Kora Kaghaz (1978)
Cast: Zeba, Mohammad Ali, Babra Sharif, Zubair, Mustafa Qureshi, Afzaal Ahmad, Shahnawaz, Qavi, Nayyar Sultana, Naghma, Saba, Allauddin, Parveen Bobby, Mizla, Kemal Irani,Nasira, Tani Begum
Director: M. Akram
Nutshell: An impressive array of Lollywood greats litter the cast of this delicious tale of morals, revenge, intrigue, backstabbing, miracles, Some Say I Am Sweety and the kitchen sink as well.
M. Akram had recently scored a huge dud with Aakhri Goli and set out to redeem his box office standing with Kora Kaghaz making sure he signed a bunch of A list stars to give his film the edge. Nazir Ali was roped in for the music along with heavyweight (no pun intended) if slightly fading superstars Mohammad Ali in the lead role along with Zeba, Naghma, Mustafa Qureshi, Nayyar Sultana, Babra Sharif, Afzal Ahmed, Alauddin, Taani, Nasira, Shahnawaz among them. An aspiring new “hero” named Zubair was introduced in Kora Kaghaz in a key role playing opposite rising star Babra Sharif but while she was to forge a hugely successful career for the years to come, poor Zubair was never to be seen again.
The film had always been lodged in the memory bank ever since the day my brother and I purchased a Cassette tape of Nahid Akhtar’s spicy new songs and were blown away by it. There were such great songs as “You Are a Wrong Man, wrong man, wrong man, wrong man” and “You are Lady Killer”, “Come on Boy, Lets Enjoy this is Sachurday Night” but the one that stood out among the gems was that was delivered entirely in English that has since gone on to become one of the most watched famous Pakistani film songs of all time was of course “Some Say I Am Sweetie” also by Nahid Akthar. This song made a mark on us like few others had and the desire to watch Kora Kaghaz had been simmering ever since then.
A YouTube search can get you to the song but alas as we were to discover and millions of you would have as well, the song used in the film is radically different from the spectacular version that was recorded and released on Vinyl and Cassette back in the late 70s. The version you are shown in the film has the English verses removed completely and replaced with Urdu verses and though the song is still a catchy little ditty it has been stripped of the glorious lyrics and rendered a shadow of its unbeatable best which fortunately has been preserved on Vinyl and Audio Cassette. The Audio version has none of the Urdu verses used in the movie and is 100% “English”.
But, Kora Kaghaz is much more than just the movie that contains “Some Say I Am Sweetie” it stands up more than adequately as a delectable masala featuring classic desi morals being corrupted the evil ways of money and modernity. There are brilliant scenes contrasting the lifestyles of two sisters; one plying her trade as the trophy wife of an upwardly mobile modern husband at the club, while the other traditional and unfortunately mute wife clutches her husband’s toes…the toes which are now the life.
Alauddin has been forced to get his daughters married off and Naghma the younger and rather snazzier daughter, though demure and godly, doesn’t take too long to break into a full hair-dance routine at the beckoning of her husband and his sleazy mates at the club. The shrinking, sari-clad ghareloo girl throws off her inhibitions within minutes to become the focus of the Club nightlife scene; a role she rapidly relishes. Her hairstyle undergoes radical changes in that the classic desi bun is replaced with a mod-girl haircut and she vigorously throw her locks about with abandon while executing a series of stunning hair-dance moves.
The “hair-dance” is typically a club dance move perfected in Pakistan where the tresses are thrown from side to side obscuring most of the face while keeping in rhythm with the music and wiggling the hips in tandem. The finest exponent of this art has probably been Aaliya from the 70s but many have followed in her footsteps and Naghma too can perform a pretty mean Hair-Dance as she clearly demonstrates. It’s a dance that has evolved from the debauched dancing that drug-sodden hippies frequently indulged in.
Daddy Allauddin realizes what a horrific lump of a partner he has found for his mute daughter and tells her that he always believed that her virtue would overcome her husband’s moronic frailties and that she could yet make a man out of her drunken, womanizing, wayward idiot of a partner. Beset by guilt he gifts his home and most of his assets to the mute Nayyar having been snubbed by the haughty Naghma, behaving more and more like Bindu from Do Raaste.
The shallow, two-faced Naghma, meanwhile is enjoying her new role as queen of the club and society girl number one but things soon start to turn sour for her as her husband as his philandering ways start to catch up with them. The riches soon turn to rags and his debts start to mount the horror of his wife and kids.
Meanwhile Mute’s drunken slob of a husband Mohammad Ali visits the local kotha for kicks while his wife waits for him dutifully till the wee hours of the morning. But as morning turns to day the tragic news soon reaches her that her husband and his sleazy lady friend Mizla were killed in a car accident caused by his excessive drinking. Horrified and consumed by sadness, she is left to bring up her two young sons on her own but at least she has her inheritance to enable her to provide them an education and some prospects in life.
Sister Naghma has also sprouted a girl and a boy who are growing up in the shadow of their wayward parents. While the parents idle away the hours with their rubbish, the kids have make belief club dance parties where the kids end up slobbering drunk! Zeba plays Naghma’s grown up daughter while Shahnawaz plays the son. Mustafa Qureshi is their slimy friend with a roving eye and a devious, scheming mind. He senses an opportunity in the faltering way of Naghma’s drunken oaf of a husband who has almost frittered away his entire wealth on gambling debts and now stands on the brink of destruction. Instead of helping his uncle who is in dire need, he fuels adds fuel to the fire by bringing him more and more alcohol and making sure he gambles way the shirt off his back which of course he duly does.
Nayyar has given birth to two fine, morally upright sons; Mohammad Ali is now at least as old as his mother and serves as the head of an amazingly benevolent pharmaceutical company of which he considers “Allah as the owner and he as just another employer”. Clearly Nayyar has brought up a fine, upright specimen and a highly successful and respected one at that.
Things start getting sticky when Mustafa Qureshi manages to turn Zeba and Shahnawaz against their uncle and at the same time turn the screws on the drunken father so that he can get his paws on Zeba, even though he also has his eyes on Babra as well. A nefarious plot is cooked by Qureshi to trigger the downfall of Mohammad Ali and to take over his massive wealth.
He blackmails Zeba to be part of the scheme and there are two Qavi’s and the evil one works as an imposter driver cum informer while Shahnawaz is also fully involved. The dastardly Qureshi frames angelic Mohammad Ali and has him all but convicted in court when all of a sudden Allah takes notice of all the injustices being committed and oversees a miracle which gives the forces of good one last chance to sort the ghastly mess of a situation out. Mohammad Ali is awaiting a death sentence when the most unexpected event occurs and Mustafa Qureshi’s foolproof scheme is suddenly under threat.
There is much melodrama and intrigue as the story winds its way to its fairly exciting conclusion. Of the actors Mustafa Qureshi is outstanding as he almost always is and he is given solid support by Mohammad Ali, Zeba, Afzal Ahmed, Naghma, Nayyar Sultana, Allauddin and the rest. Zubair fails to shine but the rest of the cast are seasoned enough to perform their roles with precision.
There are a couple of known songs but they are dwarfed by the majestic Some Say I Am Sweetie number. It’s a little awkward to see Zeba playing Naghma’s daughter and Mohammad Ali as wrinkled, portly son of Nayyar Sultana but that’s the way it goes in Lollywood. After all Raakhee Gulzar ended up playing the mother of actors who had romanced her not so long ago! Women age three times as fast as men in these parts.
There is an intriguing court scene where the judge is implored that Maa ki Mamta is indeed tangible proof and valid evidence in a court of law. There is much thunder and lightning, emotions soar and ebb and there is much soul searching before the film can finally wind down to its underwhelming conclusion.
Kora Kaghaz is a typically convoluted and dramatic family masala entertainer that managed to hold the interest fairly well. The lack of need to hit the Fast Forward button is proof that the film moved along without getting bogged down as is the norm. though Kora Kaghaz doesn’t really offer anything new as the theme of western debauchery and values leading to doom scenario is something we have seen dozens of times before. yet it manages to entertain fairly well and any film that can manage that and contain Some Say I am Sweetie has already won half the battle.