Zeba: Magnanimous Marvel of Movies

By Anis Shakur
Friday – October 16, 2020
NEW YORK (United States): “Mohabbat mein teray sar ki qasam aisa bhi hota hai,” the film “Aisa bhi hota hai.” Simon Oliver Sinek, British-born American author, asserted, “The challenge of the unknown future is so much more exciting than the stories of the accomplished past.” That said, years ago, replete with excitement, Zeba stepped into the then unknown future. Almost sixty years later, we recount numerous stories of the accomplished past.

Zeba was born on September 10, 1940, in Ambala, India.

A gorgeous, graceful girl, Shaheen, widely known as Zeba, spellbound moviegoers in her debut movie, 'Chiragh jalta raha', directed by Fazal Ahmed Karim Fazli; theatrical release was on March 9, 1962.

Fame did not come overnight to her. On the contrary, she had to work real hard, day in and day out to prove her worth.

She marked her presence gracefully in her second movie, 'Jab say deikha hai tumhain', opposite Darpan. Producer, Waheed Murad, director, Munawwar Rasheed, released on March 29, 1962.

Her acting was both convincing and charming. The choice of Zeba as opposed to Shamim Ara is defining. 'I am very particular about cast selection'. producer Waheed Murad said back in 1962.

In the 1960s, Zeba was hard at work as usual, trying to secure her slice of the movie dream.

Reverting to her private life, Zeba married thrice. Her first wedlock with Khawaja Rehmat Ali, 1959 – 1962, resulted in divorce.

Zeba’s second nuptial with actor Lala Sudhir, 1964 – 1966. For some reason, Zeba's marital life with Sudhir did not last long and it resulted in their separation as well.

Zeba's daughter, Samina, who was born from previous marriage, grew up, got married and settled in life.

Successive films with Zeba continued to attain popularity, like 'Baaji', May 3, 1963, cast included Zeba, Talish, and Nayyar Sultana.

Zeba's efforts took on a new intensity and she proved her worth in the Pakistani cinema. Likewise, she also had a knack for tapping into the moods of the times with movies like 'Tauba', February 15, 1964, stars included Zeba- Kamal- Lehri.

A tragic score like 'O ray sanam dil ye kaisay bataye', pictured on Zeba, captured the essence of what Zeba's awe-inspiring acting really is about. In fact, Zeba is more than an actress to her fans.

She is the embodiment of soul and passion in the movies. What could be a more versatile example, acting-wise, than the film 'Aashiana', October 9, 1964, stars included Zeba- Kamal- Habib. The romantic number 'Baray sungdil ho', was pictured on Zeba - Kamal.

Zeba was truly overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response from the spectators. What is more, her quite a few movies have embedded themselves in the Pakistani psyche, Zeba’s illustrious career moved on and she paired off with Waheed Murad in the mega hit movie, 'Heera aur pathar', December 11, 1964, producer, Waheed Murad, director, Pervez Malik, the film successfully completed 68 weeks and attained golden jubilee. 'Heera aur pathar', undoubtedly established her as an actress of high repute.

Name, fame and acclaim soon followed. Additionally, there might not be a more appropriate example of the simplicity of Zeba's performance other than 'Heera aur pathar’.

In times due course, Zeba kept ameliorating her acting, as her later movies eloquently prove. If aficionados of Pakistani movies have anything to say about Zeba, this is what they will state, 'Zeba has shown time and again that she is second to none in the Pakistani cinema’.

Zeba prided herself on clear diction, she came out charming and loveable at once, in the film 'Aisa bhi hota hai', February 5, 1965, cast included Zeba- Kamal- Nirala.

The Romantically charged song, 'Ho tamanna aur kiya', was pictured on Zeba in the film ‘Aisa bhi hota hai.’

Besides, a tragic score, 'Mohabbat mein teray sar ki qasam', was pictured on Zeba- Kamal in the film, ‘Aisa bhi hota hai.’

Every admirer of Zeba, who recognises in her something of the movie industry, will assuredly convey his or hers opinion of the actress as something moving towards taste and sophistication.

An immediate instance is the film 'Eid Mubarak', producer, M .A Sarwar, director, S.M Yusuf, theatrical release was on July 2, 1965, it completed 26 weeks and attained silver jubilee. Stars included Zeba- Waheed Murad- Habib- Rukhsana.

By far, Zeba's lead roles in ninety-two movies attracted young, aspiring Pakistani girls to the Pakistani show business.

It is inconceivable to overlook the film  'Kaneez’s star power and onscreen pairing that had been promoted most appropriately. Apart from that, these celebrities did not disappoint the moviegoers.

Theatrical release was on November 26, 1965, cast included Zeba- Mohammad Ali- Waheed Murad. The sad song, 'Jab raat dhali', was perfectly pictured on Zeba and Waheed Murad. Zeba performed her job in an admirable fashion.

Producer, Ali Sufyan Afaqi, director, Hasan Tariq, it completed 67 weeks, and attained golden jubilee. Zeba hit a milestone after the release of ‘Kaneez'.

Zeba, the awe and envy of the cine-goers, had the ability to get through the bone of what makes us tick as human beings. After 'Kaneez' came the all-time favorite 'Armaan', Zeba's number one movie of her career, the first platinum jubilee film of Pakistan and, to date, one of the greatest movies of all time.

Theatrical released was on March 18, 1966, producer, Waheed Murad, director, Pervez Malik. Zeba was smartly dubbed as a poor servant, Najma. Najma may not be the part Zeba was born to play, but it might just be the one she grew old for. In a sense, 'Armaan' was an audience waiting to be made. 

Furthermore, Zeba's sheer sadness in 'Armaan' from the beginning to the end will long be remembered. The highly tragic song, 'Akele na jana', became the most radio-requested song from 1966 onwards.

Additionally, Zeba, the legendary film actress, through her acting prowess, spurred a new generation of audience to pursue lofty imaginations in filmdom. Much adored Zeba teamed up with Waheed Murad in 'Josh', April 2, 1966 and it completed golden jubilee, producer, Waheed Murad, director, Iqbal Yusuf.

Her movies are so cleverly conceptualized, you find yourself simply admiring the direction. Zeba, through the years, garnered more fame through successful movies like 'Jaag utha insaan', May 20, 1966. Cast included, Zeba- Waheed Murad. Producer, Habib-ur-Rehman, director, Sheikh Hasan. This sumptuous and stimulating movie successfully attained golden jubilee.

Zeba, whose very presence charms and soothes people, continues to be a constant source of inspiration to moviegoers.

One gets nostalgic, as one career through the past accomplishments of this prominent actress.

Her electrifying performance in movies like 'Lori', gave the films respectability and true importance. 'Lori', November 14, 1966. Cast included Zeba- Santosh- Mohammad Ali. The 'lori', 'Chanda kay hindolay mein' was impeccably pictured on Zeba.

Zeba married actor Mohammad Ali on September  29, 1966, and both of them had a long, blissful married life,  up until March 19, 20o6, when Ali passed away.

Successive films continued to achieve credibility and super-performer, Zeba, appeared in 'Insaniyat', whose theme was both didactic and splendid. To dislike 'Insaniyat', is to dislike moralistic movies. Producer, Habib-ur-Rehman, director, Shabab Kiranvi, theatrical release was on February 24, 1967, completed golden jubilee. Stars included Zeba- Waheed Murad- Tariq Aziz.

All those years Zeba’s fervor for acting never ebbed. Perhaps, one of the most dramatic instances of Zeba's career is the film 'Ehsaan'. A parable about a widow that is a pleasure to watch. The film 'Ehsaan' captures the conflict between blind love and stark reality. Producer, Waheed Murad, director, Pervez Malik, released on June 30, 1967 and attained silver jubilee.

Zeba's performances were enhanced with her tragic appearance in 'Ehsaan', which, in turn, evokes the pleasant memories of her diehard devotees. Thus, it is no wonder that her name, which had been stamped with success, had become a staple of the Pakistani film scores.

By far, the most eminent actress of her times, super-star Zeba, appeared in 'Maan Baap', opposite Waheed Murad. Producer, Ata ullah Shah Hashmi, director, Khaleel Qaiser, released on September 22, 1967, completed silver jubilee.

After twenty-seven years of acting, 1962- 89, her notability is greater than ever. Excellence of Zeba's artistry was enormous, particularly in 'Rishta hai pyar ka'. As the lead lady opposite Waheed Murad in 'Rishta hai pyar ka', she exceed the expectations of her innumerable admirers. Producer, Iqbal Butt, director, Qamar Zaidi, released on October 16, 1967, completed silver jubilee. The romantic number, 'Masoom sa chehra hai', was pictured on Zeba- Waheed Murad.

Through her iconic facial expressions, Zeba brought strength, delicacy, wit and humanity respectively to each role she played in her movies. Her brilliance was too often taken for granted though.

She was instantly distinct in the film 'Aag', November 3, 1967. Cast included Zeba- Mohammad Ali- Lehri. The tragic score, Beetay dino ki yadoan ko', was pictured on Zeba in ‘Aag'.

In spite of stiff competition in the 1960s, Zeba's decisive characters in numerous movies is commendable. In their movies, Zeba and her actor-husband, Mohammad Ali, dazzled fans for almost three decades.

Movies like 'Taj Mahal', brought exuberant fun for Zeba's adorers, theatrical release was on December 23, 1968. Starring Zeba- Mohammad Ali- Habib. Similarly, films like 'Tum milay pyar mila', February 7, 1969, are still popular with the populace. Stars included Zeba- Mohammad Ali. 'Aap ko bhool jayain hum', was pictured on Zeba- Mohammad Ali.

Zeba's acting talents were enormous and she knew how to hone them. Stories of her movies managed to evoke interest. Soon, Zeba became a household name and a media darling.

Going back to her movies, 'Insaan Aur Aadmi', May 15, 1970, was a brilliant movie and a huge commercial success. Stars included Zeba- Mohammad Ali- Talat Husain. The super hit song, 'Tu jahan kaheen bhi jaaye', was pictured on Zeba. Remarkably enough, movies like 'Insaan Aur Aadmi', did set a precedent for other good movies.

All through these times, the praise bestowed on Zeba, for all her flamboyance is worth applauding. As for her fulfilment, it is immaculate, as best as one can describe it.

At the pinnacle of her splendour, she worked in the mega hit movie, Insaaf Aur Qanoon', with confidence and exuberance. Theatrical release was on April 16, 1971. 'Insaaf Aur Qanoon' powerfully illustrates Zeba's role, played with great affect, as wife of an innocent prisoner, who receives life imprisonment for a crime he did not commit.

It is a fabulous story about human possibility that demonstrates fortitude and forgiveness. Best of all, 'Insaaf Aur Qanoon', was brought to life by its super stars. It is an epic tale of justice and law. Stars included, Zeba- Mohammad Ali- Sangeeta. It’s positive, uplifting and truthful lyrics rings true today as they did years ago.

Zeba's achievement in 'Salam-e-Mohabbat', August 6, 1971, similarly is laudable. Starring, Zeba- Mohammad Ali. The romantic number 'Salam-e-Mohabbat bara khubsurat', was beautifully pictured on Zeba.

This thrice Nigar-winning actress possessed the rare commodities that allow success in the film industry. It is also another chapter in her remarkable career. Her role in 'Afsana zindigi ka', January 7, 1972, is a visual experience of breathtaking scope. Stars included Zeba- Mohammad Ali. The song, 'Zindigi kay safar mein akeley thay hum', was pictured on Zeba.

Likewise, the film 'Ilzaam', brought fresh laurels to Zeba, theatrical release was on March 10, 1972. Stars included Zeba- Mohammad Ali- Sangeeta.

As mentioned above, the pairing of Zeba with Mohammad Ali made waves, both on and off the screen. Together, they worked in sixty-nine movies.

Standing her in good stead, and her cultured manners, Zeba lent finesse to the role of the lead actress.

During the peak years of her acclaim, from 1962 through 1989, Zeba worked in such films as 'Mohabbat', creating frenzied interest in movie buffs. 'Mohabbat' was released on June 2, 1972, stars included Zeba- Mohammad Ali- Andaleeb- Santosh- Sabiha. The perennial song, 'Banwara mun aisay dharka na tha', was pictured on Zeba.

The film 'Daman Aur Chingari’ has become the gold standard of trend setting. Theatrical release was on October 28, 1973. Cast included Zeba- Mohammad Ali- Nadeem. The song, 'Dais paraye janay walay', was pictured on Zeba.

'Phool meray gulshan ka', is a film as awesome as its images. Stars included Zeba- Mohammad Ali- Waheed Murad- Nadeem. The song, Tu hai phool meray gulshan ka', was pictured on Zeba.

Zeba is a woman who radiates pride in the choices she has made in her show business career. That said, she worked with the intensity of a genuine artist. Her movies maintain a professional consistency. The film 'Mohabbat zindigi hai’ is a must-see! Theatrical release was on June 6, 1975, cast included Zeba- Mohammad Ali- Waheed Murad.

Zeba's dialogues nourishes ones soul as one watches her movies like 'Jab, jab phool khilay', November 21, 1975, stars included Zeba- Mohammad Ali-Waheed Murad- Nadeem.

More often, audiences and critics are amazed at Zeba's versatility in a movie like 'Naukar', December 12 1975, Zeba- Mohammad Ali- Barbara Sharif Essentially, her various roles in assorted movies and her gracious gestures are emblazoned in the mind of every adorer. Most of all, the particular script was exemplary for its stylistic elegance as well as its timeliness. That gives the film its believability.

Zeba, widely acclaimed for her movie 'Suhagan', is smart and loveable at once, directed by S. M. Yusuf.

She also worked in a series of outstanding films like the three below:

The films 'Sameera', opposite Ratan Kumar, directed by M. S. Dar

The Punjabi film 'Mehendi walay hath', opposite Sultan, directed by S. Sulaiman

The film 'Mohabbat rung laye gee.’

One of the highlights of the three movies below is that they were both magnificent and moralistic-an enormous accomplishment in humble circumstances:

The films 'Teri surat meri Aankhein', Jaisay jaantay naheen' and 'Ik phool ik pathar’.

Zeba, who occupies an indelible place in our hearts, made her presence felt in movies, which also engages the social realities of the day. Below are three examples:

The films 'Gumrah', 'Aarzu', and 'Dil ik Aa’ena.'

As the voice behind such movies as 'Baalam', and 'Adalat', the power of the woman and her voice really hit home.

Also, the three movies below not only serve to showcase Zeba's amazing talents, but they are also a testament to her exceptional acting prowess: The films 'Dil diya dard liya', 'Unjaan', and ‘Mehel.'

The three movies below express the aspirations of the actress as well as viewers taste and sophistication:

The films 'Pakeeza', 'Paalki' and ‘Najma.'

Zeba, creating her winning role as lead actress, did a wonderful job in the films 'Shama', and ‘Yaadain.'

Moreover, she established a pattern of artistic evolution through her roles in the films 'Aap ka khadim', 'Baaghi sepahe' and 'Koh-e-Noor.' The  songs were pretty good too.

Movies like 'Bharosa', 'Bahu Rani', and 'Sabaq', were a success in their entirety. The three films below prove without a shadow of doubt that Zeba is in a category all her own, above all others in her realm:

The films 'Aansu bahaye patharoan nay', 'Waqt ki pukar', and 'Goonj uthi shehnai.’

Zeba, at eighty years of age in the year 2020, is aging gracefully. Her renown has continued to grow in the recent past. She brightened so many other lives, that it is difficult to encompass them. She stole the hearts of her loyal admirers with movies like the three below:

The films 'Shireen Farhad', 'Aurat ik paheli' and 'Riwaaj.'

Looking into this actress's eyes, admirers are overcome with joy. Since Zeba's face almost always wears a radiant smile. She is a shining light guiding new prospective artist, particularly girls.

It is not the bigger -the- better that matters. It is the will power and smarts never to give up. To watch Zeba's movies is an experience like no other.

Zeba's last film with Mohammad Ali was 'Mohabbat ho to aisi ho', September 11, 1989, cast included Zeba- Mohammad Ali- Talish.

Zeba was the guest in Karachi television's stage show, 'Silver Jubilee', in 1983. Then in her twenty- first year of acting, she was questioned by host Anwar Maqsood, how she felt as a celebrity after all those years. 'It is exhilarating, it is outstanding', replied Zeba.

Further, Zeba, who is as impressionable as ever, is well -known in Pakistan and abroad, for her social life. Throughout her well-lived life, Zeba has been a remarkably steadfast and persevering woman.

Zeba earned the Nigar Award for best actress in the film 'Armaan' in 1966.

 Zeba earned the Nigar Award for best actress in the film 'Insaan aur Aadmi' in 1970.

 Zeba earned the Nigar Award for best actress in the film 'Mohabbat' in 1972.

Zeba received the Lux Style Award for lifetime achievement.

Zeba received the Hilal-e-Imtiaz Award for best actress.

During her twenty- seven- year acting career, Zeba's star did not fade. Moreover, her participation in movies as a means of transport to entertainment was recognised years ago.

Most of all, her highly sentimental role in 'Armaan' and her representation of the tragic scenes are truly encapsulated in the movie in such a way that she was revered for her refined style fifty-eight years ago. She will garner applause from the enthusiastic Pakistani audience for very many years.

Next in TDR’s Classics, “Pakistani Cinema”

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.