An Interview with Pakistani Film Director Syed Noor

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On a busy day between his shoots schedule, veteran Pakistani film director Syed Noor agreed to meet Team Films plus Movies for an interview. Syed Ghulam Mohyuddin Noor, more commonly known as Syed Noor, has directed and produced some of the biggest hits of all time from Pakistani cinema. Noor sahab is also known as Shahji in his circle of friends and colleagues.  Some of the movies Syed Noor has made and which have hit gold on the Pakistani box office include Choorian, Jeeva, Deewaney Tere Pyar K, Majajan, Chor machaey shor and Ghoonghat. Noor sahib has married twice. Rukhsana Noor, his first wife has also written a handful of scripts for movies. Saima Noor, his second wife, is one of the most popular leading ladies in Pakistani cinema in last two decades. Syed Noor’s family was not related to show biz in any way. He completed his bachelors in arts from Dayal Singh College and got an opportunity to work with S. Suliman sahab, who in himself is a legend belonging to Pakistani cinema. Earlier as a script writer Syed Noor has written many hit films like Society girl, Dehleez and Bobby.

“Lahore used to be the hub of film”, Noor sahab told us, “the Bombay film industry at that time was less established than that of Calcutta and the people of Lahore supported it.” People such as Kardaar sahab, Wali sahab and Shaukat Rizvi sahab, who directed the movie Jugnu, all played a strong role in reviving the Bombay industry. “Then, after partition, they came here, along with other legends such as Noor Jehan, and so the beginning was quite rich. Even Dilip Kumar’s brother, Nasir came here and worked in 2-3 films. But it was a good decision for Dilip sahib himself to not come here; otherwise he would have been wasted in later years of his career”. Syed Noor believes that had Dilip Kumar come to Pakistan, perhaps we the world would not have had the opportunity of seeing such a credible actor.

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Being a director he enjoys everything, including which is inherently a boring task yet he manages to make it enjoyable for himself. “Usually the editor himself goes off and I’m left alone to do the work, but it is in this work that you can really see your mistakes. Editing keeps you so busy, it made me forget about my health issues.” Syed Noor faced a paralysis attack in 2011. When he was asked about the impact of health issues on his work, he said that “I have started putting an even greater effort in my work now”. At the time of interview, Syed Noor sahab’s friend and co-investor Afzal sahib was also there, whom Noor sahib introduced as one of his closest friends and co-investor, who has also forced him to build the Academy.

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“Who do you think are the best film directors in Pakistan, today and in the past?” In response to this question, Noor sahab relied that “the best directors are Nazir, Masood Pervaiz, Shaukat Rizvi and Raza Mir”. “These four were the ones who laid the base, the rest just followed suit.” Syed Noor has written all movies of Nazar ul Hasan.

“This was followed by a rather rough patch for the industry, when most movies were just bad. The audience was also not as enthusiastic and as for the actors, those who lacked talent seemed to be gaining more popularity.” Then Pakistan film industry went through what we all as the “Syed Noor Era”. “When I directed Jeeva and Sargam, people still wanted another senseless action flick and so everyone did not appreciate that I was working on these ‘semi-classical’ movies.  They warned me that you are heading towards a financial disaster. However, my Urdu movies succeeded at the box office. As a result everyone followed suit and finally, when no one was making Punjabi movies in Pakistan, I directed Chooriyan.” First five hit films of actress Resham have been directed by Noor, namely Sangam, Jeeva, Ghoongat, Dupatta Jal Raha Hai and Chor Machaye Shor.

“In my view Sulaiman sahab, Ustad Khalil Qaiser (director of ‘Shaheed’), Masood Pervaiz sahab and Riaz Shahid- this combination was such that made it possible for our cinema to some quite credible films”. Back in the 1960s, Pakistani cinema also has a few brilliant actors. The list according to me includes Alaudin, Talish, Waheed Murad, Muhammad Ali, and Nadeem. Even the leading ladies were brilliant. List includes Shamim Ara, Zeba, Sabiha Khanum. Even Mussarat Nazir was too good in her work”. When asked about his favorite top three actors from Pakistani film industry, Syed Noor said that “if you are asking about heroes, it’s got to be Mohammad Ali, Waheed Murad and Nadeem, but if you are asking about actors, I will rate Allauddin and Talish sb way above the leading actors”. “Shamim Ara was probably the best actress we ever had. Zeba (bhabi) was a very elegant actress, and beautiful too, but Shamim Ara was a better actress. Shabnum was very professional and thoroughly involved in her work. Sabiha (bhabi) I will rank among the top three actresses from Pakistan ever”. “Bahar Begum and Deeba” who shifted to second tier leading ladies very soon in their careers “also had their own class”.

With reference to his Film Academy, he told me that it was made five years ago. “There was friendship and trust, and I was told that after having been in the Pakistani film industry for so long, I need to pass on the talent forward. We would often sit together and ponder over how we don’t have any guidance in this field, that we’re not sure how to go about this. We realized that the people never paid any attention to this.” With this idea in mind, he took steps to instill the love of film in the coming generations and thus, colleges such as NCA, PU and BNU began courses on the subject after some serious efforts on Syed Noor’s behalf. And today, it is the graduates of these very courses who are hired and trained with the practical dimension of film, making their own short films. “The Academy simply polishes your inner talent”, Syed Noor said, “if an average actor learns over the course of six movies, then the Academy teaches you this in just six months”.

Syed Noor believes that the content of Pakistani film is better than that of Indian movies “however they have a bigger platform which we lack”. His own movies do not hold much importance for him and so he does not rank them in any way, for he feels that once the standard is set, one doesn’t move ahead. When the same question was asked repeatedly, he said that his favorites are Sargam, Chooriyan, Jeeva and Majajan.

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His facebook page, which he checks often, shows that he does in fact have an online presence. “Social media is really the only way now”, he says.

Upon being asked about the future of Pakistani cinema, he believes that till now it seems to be going just fine and that if we worked harder and according to our thinking capability, we could achieve a lot more. “If we get the right kind of equipment here, we could do much better. The reason as to why our movies are mostly shot abroad is because our print quality is not very good.”

“An actor is an actor whether he works in a movie or drama”. Our dramas, he says, are extremely popular in India. Our old films cannot be screened here now because the print quality is very poor. He laments the fact that old actors such as Ghulam Muhammad and Sattar Muhammad have been forgotten and no one speaks of them anymore. We need better archiving too.”

“Who do you think are the best film directors in Pakistan, today and in the past?” In response to this question, Noor sahab relied that “the best directors are Nazir, Masood Pervaiz, Shaukat Rizvi and Raza Mir”. “These four were the ones who laid the base, the rest just followed suit.” Syed Noor has written all movies of Nazar ul Hasan.  “This was followed by a rather rough patch for the industry, when most movies were just bad. The audience was also not as enthusiastic and as for the actors, those who lacked talent seemed to be gaining more popularity.” Then Pakistan film industry went through what we all as the “Syed Noor Era”. “When I directed Jeeva and Sargam, people still wanted another senseless action flick and so everyone did not appreciate that I was working on these ‘semi-classical’ movies.  They warned me that you are heading towards a financial disaster. However, my Urdu movies succeeded at the box office. As a result everyone followed suit and finally, when no one was making Punjabi movies in Pakistan, I directed Chooriyan.” First five hit films of actress Resham have been directed by Noor, namely Sangam, Jeeva, Ghoongat, Dupatta Jal Raha Hai and Chor Machaye Shor.

After an hour long discussion on Pakistani cinema and its revival and after having coffee with Veteran Pakistani Film Director Syed Noor sahab, the team took his leave. Pakistani film director Syed Noor sahab is a very considerate man. After the team interviewed Syed Noor sahab, he came out of the lobby to ensure all of us had proper conveyance to go back to our offices. It was a very pleasant meeting the team of Films Plus Movies had with Noor sahab. For a person this busy, and this popular, Noor sahab is very down to earth. We wish him all the best for his future projects.   

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