Flashback: constructing a narrative for Pakistan

Glimpses from a 1957 Pakistani Urdu movie Bedari about the ideas concerning a young Pakistani State. 

by Pranay Kotasthane (@pranaykotas)


The 70mm screen is a powerful tool for political communication. An example of this tool at work is the Pakistani Urdu movie from 1957 called Bedari (meaning: Enlightenment)The movie is a patriotic Pakistani film. The movie was, in Bollywood jargon, inspired by a 1954 Hindi movie called Jagriti. The lead role in both movies is played by Nazir Rizvi (better known by his screen name Rattan Kumar). Nazir migrated to Pakistan in the 1950s and went on to act in many Lollywood movies thereafter.

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The most interesting part of the movie are its four songs—set to the exact tune of the very popular songs in the original Jagriti.  There are several notable references in these songs.

1. Aao Bachchon saer karaien tumko Pakistan ki

This song is set to the tune of the popular Bollywood song Aao Bachchon tumhe dikhaaiyen jhaanki Hindustan ki. The screenplay is that a teacher takes a few students to various parts of Pakistan, singing a few lines in praise of each of the provinces. Sindh is described as the area where the tyranny of Raja Dahir (Sindh’s last Hindu ruler) is overthrown by the Lashkar of Muhammad Bin Qasim. Punjab is described as the place which was enlightened by Iqbal’s poetry. The brave soldiers, who are ready to sacrifice their lives for the nation hail from here. NWFP, referred to as the land of Pathans is described as a place where even children are familiar with warfare. Interestingly, the fourth territory discussed is Kashmir, and not Balochistan.

 2. Ae Quaid-e-Azam tera ehsaan hi ehsaan 

This song is set to the tune of De di hamein aazaadi bina.., another popular song praising the non-violent efforts of Gandhi. In Bedari, the roles are completely reversed. The song is in praise of Jinnah and the projected villain (dushman) is Gandhi, who is out to foil the idea of Pakistan.

3. Hum layein hain toofaan se

is a copy of a song by same name. This song ends with how Pakistan’s ambitions are incomplete unless the flag of Pakistan is hoisted in Kashmir.

This is just one, but nevertheless an interesting data point in the early stages of nation building of Pakistan.

Pranay Kotasthane is a Research Fellow at The Takshashila Institution. He is on twitter @pranaykotas

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