Sultan of Pakistan Film Industry
The world is full of people who became “Person” from a very low and humble background and ruled the world of their respective field. If we unfold the pages of film history of Pakistan we do have a long list of such personalities but amongst all, Sultan Rahi has a very unique and significant place. He started his film career by pushing the camera trolley, a boom operator, or any petty job of film studios and reached at the peak and heights of performing art as film hero which is a dream of many leading actors. Sultan Rahi was Sultan (King) of the film world, his name was a guarantee for success of any film, a MUST name in any film particularly Punjabi film of seventies, eighties and mid-nineties but he always presented himself so humbly as he used to be during his struggling days. Sultan Rahi acted in almost seven hundred plus films that his name was considered to be included in Gunnies Book of World Records for acting as lead role (Hero) in maximum number of feature films. Sultan Rahi as religious, Awami (Public hero), generous, hardworking and ground to earth showbiz actor will never be forgotten and just to revive this aspect here is a ’s tribute to such a dynamic and versatile actor of Pakistan film industry.
In 1938, a Subedar Major Abdul Majeed of Army was blessed with son, after looking at his son’s face he visualized that one day he would rule the people as king so he named it as Sultan Muhammad Khan. Subsequently, it was proved that he not only ruled film industry of Pakistan as uncrowned King but also ruled the hearts of millions of people who understand Urdu and Punjabi languages. Being in Army he was posted from city to city but mostly he stayed at Rawalpindi. Primary schooling of Sultan Khan was arranged at Rawalpindi, being religious family the atmosphere of the home was purely an Islamic so this aspect has major role in his basic grooming which was clearly visible and remained alive in life till his death. At the age of seven, Sultan learnt to recite thirty Siparas (Parts) of Quran from the mosque of Gawalmandi area of Rawalpindi under the supervision of Qari Abdul Sattar.
Moreover, Sultan used to say five times Azaan in the same mosque. Sultan Khan had two brothers and one sister, elder brother died before the before the birth of Sultan and second brother died once he was four years old whereas his sister died after the death of his second brother. Resultantly he was blue eyed of his parent especially his father who wanted that Sultan must joined Air Force. Besides being very religious and son of an army personal he was very keen in sports so very actively he participated in School sports matches as regular member of hockey team and in same connection he visited Lahore as well with his mother. Father of Sultan Khan was very strict about the study and education of his son, he never tolerated that his son ever missed any of his school class. But Sultan was not that interested in his education, rather he was most inclined towards physical activities like sports, hockey and football. During his childhood Sultan never had an experience to watch film in cinema but as he mentioned many times in his interviews that since childhood their was a hidden actor in him so right from the school days he used to act during his normal life, chores and extra curicular activities.
Sultan Rahi’s Facts…
Start of Career
Finally Sultan Khan surrounded against his hidden desire and moved to Lahore for his passion and that was acting. He came to Lahore with one pair of cloths and big army boot with lot of ambitions and dreams. After landing at railway station Lahore he hired a room in Kachi Abadi behind the Malika Studios (subsequently renamed Javedaan Studios) near Lahore Jimkhana. He used to come to Al-Hamra Art Theater for acting in stage plays, at that time it was a small hall with 125 seating capacity but was unable to create a space for himself so he started visiting King Circle Hotel near Lakshmi Chowk there mostly actor used to sit around during their leisure time. Near Lakshmi Chowk, the hub of film distributor and producer’s offices Royal Park was another place where people from filmdom were accessible. But in spite of his all-out effort Sultan Khan was unable to get the attention of any film producers or film maker. During this period he met Qavi and music director Kamal Ahmed, who were also struggling to get some space. Sultan Khan and Kamal Ahmed became friend and collectively started visiting different film makers for some chance of acting. On the recommendation of Qavi , Sultan Khan was able to get a small entry in a stage drama Shabnam Roti Hai, Riaz Bukhari who also came from Peshawar for acting also used to visit Al-Hamra Theater, he after seeing the passion and acting of Sultan Khan in stage play Shabnam Roti Hai, predicted that one day he (Sultan Khan) would become a Top actor of Pakistan.
First film Appearance
Former actor Changezi who also came from Loyalpur (Faisalabad), he was too very eager for acting and was able to enter into films as an extra / fighter. Sultan and Changezi became friends and rest of their life they remained very good friends. Both of them had a bicycle and used to come to studios on this cycle. Finally, through Changezi, in Ashfaq Malik’s film Baghi which was released on September 14th 1956, Sultan Khan also got into films as an extra. His debut acting career in Bhaghi was a static and silent role as per film situation when Allaudin forced Yasmin to dance for the song “Mout ko dil de do sada ae dil” in front of villagers, Sultan Khan was standing amongst those dance spectator villagers. This was the start and an actor was born which acted the same silent and static role in many films like Hatim, Watan, Daku Ki Larki etc.
First Dialogue Delivery:
Finally it was 1960, when for the first time he delivered some film dialogues for S. M. Yousaf’s film Saheli which was made under the banner of F & Y Movies. As per film situation of Saheli he acted as lawyer of Shamim Ara who was presented as accused in a court and in the court scene he deliver his first ever dialogues. He addressed the judge and said “Hazor e wala ne mulzama ki tamam dastan sun li abb main aap se….. aap se balke tamam hazreen e adalat se ye pochhna chahta hon ke is moqa par mulzama ki bajaye agar aap mein se koi hota to keya karta….”. He delivered the dialogs very maturely and his first performance also gave him confidence which helped him in getting the same small roles in films like Gulfam, Qaidi, Ajnabi, Aulad, Maa Ka Piyar and Baghi Sepahi. and he changed his name from Sultan Khan to Sultan Rahi. After release of Bhaghi Sultan Rahi started getting roles as extra in films. At the same time Rangeela who was also passing through his struggling period and was able to made some space as comedian became Sultan’s friend who also helped Rahi in getting him minor roles in films.
In 1962, A.M. film Studio owner Ashfaq Malik was making his new film Ajnabi and Sultan Rahi approached for some role in film but after observing his personality he declared that “you will never become an actor”. On this declaration although, Sultan Rahi got hurt but was not disappointed and kept on struggling and continued as an extra. In 1966, Sultan Rahi succeeded in getting a small role in Hamayun Mirza’s film Aag Ka Dariya who was impressed with the acting of Rahi and engaged him with an important role in his next film Daku Ki Larki. At this point of time Sultan Rahi who was also performing in Stage dramas, stop acting in stage plays and finally did his last stage drama of Rafi Peerzada at Al-Hamra Theater.
Debut as Villain Role
Almost fourteen years were passed but Sultan Rahi was unable move ahead of extra /fighter, however in film Chacha Jee (released on February 10th 1967 and he played as father of heroine) he was able to attract the attention of film gores and film directors. In 1968, Sultan Rahi finally got a side villain role in Riaz Ahmed Raju’s Punjabi film Jumma Janj Nal and in spite of Allaudin’s best acting film didn’t do well but it gave a recognition to Sultan Rahi and his role and acting was liked by film gores. After performing a side villain role in Jumma Janj Nal, Sultan Rahi started getting one hundred rupees per shift instead of rupees fifty, so he started getting sufficient amount to look after himself and his family. He went to Rawalpindi where his parent got him married within their family, after spending some time he alone returned back to Lahore. Here in Lahore, his wife brought a good luck for him and he started getting significant role in films. He was very ambitious and fanatic about acting, one can imagine his enthusiasm from this incident, once he decided to bring his family to Lahore, he requested his friend Ahmed Mithu for some help who was an air condition technician in Railway. Mithu managed some railway free passes but when Sultan Rahi reached at Rawalpindi he decided to go to Lahore via road so he hired a jeep and came to Lahore. On his arrival he was so excited so he asked his friend Mithu to drop his wife at his home and he straight went to film studio because he had to performed against Mazhar Shah who was at that time very popular villain. In film studios after the shooting he performed so well that Mazhar Shah hugged him and told Sultan Rahi that “now no one stop you from becoming a top class actor”. In 1968, for the first time he appeared as conventional villain in Hairder Choudhry’s film Badla. After the release of Badla, his dialogue delivery at high pitch, face expressions and body gestures proved him as potential villain. Resultantly, producer started engaging him in films as villain, as villain some of his popular film were Ik Si Maa, Janab -e- Aali, Jumma Janj Nal, Anwara, Att Khuda Da Veir, Duniya Matlab Di, Khan Chacha, Thah, etc.
Solo Film Career
Aslam Dar had started his film career as cameraman and was trying to establish his credibility as cinematographer. While looking from the camera lens he exposed Sultan Rahi as an extra/fighter and noted how strong his acting was and how willingly he used to act difficult or impossible shots. Once he was assistant cameraman with Raza Mir, for any difficult shot he used to ask Sultan Rahi as Pindi wala Fighter. Once he started his first film as film director Dara, he engaged Sultan Rahi for an important role in the film against Nasrullah Butt. Dara did well and Sultan Rahi was picked by some other film directors as well. On the other hand Aslam Dar started his new project Dil Lagi, which was completely a social romantic film, again he gave a character role to Sultan Rahi but since it was a span of action films therefore, film distributors suggested and demanded Aslam Dar for an action film.
So Aslam Dar pend the project of Dil Lagi and started action film Akhri Chitan which was a story of two brother who get separated in partition, one of them come to Pakistan and other becomes Hindu as he is grown up in a Hindu family. The Muslim and Hindu characters were played by Nasrullah Butt and Sultan Rahi, respectively. In Mr.303, Sultan Rahi played the role of heroine’s brother, in Sakhi Lutera Aslam Dar played the lead role himself as the actual hero who was engaged refused to do that role and Sultan Rahi did his father’s role who did very well as this film was a story of Mujahid whose son betrays his fellows. Next milestone of Sultan Rahi’s film career was Iqbal Kashmiri’s Babal in which he played the role of gangster (Badmash) which gave a sound recognition to Sultan Rahi as an actor.
First Urdu Film as Hero
Renowned choreographer Hameed Choudhry and Sultan Rahi were friends of their struggling days. Both of them used to play stage dramas in Open Air Theater, where they remained employed for two years. Once Hameed Choudhry was financially sound he produced his film Zindgi Ke Meley, it was Sultan Rahi’s first Urdu film as hero. He performed very well as romantic hero with Zamurad and Aaliya but due to poor direction film didn’t do well.
Break Through – Film Career
After Sakhi Lutera, Aslam Dar started Mujrim with Zia Mohiudin and also engaged Sultan Rahi as the brother of heroine (Rozina) of the film but being a social film it proved a flop film. Finally Aslam Pervez decided to make an action Punjabi film so he formulated the idea of Bashira and tried to engage Sawan as Bashira who was well received after the success Khan Chacha, but after his refusal, Aslam Dar finalized to take Sultan Rahi as hero of the film with his colleagues but after listening the idea they all were not in favor of Sultan Rahi as hero. But Aslam Dar himself went to Samanabad where Sultan Rahi used to live in those days to inform him that he had taken him as hero of the film as per his promise. That’s how was finally started in spite of all opposition. After completion of the film no distributor was ready to release Bashira, further more, Indo-Pak war -1971 was started so film was dumped in cans, that made Aslam Dar particularly Sultan Rahi very disappointed. Finally Aslam Dar decided to release the film himself, he hired Sanober cinema and released the film. At that same time six other films (Five Urdu and one Punjabi (including Dhol Jawania Maney) were also released but just after first show of the film everybody was talking about Bashira. Sultan Rahi who took sixteen years to move from extra to fighter and a hero of the film and that film hit the box-office and that’s how Sultan Rahi took a start which took him high to highest and height of filmdom with passage of every day and then no looking back.
Sultan Rahi’s actual story started after the success of Iqbal Kashmiri’s Babal and Aslam Dar’s Bashira when an extra/fighter turned into emotional angry man lead actor. During his struggling days the inner actor of Sultan Rahi was visible but it was not fully discovered less than his dedication and devotion towards acting. After said films Sultan Rahi’s new dimensions of acting and sentimental aspects were revealed and the doors of film opened for him were never closed until his death. Accordingly, he was engaged in such films mostly as lead actor like Insaan Ik Tamasha, Jagdey Rehna, Khan Chacha, Meley Sajnna Dey, Nizam, Sultan, Ucha Shamla Jatt Da, Banarsi Thug, Dharti Sheran Di, Ik Madari, Khoon Bolda Ae, Khoon Da Darya, Pehla War, Pind Deleran Da, Sadhu Aur Sheitan, Sohna Babul, Zarq Khan, Babul Sadqe Terey, Dil Lagi, Jurm Te Nafrat, Sasta Khoon Mehnga Pani, Sidha Rasta, Ae Pag Mere Veer Di, Sharif Badmash etc which gave him very strong platform. With the success of above mentioned films, the name of Sultan Rahi became the guarantee of success of any film and he was considered capable enough to take on the film independently.
Details of his films from 1956 to 1970
In 1975, basing upon the story of Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi’s novel Gandasa, Director Hassan Askari directed a film Wehshi Jatt, in which he portrayed Sultan Rahi as an illiterate, desolate and wild angry man who revenges his scarcities. This character so clicked to the general masses that rest of his life, Sultan Rahi kept on revolving around it which was called a Gandasa Culture. The basic psyche of the character which attracted the attention of an individual was that it used to give him the feeler as it was his own story of deprivations and then its breakout in form of a vengeance.
Yousaf Khan and Mustafa Qureshi were not only the leading actors of that time but they were senior to Rahi and in their presence to have place with them was not an easy task. After release of Wehshi Jatt, Sultan Rahi also worked with Yousaf Khan in Sharif Badmash and Jabroo, with Mustafa Qureshi , Sultan Rahi appeared in License. In these films Sultan Rahi gave very dynamic performance and hold the flag of the films as lead hero. Although, the acting standard of Yousaf Khan and Mustafa Qureshi was up to the mark but as in coming films writer started writing stories while keeping in view the style and acting performance of Sultan Rahi. On the other hand Mustafa Qureshi had his own unique style, resultantly, Mustafa Qureshi’s versatile villain role became a need for all Punjabi films with Sultan Rahi.
As expected, producer started following the footsteps of Gandasa culture films and before the time came that common film gores got fed up with such series of films, film producer Muhammad Sarwar Bhatti hired Younis Malik to direct another film basing upon the same story which was pen downed by renowned film writer Nasir Adeeb and named it Moula Jatt. Unlike Wehshi jatt, role of Sultan Rahi was not altogether a wild illiterate man killer machine rather he was portrayed a simple arbitrator who takes on the weapon for implementation of justice. Moula Jatt released in 1979 and proved one of best film of all time. Nasir Adeeb’s best, timely and erythematic dialogues and their delivery by all actors particularly Mustafa Qureshi (Nawan aayan ain Sohneya), Chakori and Kaifee like and how one can forget the famous dialogue of Sultan Rahi “Mouley nu Moula na marey te Moula nai mar da” and acting performance of all actor made this film an history and release of Moula Jatt made Sultan Rahi a living legend in his life. Details about Moula Jatt are mentioned in Film-o-graphy of Sultan Rahi. With the release of Moula Jatt, the style and trend of films particularly Punjabi films was changed. Romanticism, artistically crafted films and conventional drama oriented movies were transferred in to revenge based and bit violent films. Since Sultan Rahi was able to create his heroic image who always keeps his righteousness, dignity and remains undefeatable and producer and film makers picked this point that cinema viewer is just interested in the presence of Sultan Rahi in the film….. not exactly interested that who is director, producer or production banner.. resultantly, non-professional and unknown film makers jumped into very sensitive and delicate field of creative art and just started producing and cashing Sultan Rahi’s name so results were obvious. But during this period many good films were also produced which did wonderful business and these includes
After success of Moula Jatt then Sultan Rahi created many film records and remain committed till his death in 1996, details are given at Film-o-graphy page of Sultan Rahi.
Honor and Awards
With such a glorious and enriched record of performance, only the number of Sultan Rahi’s released films undoubtedly is a itself biggest confirmation award for his excellence services to entertainment world.
Sultan Rahi acted in five hundred plus films that his name was considered to be included in Gunnies Book of World Records for acting as lead role (Hero) in maximum number of feature films.
He received a large number of entertainment awards almost form every art organization. He used to remained so busy and committed that mostly was unable to attend such gathering to recieve the awards, however here are some details of his Nigar awards:-
In 1972, right from his career first solo Punjabi film Bashira, he received the Best Actor Nigar Award for the year1972.
In 1975, secured the Best Actor Nigar Award.
Best Actor Nigar Award for film Dulari.
Special Nigar Award for Best services to Pakistan Film Industry in 1991.
1994, Special Nigar Award for best performance in film Khandan
Special Nigar Award for Best performance in Sakhi Badshah in 1996.
Sultan Rahi married twice, once he was performing in stage play named Kaghiz ke Phool at Bagh e Jinnah. It was his struggling period so he was facing problem in regard to his residence. Realising his financial situation his co-artist Soahil Fazli who was also playing in the same stage play, invited and brought Sultan Rahi to his residence at 102-C, Model Town, Lahore. Mr. Jamil Qureshi the film journalist and film writer who was cousin of Sohail Fazli was also living with them. After sometime Sultan Rahi started working in films as an extra and in turn he started getting some money. During this period of time Sultan Rahi’s friend managed to get him married in another humble family after a very simple marriage ceremony. But just after few days, they developed differences basing upon financial condition of Sultan Rahi and just after few months they got separated forever.
From fighter to extra and then as an side villain Sultan Rahi worked very hard and after performing a side villain role in Jumma Janj Nal, Sultan Rahi was able to get one hundred rupees per shift instead of rupees fifty, so he started getting sufficient amount to look after himself and his family. He went back to his ancestor town Rawalpindi where his parent got him married within their family, and Sultan Rahi like a obedient son accepted their choice and his wife without any hesitation. Finally, after spending some time he alone returned back to Lahore. Here in Lahore, his wife brought a good luck for him and he started getting significant role in films. In his next visit to Rawalpindi he brought his wife to Lahore and then they started living here at Lahore where God Almighty blessed both of them with five children, three sons named Babar Sultan, Tariq Sultan, Haider Sultan, and Samina and Saima were his two daughters. Haider Sultan was his only child who joined showbiz and in his life Sultan Rahi was able to introduce Haider Sutlan in one of his films Babbra in1992, but before Haider established himself as film actor, the sad demise of Sultan Rahi not only affected the making of number of films but it also affected his career too however, Haider Sultan is seen off and on at small screen.
In lateral part of his life he had shifted his family from Pakistan to Chicago, USA for better education of his siblings. In 1996, he wanted to spent his eid with his family but unfortunately he was unable to do that as on his way back to Lahore after visa formalities in Islamabad, he was assassinated at Gujranwala.
Death of the Legend
In 1996, as rest of the family of Sultan Rahi was shifted to United States of America and Eid was about to come so he decided to celebrate the eid with his family. He was busy in shooting of Imtiaz Quresh’s film Sajan Ka Ghar, he took one day off and on 9th January 1996, proceed to Islamabad at his personal vehicle Shiverlate LOQ 6963 along with Haji Ahsan Ali for visa formalities. After getting the job done, on the same evening he decided to return back as he had to do the film shooting. He was on his way back to Lahore via GT road, Sultan Rahi was driving the car, at about 2:10am once he reached near Gujranwala bypass at Chongi Samanabad, tyre of his vehicle got busted so he stopped to change the tyre. As per Haji Ahsan Ali he was fixing the jack whereas Sultan Rahi was taking out the spare wheel, suddenly he heard a gun fire, he got up and saw that Sultan Rahi was lying down on the road and two dacoits were standing nearby who afterward took away Rahi’s briefcase and went off. Ahsan went to close by Petrol filling station and informed the police. Immediately, police force along with SSP Gujranwala Jamil Khan reached at the place of incident. After initial formalities, dead body was evacuated to Divisional Headquarters Hospital Gujranwala.
On next morning, film producer and lyricist Saleem Ahmed Saleem who was the resident of a town near to the place of accident in Gujranwala, on receipt of this tragic news, he rushed to the hospital and got the postmortem done, meantime Haider Sultan the son of Sultan Rahi along with Hamyun Qureshi also reached there from Lahore and after receiving the dead body fall back to Lahore. As the rest of his family was there at Chicago USA, so to wait for the arrival dead body of Sultan Rahi was place in mortuary of Mayo Hospital Lahore. Former actor Yousaf Khan, then the Chairman of MAAP composed a committee for the funeral ceremonies. On arrival of the family, funeral prayers was arranged at Cricket Ground of Bagh -e- Jinnah adjacent to Sultan Rahi’s residence which was offered at 1:45pm and attended by a large number of his fans mostly comprising of general masses. The old age people heard saying that in the history of Lahore it was the biggest funeral procession (Janaza) after Ghazi Ilamdin Shaheed.
Since Sultan Rahi had very emotional attachment with Sufi Saint Shah Shamas Qari, in his life he used to visit his shrine very frequently. So keeping this attachment in view he was buried adjacent to Shah Shamas Qari’s Shrine. May Almighty rest the departed soul in eternal peace and bestow His blessing upon him.
Unfortunately ! the murder of Sultan Rahi became a myth as nothing has been proved yet.
Final Submission – The Sultan of Pakistan Film History
Here it is worth mentioning that there are some schools of thought those blame Sultan Rahi that Gundasa Culture, films on castes (Like Gujjar, Jatts etc) and on the names of immoral characters, vagabonds of society (Badmash) was prevailed and boosted by him…. Yes It may be true but in our opinion one must release that film is a fantasy, once the viewer enters in cinema he wants the amusement which he finalized before entering into cinema theater and at the end of the show if the film doesn’t come up to his standard or anticipation he will never return and if it works then he would not only return rather will wait passionately …. More so, cinema is taken as magic world so it should be taken like that…no philosophical debates on films…. if someone start searching the American culture in blockbuster film Avatar then you can imagine his state of mind….. its viewer’s choice what sort of stuff they want to see.. .some like serious drama, fiction, comedy, war movies, science fiction, cartoon animation, country, cowboy western films, everyone have their own taste, other may consider it so clumsy but its The choice…and we must respect and honor it… likewise it also refers to Sultan Rahi and his bloom films… almost two decades (1975-1996) he remained the top class, most busiest actor, during this period his films made so many records which include a world record as well….. which mean majority of cinema viewers used to like his films that’s why film makers kept on producing such film .. why ?… obviously for profit… and if it was profitable venture… meaning majority liked his versatility and dynamic acting….. as debate is healthy sign so if it had such bad influential stuff it should have been highlighted in Rahi’s life not now…. So leaving aside all the grey things we believe that we must respect the choice of those viewers and above of all Sultan Rahi was not only responsible for all that…. Urdu drama with sound plot film was always remained his hidden desire but he was an actor so he acted and delivered the best what he was asked for…….
One aspect is confirmed that Sultan Rahi was our film hero, is our history and pride …..
Sultan Rahi’s Film-o-graphy
Latest news about Sultan Rahi
Sultan Rahi’s 18th death anniversary was observed on January 9, 2014. Almost all the TV channels broadcasted special tribute to the legend. May Almighty bless the departed soul in eternal peace. Here is one tribute example:-
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