Remembering the multi-talented Rangeela – Daily Times

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Before writing on Rangeela, I decided to research on the types of comedy there were in the past. The Site Owlcation defines comedy with reference to Oxford Dictionary that comedy means a branch of drama, which deals with everyday life and humorous events. It also means a play of light and amusing type of theatre. Comedy may be defined as a play with a happy ending. Renee M. Deacon defines comedy as “Comedy, considered in its essence, represents the forces of life as opposite to the forces of death, the latter, in a greater or less degree, forming the subject of tragedy.”George Meredith, in his Idea of Comedy, is of the view that comedy appeals to the intelligence unadulterated and unassuming, and targets our heads. In other words, comedy is an artificial play and its main function is to focus attention on what ails the world. Comedy is critical, but in its scourge of folly and vice. There is no contempt or anger in a comedy. He is also of the view that the laughter of a comedy is impersonal, polite and very near to a smile. Comedy exposes and ridicules stupidity and immorality, but without the wrath of the reformer.

Now focusing more on comedy in cinema, Site Time Out, London says, “Comedy movies can do more than just make you laugh. Sure, they need to be funny – that’s a given – but they encompass so much more than just humour. Rom-coms like ‘When Harry Met Sally’ can make you long for a great love, they can expose the supernatural like ‘Ghostbusters’, while teen movies like ‘Mean Girls’ can take you back to adolescence and films like ‘Borat’ can make you laugh while also showcasing disturbing truths about society. Comedy movies can even be Christmas-themed.”

For an ordinary cinema lover like me, comedy is either making you laugh from physical motion, the way Thomas and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin and Rajendra Nath and Kishore Kumar did or the way Rangeela and Munawar Zareef did through dialogues. Lehri, Kemal Ahmad and Nanha are more such examples. Remember Doris Day in ‘Pillow Talk’ in the 1960s? Many other examples can be quoted from the world cinema.

Rangeela made you laugh through his funny movements and dialogue delivery but inside he was a pure artist and he gave Lollywood films of serious themes.

He appeared in a film titled ‘Rangeela’. Of course his co-stars were none other than his favourite heroine Nisho accompanied by Munawar Zareef, Saiqa, Salma Mumtaz and Sultan Rahi. One of Rangeela’s fans Shakeel Nasir wrote ‘Rangeela was great actor. He was illiterate but unbelievably talented. He was hero, comedian, singer, musician, producer, writer and director as well. I just can’t believe this guy where did he get all this talent from. It is hard to describe him in words. I know British actor Norman Wisdom, he was knighted as Sir. Rangeela is same like him. I miss him and his work too much. I used to watch his movies when I was young, he was great comedian.

For an ordinary cinema lover like me, comedy is either making you laugh from physical motion, the way Thomas and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin and Rajendra Nath and Kishore Kumar did or the way Rangeela and Munawar Zareef did through dialogues. Lehri, Kemal Ahmad and Nanha are more such examples

His film “Insan Air Gadha” was banned because he copied Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, he was so brainy even was illiterate’.

Rangeela’s serious roles were liked as well. He was the first actor who performed four roles in a movie. He was born in Nagarhaar, Afghanistan in January 1934. He died on May 24, 2005. His actual name was Saeed Khan. He was of Pakhtoon background. Initially he did not mind working as a mechanic in Peshawar. He liked watching films especially those of Dilip Kumar. He desired to become an actor. Initially he did not get a role in films but got the job of making Films’ posters and billboards. Rangeela was not an educated person but he had the inherent quality of being a painter. This quality paved way for him for entry into Studios where he made friends with directors, producers, poets, writers and actors. He got a minor role in director M.J. Rana’s film ‘Jatti’. He acted in Attaullah Shah’s film ‘Daata’ in 1957. Since this was Urdu language film, it can safely be said that the credit for Rangeela’s entry goes to Syed Attaullah Hashmi. He kept on getting minor roles like in films ‘Choorian’ and ‘Mauj Mela’. 1964 was a good year for Rangeela. He appeared in an important role in ‘Gehra Daagh’ followed by ‘Punjabi Kurian’ in 1965.

Though Zareef, Munawar Zareef, Asif Jah, Nanha, Nirala, Lehri, Ali Ijaz, Umar Shareef, John Rambo and other comedians were successful in their era but Rangeela became hero rising from an extra. He married thrice and bore a dozen children. In Peshawar he fell in love with a girl who rejected him due to his looks. Taking this dejection as a challenge he came to Lahore to become a star. Years later he made a film on this theme. A song ‘Ve Sab Taun Sohneya’ by Tasawur Khanum made the film ‘Rangeela’ a success. In this film Nisho rejects him because of his bad looks.

In my submission on music composer Kemal Ahmad I wrote that whenever I think of Rangeela, the comedian cum character actor’s role as a singer, the name of music composer Kemal Ahmad comes to my mind. The thought of Rangeela singing songs was not really a plausible idea but when he sang for his films ‘Diya Aur Toofan’ and ‘Rangeela’ his songs were liked by masses. His song from the film ‘Diya Aur Toofan’-‘Ga Mere Manwa Gata Ja Re’ was immensely liked. It was rendered in a straight tune like songs sung by Tonga drivers. It was a success for Kemal Ahmad as well though he had entered the film line in 1967 by composing music for the film ‘Nadira’ but he went unnoticed at that time. The second reason that I noticed Kemal Ahmad was his use of Tasawur Khanum as a background voice in his films. Her song ‘Vei Sab Taun Soheya Haye Ve Mun Mohnia’ became as instant hit from the film ‘Rangeela’. Another hip swinging club song ‘Kis Nei Tora Hei Dil Huzoor Ka’ by singer Mala danced by Meena Chaudhry filmed on hero Aqeel exhibits pain on Rageela’s face.Dialogue delivery, facial and body movements’ excel in the film ‘Ishq Nachawe Gali Gali’ by Rangeela, Albela and Saiqa. The scene involves praise of Rageela for his future father in law Albela on his face and negative comments at his back. This sequence is full of comic actions and narrative.

While digging songs filmed on Rangeela, I came across a Qawwali number ‘Naaz Kar Naaz Magar Husn Pei Yun Naaz Na Kar’ from the film ‘Meri Zindigi Hei Naghma’ in which comic shots has been filmed on Rangeela and Qavi Khan on one side and Sangeeta and Saiqa on the other. This qawwali is rendered by Muniur Hussain and Shaukat Ali along with Mala and Tasawur Khanum. Rangeela funny facial expressions carry the day. The high pitch notes were rendered with the same intensity and the lower ones. Composer Nisar Bazmi did the justice to his composition, an art he learnt while working with Lakshamikant Pyarelaal while in India. This was director, story writer songs writer Shevan Rizvi’s film starring Sangeeta, Rangeela, Saiqa, Qavi, Aslam Parvez, Tammana and Khanam.A song on old Rangeela with Guitar in hand ‘Ik Husn Ki Devi Sei Mujhe Pyar Hua Tha’ watched by young Rangeela and his friends is a nice treat to watch.

The comedy sequence of Rangeela, and Nanha from the film ‘Athara Putter’ was liked where Rangeels is Jailor and Nanha, a writer where he takes interview of a fat captive who is to go to gallows the following morning. As a last wish they exchange clothes and Ali Ijaz releases the actual captive. He gets saved at the last moment. Ali Ijaz’s pants falling below his stomach shows typical state of our police. It is a satire.

Nashad’s music is the hallmark of Syed Kamal’s movie ‘Insaan Aur Gadha’ starring Rangeela with Nisho, Kamal, Aslam Parvez and Rangeela. Big breakthrough came in the career of Rageela when he was named as first four starts of Pakistani film ‘Umrao Jan Ada’; the others being Rani, Shahid and Nayyar Sultana. Aasia and Zamarud act and dance tremendously well with Rani on Nisar Bazmi’s tunes. Rangeela as Chuttan Mian act emotionally when he brings Mullah for Shahid and Rani’s Nikah. Apart from the films ‘Rangeela Aur Munawar Zareef’ and ‘Imandar’, the most notable film in Rangeela’s career was ‘Kubra Aashiq’, an adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel Hunchback of Notre Dame. According to Wikipedia, The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a 1956 French-Italian film version of Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel, directed by Jean Delannoy and produced by Raymond Hakim and Robert Hakim. It stars American actor Anthony Quinn and Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida. The film is the first version of the novel to be made in colour.

In the tradition of many sword and sandal spectacles, Quinn and Lollobrigida are the only two actors in the film who actually speak in English; the rest of the cast is made up of French actors who have had their voices dubbed into English.

Anthony Quinn’s portrayal of the hunchback Quasimodo is more human and less horrific than most other portrayals. Instead of having a huge hump and a hideously deformed face, he only has a small curve in his spine and a slightly deformed face.

Rangeela made the Pakistani version under the banner of Rangeela Productions in which he played Anthony Quinn and Nisho played Gina. The opening scene shows the barbaric attack of Farangi on village girls and Nisho kills the Gora in retaliation. Hero Aurangzeb is made to escape by a Sikh friend Maan Singh and Rangeela is seen fighting gorillas but saves Aurangzeb in his cave.This movie excels in Mehdi Hassan’s songs such as ‘Rone Waaley Zara Bata Mujh Ko Tu Kisse Yaad Kei Roya Hei’ and ‘Tu Husn Ki Devi Hei Main Hun Tera Pujari’, the former filmed on Aurangzeb addressing Rangeela.

Rangeela also forms an important team member of the film ‘Sau Din Chor Da’ starring Rangeela, Munawar Zareef, Naghma and Ijaz. Rangeela directed movie Diya Aur Toofan need special mention because of Mehdi Hassan’s song ‘Meri Mehbooba’ filmed on Naghma and Ijaz. Support cast is Haidar, Rani, Zahid Khan, Rangeela, Munawar Zarif, Adeeb, Talish, Salma Mumtaz, Zeenat, Naeem Hashmi, Razia, Zulfi, Rasheed Zarif, Munir Zarif, Khalifa Nazir, Niggo, Meena Choudhry, Najeeb, Sultana Iqbal, Anjuman joins Rangeela, Ali Ijaz, Najma Mehboob, Ilyas Kashmiri and Nanha. Anjuman sings ‘Ludi Hei Jamalo Pao’ while Rangeela and Ali Ijaz watch from behind a tree. The movie is ‘Saheb Jee’.

One can quote dozens of other films in which Rangeela left a mark as a director, actor and a singer as a result of which, he is remembered fondly even today, 14 years post his death!

The writer is the recipient of the prestigious Pride of Performance award. He can be reached at doc_amjad@hotmail.com