Dulari (Darling) is a Punjabi movie released in 1987.
The movie was a big hit even though the omnipresent Lala of Punjabi action Sultan Rahi played second fiddle to the big hearted and big hipped Anjuman who works overtime in a double role as sisters Salma and the eponymous Dulari.
Throughout the 1980s, when Punjabi films truly dominated Pakistani cinema, there was no bigger female star in the firmament than Anjuman. Along with leading men Rahi and Mustafa Qureshi and the silver toned singer, Noor Jehan, Ms. Anjuman was part of the golden formula that made Punjabi action movies so lucrative. With audiences abandoning Urdu films in droves producers discovered that if they merely shuffled characters, story lines and subplots like a pack of well worn cards they could still fill the cinema halls. As long as Anjuman, Sultan and Mustafa were involved it didn’t matter that the stories were tired, familiar and stale. The trio had that mysterious thing called ‘Star Power’ and of course, no one came close to the presence of Noor Jehan when it came to playback singing.
Anjuman, the granddaughter of the last Nawab of Bahawalpur, began her performing life as as a dancer. On the recommendation of 60s starlet Zeba who caught her act the young, southern Punjabi kudi (lass) had her initial turns in several Urdu features that the public ignored before striking gold in 1979 with Waadey ke Zanjeer (Chains of Promises) alongside the dreamy Waheed Murad. It has often been noted that it was Anjuman’s raw sex appeal that drew and grew her audience. No doubt her ample bosom and thunder thighs whose movements she synchronised to dramatic effect in perfectly timed jerks and jolts called thumkas were risque. And during that most dire of decades, the 80s, you took your titillation wherever and however you could get it.
But Anjuman was much more than a Multani nautch girl as Dulari magnificently demonstrates. Director Haider Chowdhary, a prolific veteran of Punjabi film, gave his leading lady an expansive canvas on which to work. As twin sisters Salma and Dulari Anjuman was able to channel the conservative, demure sharif ladki as well as give full vent to her inner social rebel. In the latter guise, as Dulari, Anjuman fills the screen with a presence that is simply magnetic. She swaggers and preens in outrageous get up (slim-fit jeans with rolled cuffs; gaudy head gear; sparkling evening frocks with puffy shoulder pads) but doesn’t miss a beat in dishing up sharp tongued retorts or pushing every available social button. Dulari fearlessly spits her paan (betel nut) into the face of a village big shot, takes unsuspecting strangers to the cleaners and uses her fists and feet with as much skill and effect as Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan. She is a wonder to behold!
Very early on in the show after Dulari thoroughly fleeces an anxious motorist of all his cash the police decide to take action. In a frantic chase through the streets of Lahore Dulari is able to duck into the city’s premier concert hall the Alhamra Arts Centre where she takes the stage.
Mera Laung Gawacha (I’ve Lost my Nose Ring) opens with a series of Anjuman‘s famous thumke and close shots of her ankles and bangled-wrists. She then proceeds to entertain the audience with a highly stylised folk dance complete with wonderful cardboard bullocks and mango trees. The dancing is good but nothing extraordinary and certainly not as accomplished as the acting that is to come.
What really makes this song a standout (and what made it one of the biggest hits of the 80s) is the singing of Musarrat Nazir. A leading lady in her own right in the 50s and 60s with many outstanding films to her credit Nazir ‘retired’ from acting in 1965 after marriage. For years she passed the time in Canada but returned to Lahore in the early 80s looking to revive a public career. She found instant and frequent work as a singer on TV which was able to show off her statuesque form and sparkling eyes to great effect. But after some rather embarrassing public episodes involving the imbibing of alcohol she was ‘repatriated’ by her husband back to suburbia.
The song itself is a traditional Punjabi wedding song and Musarrat’s rendition was already immensely popular when it was picked up for Dulari. Musarrat fills the tune with crisp phrasing and ample coquetry; the music complements with lilting flutes, snappy rubab runs and fine Punjabi percussion including a frenetic dholak solo.
All in all Dulari and Mera Laung Gawacha are excellent examples of the (often overlooked) charms of Punjabi movies.