Holly wood has just held it’s 74th Annual Academy Awards and Lollywood is planning to hold its 44th Nigar Awards, this month.

It was the India magazine FILM FAIR which had inspire the then young Ilyas Rashidi to purchase a run down children’s monthly NIGAR from his journalist friend Ibne Hassan Nigar, and publish it as Pakistan’s first ever film weekly from Karachi, in journalist brothers. The simple but out-spoken Ilyas Rashidi had acquired enough experience in the field, through his association with his elders brother Umer Azad’s Urdu daily Anjum, which had just shifted its offices from Delhi to Karachi. He made NIGAR into Pakistan’s most widely circulated film weekly.

Ilyas Rashidi died of a stroke on AUGUST 7, 1997. But NIGAR has continued its circulation since the time of its inspection 54 years back. In 1985 the newspaper owner decided to hold, a film awards ceremony by the name of --- “Nigar Public Film Awards”, the first of its kind in Pakistan.

Ilyas Rashidi chose the design of the statuette (Initial design had to be changed during Genera Zia-ul-Haq’s rule). The ceremony, took place on July 17, at Lahore’s Evernew studios.

Mir Ali Ahmad Talpur, then a Minister in the West Pakistan Government was the Chief Guest Awards were given to the cinematic creations of the preceding year. SAAT LAKH was adjudged the best movie of the years; Sabiha was given the best actress award for SAAT LAKH. Her handsome husband Santosh Kumar, whom she had married secretly during the making of WAADA, got the best actor’s award for his role of blind man in WAADA. Sabiha Khanum received her fourth ‘NIGAR’ for portraying the main character of Saadat Hassan Manto’s mummy, in the 1975 movie, EK GUNAH AUR SAHI.

The artist who has received the highest number of Nigars is none other than Nadeem, starting from his debut in CHAKORI (1967), to the 1991 flick WATAN KE RAKHWALEY, he has been declared the best actor 17 times, next to Nadeem is the king of loud dramatics, Mohammad Ali. He got his first award as the best supporting actor in 1964’s KHAMOSH RAHO. The tall actor with the big voice went on to win a total of 10 awards in span of 20 years. His last win was 1984’s DOORIYAN, thus quitting the industry after that.

Mohammad, Ali was followed by the doyen of Punjabi Cinema, Sultan Rahi, Starting from a special award for his role in BABUL (1971), he went on to win nine for title roles. The likes of BASHIRA (1972), WEHSI JAT (1974), MAJHOO (1992), GHOONDA (1993), GABHAR SINGH (1995), and lastly SKHI BADSHAH in (1996), just before his death, similar to the one he had so often played on the screen.


Among the leading ladies, the one who leads is Shabnam. The beauty from Bengal with a strange Urdu accent left for Bangladesh in the late 80’s, but only after winning a good 13 Nigars. She started with AKHRI STATION (1965) and ended with NARAZ (1985). Shabnam was followed in the Nigar race by the diminutive Babra Sharif, with eight. She began her film career with 1975’s most awarded Urdu film MERA NAM HAI MOHABBAT and ended up dancing in the Punjabi GORI DIYAN JHANJRAN (1990).

JHANJRIA PEHNA DO was a Madam Noor Jehan number, which gave the young and slender. Anjuman her start in SHER KHAN (1981). Her career ended with, the robust CHAUDHRANI in 1999, between the two, she won the best Punjabi Actress award six times. INSANYAT KR DUSHMAN (1990) brought her lone awards for an Urdu movie --- thus completing her total of seven.

Anjuman’s lucky seven is matched by Jawaid Sheikh and Reemit. Jawed Sheikh took off with a growling look in GHARIBON KA BADSHAH (1998) along with ex-wife Salma Agha, who received that year’s best actress award for her portrayal of a typical TAWAIF in BAZAR-E-HUSN. In 1990, he received another one for playing USTADON KE USTAD and in 1991 for the Punjabi KALAY CHOR, standing alongside a radiant Neeli, who was not only Jawaid’s new love but also the recipient of that year’s best Punjabi actress award for BAKHTAWAR, Jawaid ended with his best supporting actor’s award in 1999 for GUNS AND ROSES. Neeli’s last win was 1997’s MARD JEENAY NAHIN DETAY. She had by then broken up with the dimple chinned Jawaid. Neeli’s five are equaled by Saima and Shaan. But Reema leads with her seven.

Both Reema and Shaan started together in 1990 with BULANDI. Reema received her second with HATHI MERE SATHI in 1993, then RANI BETI RAAJ KAREGI (1994) and was still ruling in KALA RAJ (1997). Both Shaan and Reema sixth Nigar. In 1999, Shaan sought his fifth Nigar in JANNAT KI TALASH, while Saima who had started with best supporting actress in BAKHTAWAR (1991), won her fifth Nigar in DAKU RANI (1999).

Other categories include producer Sajjad Gul with six awards. His recent wins have been DEEWANEY TERAY PYAR KE (1997) and Punjabi NIKKI JAI HAN (1999). Both the movies gifted the ever smiling Moammar Rana with two of his four awards.

Among writers and directors, Syed Noor tops the list with a total of 12. His first was for the script of Punjabi SAURA TE JAWAI (1980). His latest was for the screenplay of DAKU RANI (1999). The year before, he received the best director’s award for Punjabi CHOORIYAN, CHOORIYAN and DAKU RANI were gifts for Saima, as she won the best actress award for both. Noor’s wife Rukhsana has also bagged three Nigars for her scripts and lyrics like.

Queen of Melody, Noor Jehan won a total of 13 Nigars, including the well deserved Nigar Millennium Award, which was handed to her exactly a month before her death in December 2000. Mehnaz won 11 and Humaira Channa six. Even Nayyara Noor managed to get two.

Talking about Madam Noor Jehan, it is interesting to note that she received her very first Nigar in 1960, for her lilting KOEL song --- DIL KA DIYA JALAYA. The glamorous queen received the award from Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who was then minister for minerals and Natural Resources.

After Ilyas Rashidi, death his son Aslam Ilyas Rashidi, is carrying on the tradition of the Nigar Awards. A mission which has encouraged, generation of creative talent in Pakistani Cinema, from writer-director Riaz Shahid to his actor/director son Shaan, from music maestro Rasheed Attrey to his composer son Wajahat Attrey and from Faiz Ahmad Faiz to Mehdi Hassan. The latter two shared the 1964 award for Faiz’ ghazal, the exquisite GULON MEIN RANG BHAREY, BAD - E – NAU BAHAR CHALEY. One wants to see who the lucky recipients will be this year. And today Aslam Ilyas Rashidi is seated on his father’s Chair, in the same cozy little Nigar office at Karachi’s Breezy Abdullah Haroon Rod. The same easy smile, the same dedication. Eager to take, tender care of his father’s “GULSHAN”.

(By Zia Mutaher) - DAWN