11 Pakistani biopics that need to be made right now

11 Pakistani biopics that need to be made right now

With hundreds of stories of real people doing great things in Pakistan, shouldn't we see more biopics in production?
Updated 11 Feb, 2020

Tis' the season of biopics in cinemas around the world: whether in Lollywood, Bollywood or Hollywood, real-life stories have taken center stage.

In Hollywood, we've seen movies Straight Outta Compton do well, with more biopics in the works, most notably one on Steve Jobs and one on Edward Snowden.

In Bollywood, Manjhi — The Mountain Man is creating buzz, and of course, here in Pakistan, we have Shah, based on the life of Pakistani boxer Syed Hussain Shah.

Also read: Must watch: An unsung Pakistani hero comes to life in film 'Shah'

Biopics usually follow a familiar arc: adversity trumped by ingenuity and/or perseverance. Even when biographical films are about less-than-savoury characters they manage to highlight some sort of societal trend that's worth a second look.

This got us thinking — there are hundreds, if not thousands, of stirring stories of real people doing great things right here in Pakistan. Shouldn't we see more biopics in production?

In our industry where the 'revival' of cinema has become a clichéd yet important term, the success of already released biopics like Jinnah and Shah and the hype of upcoming Manto signify the potential of such projects.

So here's a list of famous (and not-so-famous) personalities that need to have biographical dramas made on their lives RIGHT NOW, along with suggestions for who could play these characters. Read on:

Noor Jehan

Noor Jehan (L), Saba Qamar (R)
Noor Jehan (L), Saba Qamar (R)

Called ‘Malaika-e-Tarranum’, the queen of melody, Noor Jehan started her career with singing but quickly became a sought-after actress. Her life is a series of twists and turns perfect for cinema; the singer married twice and was closely followed by the press.

What really stands out in her story is that Noor Jehan created a legacy, with her family's younger generation following her into showbiz. We envision a production on Noor Jehan to be a grand multi-generational family saga. Known to speak her mind, Noor Jehan couldn't care less of what went behind her.

Fit for the role: Saba Qamar

Why so: A known name in the drama industry, Saba Qamar, with her flawless Punjabi and Urdu could play the role of both younger and older Noor Jehan with aplomb.

Her pigtails in Digest Writer as well as a neat bun in Maat make her a considerable option. And oh, just by the way, she plays Noor Jehan in Manto, which we think is perfect practice for a feature film.

Sultan Rahi

Sultan Rahi (L), Shaan Shahid (R)
Sultan Rahi (L), Shaan Shahid (R)

As time goes by, the spectre of Maula Jatt growers ever fainter, which makes us feel panicked. What better way to celebrate a cult classic film and a character which is at par with Bollywood’s Gabbar other than making a biopic?

The actor’s tragic death in a shooting piqued the interest of many, and it deserves to be explored. People want to find out whether bandits took him down -- or was it because he wanted to convert to Christianity? A well-researched film might not only give us some leads but will keep Jatt’s flame burning.

Fit for the role: Shaan

Why so: Twist his mustache, hand him a gandasa and an SMG, and Shaan is ready to become the evergreen Sultan Rahi who laid the foundation of roles aspiring to Maula Jatt-ness.


Sadequain (L), Fawad Khan (R)
Sadequain (L), Fawad Khan (R)

As Europe boasts of its Michael Angelos, Picassos and Van Goghs, lets not forget that we have our own artist to take pride in. Syed Sadequain Ahmed Naqvi’s vast body of work represents his greatness as an artist who believed in capturing the happiness of a hungry child after he finds a piece of bread in a pile of garbage.

Fond of excess and deprivation in equal measure, the artist chose not to marry and died leaving an incomplete mural on Frere Hall’s ceiling. The mystery of his lost works still remains and a biopic dedicated to his struggles and life is something we all owe him.

Fit for the role: Fawad Khan

Why so? Fawad Khan’s performance in theatre as well as drama has proven that he has a knack for a challenging role. Plus, we see a faint resemblance!

Parveen Rehman

Parveen Rehman (L), Sanam Saeed (R)
Parveen Rehman (L), Sanam Saeed (R)

A name that frequently makes headlines, Parveen Rehman was an architect and a teacher who was known for her social activism. Her dedication to the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) which aimed to resettle impoverished residents in Karachi brought her to the forefront as she battled land grabbers who minted money by selling sub plots.

Despite all good work she was doing, she became a victim of a targeted attack in Karachi and was killed at the age of 56. Known to be shy, she was an exemplary person who continued to fight against obstacles without raising a hue and cry and given that most people don’t attend the seminars that highlight her efforts, a biopic is much needed to tell the world about her heroism.

Fit for the role: Sanam Saeed

Why so? The actor, who'll be making her film debut soon, has shown through her roles that she can be a brave yet soft spoken character in Talkhiyan and Firaaq as well as a woman with a fighting spirit in Zindagi Gulzaar Hai.

Rahman Dakait

Rahman Dakait (L), Rashid Farooqi (R)
Rahman Dakait (L), Rashid Farooqi (R)

Sardar Abdul Rehman, known by his popular alias Rehman Dakait was one of the ‘most wanted gangsters’ who hailed from the once ‘no-go’ zone Lyari.

The ‘gangster’ who also had known political affiliations was a popular figure in Lyari, and his death was commemorated in the area. Involved in at least 80 criminal cases, Rehman’s evolution from Sardar Rehman Baloch to Dakait offers an interesting insight into criminality which should be explored.

This film will be a nail-biter with a rough, gritty feel, and could also feature it episodes like when a case was lodged against the then SSP Chaudhry Aslam for hunting Rahman Dakait down.

Fit for the role: Rashid Farooqi

Why so? He has previously played the role of a thug in telefilms and would handle this well.

Iqbal Masih

Iqbal Masih (L), Zuhab Khan (R)
Iqbal Masih (L), Zuhab Khan (R)

Sold into bonded labour at a very young age, Iqbal Masih became a symbol of hope after his relentless efforts to end the menace. After learning that bonded labour is illegal, the child activist fled the carpet factory he worked in and became an activist for the Bonded Labour Liberation Front.

Sadly enough he was fatally shot at the age of 12 and speculations about his death ran rampant until today as no one has been able to pin down the reason behind his killing. With bonded labour rampant in both Punjab and Sindh, Iqbal’s untold story has to get out so the public can realise that bonded labour is not something new -- in fact, those supporting it have been benefiting from this scourge for a long, long time.

Fit for the role: Zuhab Khan

Why so? Zuhab's work in Man k Moti as an impoverished child trying to make ends meet makes us think he's perfect for the role.

Abdul Sattar and Bilquis Edhi

Abdul Sattar Eddi (L), Bahroze Sabzwari (R)
Abdul Sattar Eddi (L), Bahroze Sabzwari (R)

A name synonymous with philanthropy, Abdul Sattar Edhi and his wife Bilquis Edhi run one of the biggest charity organisations, Edhi Foundation. Although Edhi is a famous and revered name and his services have been recorded in many books and documentaries, we feel he deserves yet more recognition for his services.

Bilquis Edhi (L), Hina Dilapzeer (R)
Bilquis Edhi (L), Hina Dilapzeer (R)

This is a man whose simplicity and humility is awe-inspiring. His story, however, is full of hardship and personal sacrifice. A film depicting his childhood, youth and marriage to Bilquis Edhi has to be shown to the world. An angle we can't wait to see explored is his relationship with Bilquis, who has been a cornerstone for the Edhi Foundation.

Fit for the roles: Bahroze Sabzwari and Hina Dilapzeer

Why so? The kindness etched upon the faces of both of these personalities is quite hard to find and perhaps Bahroze and Hina can do the job well as both have played humble and down-to-earth roles in the past.

Sara Shagufta

Sara Shagufta's sketch (L), Nimra Bucha (R)
Sara Shagufta's sketch (L), Nimra Bucha (R)

Hailed as the Virginia Woolf or Sylvia Plath of her times, Sara Shagufta was a poet and to some, a rather eccentric one. Getting married at the age of 17, she tried hard to be the good wife but was unhappy and instead got married to someone of her own choice. Turmoil in her second marriage led to an outpouring of fiery creativity and she wrote about the complexities of life, especially between a man and a woman.

She also rallied against oppressive military regimes, but tragically committed suicide by swallowing poison resulting in her untimely death at the age of 29. With little known to the public of her creative contributions, a biopic will do the job just fine.

Fit for the role: Nimra Bucha

Why so? Her recent performance in Dictator's Wife and the soon-to-be-released Manto as Manto’s muse makes her a perfect choice.

Sohail Abbas

Sohail Abbas (L), Mohib Mirza (R)
Sohail Abbas (L), Mohib Mirza (R)

Hailing from the narrow lanes of Rizvia, an old area in Karachi, Sohail Abbas made a name for himself in hockey by becoming the highest goal scorer in the history of field hockey.

Although he was 28 when he joined the national team, Sohail made sure that his name was well-remembered. Yet after playing diligently for the country Sohail doesn’t want to talk about hockey because the sport which took his blood, sweat and tears is in a sorry state of affairs. Just like Hussain Shah, whose glory was easily forgotten and never recompensed, Sohail Abbas too wasn’t given the credit he deserved. We think it's time to change that.

Fit for the role: Mohib Mirza

Why so? Mohib has shown his versatility and we think he has the athleticism and grace to play a sportsman.

Dr Abdus Salam

Dr Abdus Salam (L), Fahad Mustafa (R)
Dr Abdus Salam (L), Fahad Mustafa (R)

The first Pakistani to win a Nobel Prize, Abdus Salam was a theoretical physicist whose research is considered a great leap forward in modern physics.

However the man who brought Pakistan to the attention of the scientific community is not discussed as readily as he deserves. Born in the Ahmediya community, his name has been sidelined. Although it would be an uphill task to do so, we owe the man the recognition denied to him by preserving his legacy.

Fit for the role: Fahad Mustafa

Why so? A multifaceted actor, Fahad Mustafa has played various roles and will also be playing Meer Taqi Meer in Maah-e-Meer which will give him an edge in biopics.

Adeeb Rizvi

Adeeb Rizvi (L), Talat Hussain (R)
Adeeb Rizvi (L), Talat Hussain (R)

For many Adeebul Hasan Rizvi is the man behind Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplant (SIUT) but his blazing activism during his days at medical college are seldom discussed. Rizvi, whose centre offers free kidney transplants to those in need, was a part of the Democratic Students Federation (DSF), a body formed to safeguard the rights of students. His tale, from his arrival to Pakistan and labourious efforts to transform an eight-bed room to what SIUT is today deserves a second look.

Fit for the role: Talat Hussain

Why so? Talat Hussain's brilliant acting skills will surely bring out Adeeb Rizvi's fortitude in the face of huge challenges.

And that's just a short list of life stories that should be explored. There are many, many more that provide more than enough fodder for films, TV mini series or even stage plays.

Who else do you think could inspire a biopic? Leave your suggestions in the comments below!

This article was originally published on 11 September, 2015.