacing tightened) but nevertheless it is still a sensitively told and un-melodramatic tale of a young widow's (Nayyar Sultana) reawakened hopes and desires which are kindled when a handsome, young family friend (Darpan) moves to her city, shows up at her house for a visit and starts paying her attention. So has Baji's (as she is universally known to friends, family and servants) luck finally turned or does a potential hitch lurk in the shape of her young neighbour (Zeba)?
While one can quibble with the screenplay and pacing but one can't question the film's music. What a soundtrack it is. The songs are composed by the quality duo of Salim-Iqbal (lyrics by Ahmed Rahi) and the numbers cover the gamut from lyrical to folk to semi-classical and even classical. Each and every song - “Saanwariya Ne Haye Daya” (sung by Naseem Begum), “Chanda Tori Chandni Mein” (Naseem Begum), “Na Koi Waada Kiya” (Nahid Niazi), “Ab Yahan Koi Nahin Aaye Ga” (Noor Jehan), “Dil Ke Afsanay” (Noor Jehan), “Saaf Chupte Bhi Na Thei” (Salim Raza), “Sajan Laagi Tori” (Noor Jehan and Farida Khanum) - is immortal. Even the famed classical duo Salamat Ali and Nazakat Ali show up on the soundtrack and on-screen itself for “Kaun Gatt Bhai” and even the dance by Panna and Aimi Minwala on the “Sajan Laagi /Kaun Gatt” medley is terrific. In fact, if you watch the latter, during it you'll catch un-credited cameos from the who's who of the Pakistan film industry of the time - Santosh Kumar, Sabiha Khanum, Waheed Murad, Noor Jehan, Ejaz, Habib, etc. - as well as the executive producer of the film Hafizullah Hasan.
Even if the full movie may no longer be available on YouTube, all the songs are still up on the site and deserve to be heard/seen by all films of Pakistani and sub-continental film music.
Cut to chase: A must see for all Pakistani film fans with the ever-elegant Nayyar Sultana, a gorgeous Zeba and a stunning soundtrack, one of the best ever to come from the sub-continent.