Published Jan 09, 2017 03:12pm

The mysterious murder of Sultan Rahi and other Lollywood tragedies

Sultan Rahi’s sudden death dealt a terrible blow to Punjabi films and it was a loss from which the industry never fully recovered
Sultan Rahi’s sudden death dealt a terrible blow to Punjabi films and it was a loss from which the industry never fully recovered

Some of Lollywood’s mind-boggling mysteries and tragedies created quite a stir at the time they first occurred but with the passage of time the hype died down and the memory of these ill-fated celebrities whose lives were unceremoniously cut short abruptly faded away into the murky annals of time.

Like other successful film industries around the world, Lollywood too is plagued by mysterious deaths, unsolved murders and unexplained tragedies.

Here, Images on Sunday revives their luster and presents a concise list of Lollywood superstars who suffered unfortunate circumstances and succumbed to mysterious deaths.

Sultan Rahi

Sultan Rahi’s sudden death dealt a terrible blow to Punjabi films and it was a loss from which the industry never fully recovered.
Sultan Rahi’s sudden death dealt a terrible blow to Punjabi films and it was a loss from which the industry never fully recovered.

The legendarily prolific Sultan Rahi worked in over 703 Punjabi films and 100 Urdu films. I personally witnessed him working on three film sets in a single day. After shooting one scene at Evernew Studios, he would hurriedly move to Bari Studios adjacent to Evernew for the next film shot. After spending almost three to four hours on different sets, he would then move to Shahnoor Studios where another shooting crew would be anxiously waiting for him.

The best thing about Rahi was his immense commitment to work and his pleasant demeanor when dealing with the low-paid production crew.

Above everything else, he was a sure thing, someone who could recover the producer’s investment. During the span of his film career, he won almost 160 awards. Some of his major films include Maula Jatt, Sher Khan, Chan Veryam, Babul Sadqay Tere, Sharif Badmash, Basheera and Wehsi Gujjar. Among other works of charity, he is also accredited of having a mosque built in Bari Studios and also financing a film for junior artists. Some of his best pairing in films was with actresses such as Aasiya, Anjuman and Saima.

On January 9, 1996, he was returning late at night from Islamabad when his car’s tyre deflated near Samanabad Chungi close to Gujranwala on Main G.T. Road. Taking advantage of the darkness and deserted surroundings, some men approached the vehicle and opened fire on him. Rahi sustained serious injuries and was rushed to the DHQ Hospital in Gujranwala where he breathed his last.

Niggo

Dancer Niggo was the first choice of filmmakers for the classic 'mujra' girl.
Dancer Niggo was the first choice of filmmakers for the classic 'mujra' girl.

Niggo was an attractive young woman who impressed all those she came across with her excellent dancing skills. She was chosen by all the Punjabi filmmakers of her time to perform classic mujra dance numbers in their films which were equivalent to the ‘item’ numbers in present-day films. Niggo, thus, was the first and foremost choice for the mujra girl.

While working in the film Qasu (1972) produced by Khawaja Mazhar, she fell in love with the producer and they got married soon after. The marriage sparked fury in Niggo’s family (according to the old tradition of Lahore’s Shahi Mohalla no girl can marry or travel without her family being compensated financially).

When all attempts to bring her back proved futile, Niggo’s mother pretended to be terminally ill and begged Niggo to come and see her one last time. Upon her visit, the mother and some close family members brainwashed Niggo into believing that her husband was not right for her and her family. She succumbed to family pressure and refused to return to her husband’s home.

An unsuspecting and utterly confused Khawaja Mazhar dispatched his production controller, called Mamma, to bring the situation under control and pave the way for Niggo’s return. Even music director Manzoor Ashraf, who had Niggo’s ear at the time when the love affair was in full bloom, could not convince her to return to her husband’s home.

Then came the fateful day when a furious Khawaja Mazhar reached the red light area and opened fire with a Sten Gun (a popular choice of firearm in those days) and killed his wife Niggo on the spot. The news of her murder spread like wildfire since such an incidence within the industry was unheard of during those days. Niggo’s mother vowed revenge, and Khawaja Mazhar was sentenced to life imprisonment by a court of law. Naturally the media had a heyday during the very public trial. After completing his sentence, Khawaja Mazhar died a natural death and was buried in his home town in Gujranwala.

Nannah

Rafi Khawar aka Nannah and Kamal Ahmed Rizvi in the sitcom Alif Noon —Photo courtesy: PTV Archives
Rafi Khawar aka Nannah and Kamal Ahmed Rizvi in the sitcom Alif Noon —Photo courtesy: PTV Archives

Rafi Khawar aka Nannah’s performance was widely appreciated in the first PTV comedy series, Alif Noon with Kamal Ahmed Rizvi.

Early in the career, he used to play minor roles in Punjabi movies since in the presence of Munawwar Zareef and Rangeela it was difficult for him to make place for himself in Lollywood. However, all that changed after the film Ziddi (1973) and later on with the Urdu film Naukar (1975). He began to be paired more frequently in comic roles with Tammana Begum in Urdu movies, playing the role of a father, grandfather or servant.

He then landed a chance to play the male lead in Tehka Pehlwan (1979) the same year his film Dubai Chalo directed by Haidar Chaudhry became a super-hit.

Despite the dominance of Sultan Rahi and action films, the mostly comic act of Nannah and Ali Ejaz (of Dubai Chalo fame) gained immense popularity in the first half of the ’80s, and were seen in more than 50 movies in the main lead. In the films of that era, Sultan Rahi was usually paired with Anjuman, Ali Ejaz with Mumtaz and Rani, and Nannah with Nazli.

Nannah and Nazli became romantically involved and were often seen together in public. The best proof of their love on film can be seen in the song 'Vekh Meri Baanh Tap Di Mundia, Aakhian Rehndiyan Mast Mast, Mera Kar Le Koi Bandobast, and also in 'Ve Yari Tori Na, Ve Mukh Methon Moree Na' (Tehka Pehlwan).

According to an inside source, money was never an issue with Nannah during his love affair with Nazli. His celebrity status was at an all-time high and he was delivering hits left, right and centre. He even forced his producers to cast Nazli with him in all his films. Nazli made the most of the opportunity and the two became inseparable. But after Nannah started delivering flops and fell on hard times financially, Nazli started to lose interest in him as well.

Nannah allegedly committed suicide by shooting himself with a shotgun in Lahore on June 2, 1986. A witness, producer Jamshaid Zafar, narrates that there was a pool of blood in the room and it was a truly horrific scene, something that appeared to be right out of a mystery crime film. However, the actual circumstances leading to Nannah’s death remain a mystery to this day. There were also rumours that he had decided to give away all his property to actress Nazli, which sent alarm bells ringing within his family.

Nadra

When Nadra first entered the studios, she arrived in the most expensive car at that time which she personally owned.
When Nadra first entered the studios, she arrived in the most expensive car at that time which she personally owned.

She had a sparkling element to her dazzling beauty coupled with brilliant acting skills. She dominated the Lollywood screen for eight years, acting in both Punjabi and Urdu movies. Besides acting she was a woman of gentle demeanour and was respected widely among colleagues. She was often found making generous charity donations to film technicians and their families.

Besides films, she also used to perform at private functions and it is rumoured that she once earned Rs5.2 million (52 lacs) for a single night’s mujra. Up till then, film star Naina was rumored to have made Rs5.6million (56 lacs) likewise. Like Nadra, she also succumbed to a similar fate.

Jiss waqt Nadra ne studio main pehla qadam rakha, to woh uss time ki mehngi tareen car mein studios aaye thi. Warna to zyada tar adakarain dosron ki cars ya rickshaw/taxi mein studio pohonchti theen,” (When Nadra first entered the studios, she arrived in the most expensive car at that time which she personally owned. Back then aspiring actresses usually arrived at the studios in other people’s cars or by rickshaws/taxis, remembers Guddu of Guddu Film Archive.)

Due to Nadra’s ethereal good looks, a lot of affluent and well-connected people were also quite eager to find favour with her. Someone close to Nadra at the time told Images on Sunday that once during a trip to London, she had withdrawn money from a bank which was transferred from the Emirates.

She also started a property buying business with her husband which led to a misunderstanding and conflict between them. In 1995, she was gunned down while leaving a restaurant, and while some suspicion did fall on her husband the police investigation gave no results. No arrests were ever made by the authorities in connection to her murder.

Nadra’s death dealt a severe blow to Lollywood producers who had signed her in their forthcoming movies. She left a definite and lasting impact on the industry during her brief career span.

Yasmeen Khan

Shamshad started her film career as Yasmeen Khan from Karachi and as the female lead in the 
first-ever hit Pashto film Yousuf Khan Sherbano in 1970.
Shamshad started her film career as Yasmeen Khan from Karachi and as the female lead in the first-ever hit Pashto film Yousuf Khan Sherbano in 1970.

Shamshad alias Yasmeen Khan was born in Peshawar in 1950 and she shifted to Karachi in the early ’60s where she launched her film career by playing a lead role in the first ever hit Pashto movie Yousaf Khan Sherbano released in December 1970.

When the Urdu action film Dulhan Ek Raat Ki was released in 1975, it made the Pushto actors in the cast overnight stars, including Yasmeen Khan who was featured in the excellently choreographed dance number, 'Aaja Aaja Karle Pyar, Kehti Hai Suhani Shaam. It made her into a superstar and she was later cast in Punjabi movies as well, such as Hathkari (1976) where she appeared in the song, 'Jawani Meri Bijli Toofan Mera Nakhra.'

However, Yasmeen Khan distanced herself from the film industry when vulgarity and obscenity crept into Pushto cinema, tarnishing the image of true Pukhtun culture and identity.

Yasmeen’s first marriage to film star Saqi ended in divorce. Later, she married Khurram Bari, the owner of Bari Studios. Unfortunately, the union also could not last long. A young man called Arifullah from an affluent family had eyes only for Yasmeen and they got married and shifted to Peshawar.

Yasmeen isolated herself from all kinds of showbiz activity and turned to religion and charity. But Arif’s parents refused to accept Yasmeen as a daughter-in-law and disinherited Arif who was prone to gambling, among other vices, and already had a first wife, something which Yasmeen found out much later. She tried her best to make him alter his ways but only ended up making him furious.

Sick of Yasmeen’s attempts to reform him, on April 15, 1999 he killed her and locked the door from outside. After two days, Yasmeen’s body was found and given a decent burial. It shocked everyone, especially those in Lollywood, as they had great admiration for the lady.

Later, Arifullah was murdered while trying to get married a third time. His parents didn’t accept his dead body and his friends buried him.

Andaleeb

Andaleeb was introduced in the film Ghoonghat and became the first acid attack victim of the
film industry.
Andaleeb was introduced in the film Ghoonghat and became the first acid attack victim of the film industry.

She was picked up by Shahzad Rafiq for his film Goonghat (1996) directed by Syed Noor which became a super hit. “I had seen her act in a drama on PTV and was impressed by her acting skills,” says Shahzad. According to Syed Noor she was quite professional and it’s not amazing that she had relationship with Hanif Ghuman, an industrialist from Sialkot.

“Even outside showbiz, girls have boyfriends but showbiz personalities attract more attention so people try to cultivate a special bond of intimacy with them,” says Syed Noor aka Shahji.

Ghuman and Andaleeb used to meet frequently at various venues. After a while, she lost interest in Hanif and tried to move on. Bent upon revenge, he threw acid on her face in an attempt to disfigure her. Afterwards, Andaleeb underwent extensive facial plastic surgery and now leads a happily married life away from the showbiz spotlight.

Marvi

Faisal Qureshi and Marvi in the actress' last film 'Marvi.'
Faisal Qureshi and Marvi in the actress' last film 'Marvi.'

She belonged to the rare breed of actresses who made it to Lollywood despite her Sindhi background and within a very short span of time secured her place in tinsel town.

Marvi featured in just three or four films but impressed viewers and filmmakers alike with her boundless acting talent.

Cashing in on her good fortune, a film producer cast her as the female lead in his production titled Marvi with actor Faisal Qureshi. However, fate had something else in store for this fledgling and she had hardly taken flight when her wings were clipped by a jealous lover who fatally shot her near a traffic signal near Tariq Road, Karachi, on August 25, 1998.

Her body remained in the car she was driving with no one willing to help her until the authorities arrived at the scene of the crime. By then it was already too late. Again, no arrests were made in connection to her murder and it remains unsolved to date. Marvi proved to be the actress’ last film and it was released after her death.


Originally published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, October 26th, 2014

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