Playboy (Playboy) is an Urdu film released in September 1978. Filmed on location in the UK it was a blockbuster hit, running for more than 54 weeks in Karachi.
Nadeem was the movie’s headliner and in the absence of his usual matinee shadow Shabnam, he was supported by the up-and-coming starlet Babra Sharif. Shamim Ara, the beautiful actress-turned-director, was behind the camera and M Ashraf, by this time the most in-demand music director in the industry, was in charge of the songs and music.
The film is on my ever-growing ‘To Watch’ list but in the meantime, here is a scathing review from one Pakistani critic who also makes the very Trumpesque claim that the film is among the POTUS’s favourites! Alas, while we now know that there is nothing so outlandish as to dismiss categorically about Herr Trump the only reference this scrivener could find to ‘Donald Trump + Playboy movie’ was that he did appear (graciously, fully clothed) in a soft porn film produced by Playboy magazine twenty years or so after Ms. Ara‘s film was thrilling audiences in Pakistan.
Main Walayat Kahnu Aa Gaya (I Have Come from Overseas)* one of the more enduring songs from the film is wonderfully sung, in Punjabi, by the full-throated Shaukat Ali. In the movie an obese Nanha, the public’s favourite film comedian of the era does a rather blubbery exotic dance in various locations across London as a perplexed and bemused public tries to play along.
The lyrics appear to be (at least in part) a dialogue about the virtues, vices and strange ways of living in the white man’s world. But you don’t have to know Punjabi to enjoy this song. The whole thing is driven by powerful Punjabi percussion and a hypnotic snake charmer’s been (gourd pipe) which tries to smooth out the rather awkward hip shakes of goofy Nanha. But the real star of the music is what is picturised as an electric guitar but in actually sounds like an electrified sarod or rubab. The instrument gives the song an urgent electric edge and does a beautiful job of bridging the multiple contextual gaps of tradition and modern, village and urban, East and West.
Though he keeps the synths and wailing guitars out of this number Ashraf still manages to create a real rocker; one that is worth repeated listenings whether or not you have the patience to watch the entire movie or not.
*I’m not a Punjabi speaker so this is my guess at the title.