Nadeem Baig - On films, old times and life as an actor

  • 09 Jun - 15 Jun, 2018
  • Rabia Mushtaq
  • Interview

Seventy six years ago, a star was born in an Indian city named Vijayawada, located in the southeast Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. At just six years of age, he moved with his father and brother to a newly independent Pakistan in 1947, and went on to rule the country as one of its most adored filmi heroes for decades to come. He lived and completed his studies in Karachi, but growing up, this young man discovered his singing talent and went on to pursue his aspirations in Dhaka – the provincial capital of the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). Little did he know that it wasn’t just singing that would bring him immense fame and love; in fact, he was destined to be an actor, who would make the audience swoon with his charming antics as a romantic hero. We’re talking about none other than the legendary Mirza Nazeer Baig popularly known as Nadeem Baig, whose everlasting contribution to our country’s film industry is irreplaceable. MAG sat down with this celebrated artiste to discuss Pakistani films, old times and his life as an actor during a candid tête-à-tête.

“I often get teary-eyed whenever scenes from the past consume my thoughts and also whenever I’m listening to old songs,” says a visibly nostalgic Nadeem, when talking about how much he misses the golden period of Pakistan’s film industry. “Old days and memories always remain in a person's mind, and I dearly miss all my colleagues, some of whom are alive while others have passed away. It was, indeed, the best time of my life. It is really sad where we stand now. Songs of the past are still memorable and tug at one’s heart strings, but I do not understand the music being produced in today’s time, be it the lyrics or tune, nothing makes sense,” he laments about the quality of music today which can never be compared with the brilliant work from the past.

He gleams with joy when responding to my question about the most cherished moments from the past. “It was all great. One can never forget acting in front of those cameras and lights, on those larger than life sets, while performing such amazing characters alongside remarkable actors, as well as being surrounded by illustrious writers, poets, directors, musicians, singers and producers,” says the Aina actor, as he takes us down the memory lane. “All these people have contributed in my life. If it wasn’t for their presence, I wouldn’t have been where I am today. All I have done is work with their unconditional support but the real job was done by my directors, cameramen, producers, technicians, editors and everyone involved in the process of making films back in the days. Our industry was blessed with extraordinary talent,” Nadeem sahab tells me and hopes for Pakistani cinema to improve with time following the current wave of our film industry’s revival.

The 76-year-old actor has dedicated his life to the profession of acting and has also made a mark by singing with distinctive vocals in his days of yore, yet he is humble to the core. I ask him if he’s ever regretted doing a character in the many films he did. “No, I have never regretted doing any character; in fact, I have regretted ruining certain characters with my bad acting,” he states following his signature self-effacing demeanour. “I have never requested to play a particular role because for me, every role has been a challenge. All I crave for are strong characters, written and presented in a good way.”

The charismatic actor has reigned over the hearts of his fans with his outstanding acting and singing abilities ever since his first film Chakori went on floors in 1967. How much has he seen himself grow as an actor in all these years? I enquire. “I haven’t grown at all, as I’m still learning. Whenever I give a shot, when acting for films or television, it feels like I’m doing it for the first time. One keeps learning and strives to work harder with time. Even if one does their best to avoid mistakes, they end up making at least one each time, so there’s no end to learning,” Nadeem sahab spills the beans on his acting career and adds, “In this profession or any kind of creative job, one will always be a learner and can never become a master. There are very few masters in the world when it comes to acting and I’m definitely not one of them,” the legendary actor responds with a chuckle.

With an illustrious career spanning over decades, I ask if there’s a character that he cherishes performing. “It’s really difficult for me to tell. But I really liked my roles in Aina, Qurbani, Naraaz and a few more films. However, one character that I really admired is from an Indian movie I did named Durdesh, where my character was very strange and psychic. This is one role I probably did right, as I really enjoyed doing it following the challenging requirements it offered.”

We shift our conversation to the current situation of films in the country and Nadeem sahab is hopeful that it will, yet again, reflect the glorious past it once possessed. “Many movies have been produced throughout this revival period. It is good that films are at least being made now. Movies that have done good business and those that have not fared well are all part of the revival. I hope the industry will eventually improve and become successful with more work. With all the technological innovations and facilities that are now available, it is now possible to make better films.”

The septuagenarian is not so pleased with those in power. He bewails about the role governments could have played in flourishing the entertainment industry. “Our governments have never encouraged the film industry. Indian films get to screen six shows while Pakistani films get only two shows in the cinemas. Therefore, this biased attitude should end. Instead of whining about the state of cinema in the country, the government should encourage, protect and facilitate this industry, so it can stand on its own feet,” he makes it known and adds, “There needs to be a thorough policy and we can only appeal to the authorities to protect and provide proper incentives to the industry.”

He also urges the audience to watch the films being made in Pakistan, for they are made with a lot of passion and hard work. “Until and unless people don’t watch our movies, how are they going to get successful? Our film industry has a lot of potential and the employment of a lot of people is dependent on its operations. The more we encourage it, the better. Pakistan has immense talent; therefore, I would urge the public to go and watch our movies and help the industry flourish,” the veteran actor signs out with a heartfelt request, as he gears up for his upcoming film Azaadi alongside Moammar Rana and Sonya Hussyn this Eid-ul-Fitr. Nadeem sahab also has two more films – Javed Shiekh’s Wajood (also releasing on Eid) and Shan Shahid’s Zaraar – up his sleeves in the days to come. •