Nirala: Wonder with me

By Anis Shakur
Friday – November 8, 2019
NEW YORK (United States): Notable polymath, Sir Thomas Browne, once concluded, ‘We carry within us the wonders we seek without us.’ Let us read what wonders Nirala carried within him to come up with such superb performances.

Prominent comedian, Nirala, was born Syed Muzaffar Husain Zaidi, in Uttar Pradesh, India, on August 8, 1937. After partition, young Muzaffar migrated to Pakistan and settled down on the Abyssinia Lines, in Karachi.

Muzaffar was renowned for his jokes and gimmicks since his earlier days. In the year 1959, he received an invitation to an entertainment program in the lines area in Karachi.

In that function, budding Muzaffar entertained the audience with his comedy. The public was all praise for Muzaffar’s one particular segment, in which he acted as a professional pigeon caretaker whose entire life revolves around pigeons.

A year later, Muzaffar changed his name to Nirala and debuted in the 1960 film ‘Aur bhi gham hain,’ producer, Danish Dairwee, director, A.H. Siddiqui.

Interestingly enough, in his debut movie, Nirala played the same pigeon-lover, who was obsessed with pigeons. Nirala’s intent was to create laughter, and he was highly successful in it.

Reverting to his movies, the film ‘Saperan,’ 1961, put his movie career on upswing, producer, Shabab Kiranvi, director, Daud Chand. Nirala struggled hard and made a name for himself as a comedy actor in director S.A. Ghaffar’s 1963 film ‘Mr. X.’

Nirala’s portraits of innumerable comic roles were unsurpassed in their honesty and refreshment. The 1963 movie, ‘Shararat,’ is a good example of his magnetic presence.

With the advent of television in 1964, Nirala started participating in television commercials, particularly in the ‘Lipton,’ tea advertisement with Rozina. Nirala was a rich and rare assortment of a humorist. Nirla and Lehri appeared together in the 1964 film ‘Choti behan,’ directed by A. H. Siddiqui.

Nirala went on to work in more than one hundred films in his twenty-five year movie career from 1960 to 1985, Nirala’s real break came in the 1964 mega hit movie, ‘Heera aur pathar.’

Thus, he eventually attained prominence through ‘Heera aur pather.’ Moreover, Nirala’s comic characters spotlights one of Pakistan’s multifaceted talents too.

By a considerable ensemble of familiar casts, including Nirala himself, the film ‘Aisa bhi hota hai,’ boasts all the right ingredients at precisely the right time. Likewise, huge audience drawn to Nirala’s 1966 movie ‘Honahar,’ as well.

Perhaps, the moviegoers applauded loudest for Nirala’s role in the 1966 Pakistan’s first platinum jubilee film, ‘Armaan.’ In ‘Armaan,’ director Pervez Malik made Nirala’s look divinely simple. Nirala dubbed as Waheed Murad’s best friend and he fell in love with Rozina.

Nirala cracked humour using his typical facial expression, which also became one of his greatest personal strength. His unrivalled ability to create fun and frolic enabled him to perform in bright, vivid movies like the 1967 film, ‘Ehsaan.’

Nirala played the crazy person, ‘papan papito, sporting long hair. Nirala drew plaudits all around especially with his role in the 1967 film ‘Phir subha ho gee.’ The stories of his movies were in the end bittersweet at best, which Nirala handled in his plainspoken style.

The 1967 film ‘Doraha,’ is a case in point. Nirala played his role with great effect in the three movies. ‘Zameen ka chand,’ ‘Bin badal barsaat,’ ‘Chori.’ Moreover, Nirala’s reputation began to grow with the theatrical release of the three movies, ‘’Insaan aur gadha,’ Nawab Zada,’ ‘Ghar Damaad.’ Nirala tuned into the rhythm of the particular genre, that is, romantic comedy.

He garnered more popularity in his later movies as well. Nirala was essentially a natural artist, and there were genuinely sweet moments between him and the willing audience. Three instances are movies like ‘Bay eman,’ ‘Anmol,’ Sehray kay phool.’

Additionally, he brought out all his wit in the three movies, ‘Raja,’ ‘Ujala,’ ‘Unjanay Raastay.’ In fact, it is impossible to overlook the star power of these three 1967 films, ‘Waqt ki pukar, ‘Meray Laal,’ ‘Meray bachhay meri aankhein.’

In the film ‘Ustadoan kay ustaad,’ 1967, Nirala joined forces with another cinematic legend, Charlie. One of Pakistan’s favorite humorist, Nirala’s electrifying performance lend the films respectability and true importance. The film, ‘Jahan tum wahan hum,’ 1968, is a quick example.

Likewise, the 1969 film ‘Assalamu alaikum,’ brought more laurels to Nirala. Those were the golden days for Nirala, when the audience loved to watch his movies. Truth said they were downright rejoicing glorying!

Nirala’s these three 1970 movies were fraught with laughs. ‘Naseeb apna, apna, ‘Phir chand niklay ga,’ ‘Jhug gaya Aasmaan.’ Incidentally, we have a huge number of people who relate to Nirala’s style of comedy.

His acting flourished with the release of the 1971 film ‘Neend hamari khwab tumharay.’ Similarly, the 1974 movies ‘Dushman,’ and ‘Usay deikha usay chaha,’ are good examples of Nirala’s artistry.

Obviously, Nirala was a talker with a reputation for wit. The 1975 films, ‘Ganwaar,’ and ‘Dilruba,’ are appropriate examples of his wit.

Most importantly, in real life, Nirala wa an amazingly humble person. As for his humor, the magnificence of his comic presentation is quite evident in the 1976 movie, ‘Sacchai.’

What is more, his sense of humor remained intact until his last days. The 1977 movie ‘Suha jora,’ made Nirala more famous than ever. In the 1980s, Nirala moved to Karachi and made stage appearances with comedian Umer Sharif.

Nirala received the Nigar Award for the best comedian in the 1966 film ‘Armaan.’

Bad habits die-hard. Nirala was fond of chewing beetle leaf or paan. Excessive use of paan took its toll on his health, which deteriorated with the passage of time.

‘When it comes time to die, make sure that all you have to do is die.’ Is a saying by Jim Elliot. That said Nirala’s sad demise on December 9, 1985, in Karachi, at forty-eight years of age, robbed Pakistanis of one of their finest comedy actors. Nirala’s last film was ‘Choroan ka badshah,’ which was released three years after his death in 1988.

To think of Nirala after thirty years is to embark on an exciting ride that harkens back to the magnificent magic of yesteryear!

Info: Eminent storyteller, Anis Shakur, is a Pakistani born United States (US) citizen. He works for the US federal and State government. He resides at a stone-throw distance from the darting shores of the Atlantic ocean in New York, for the past three decades.