Ghaznavi: Live while alive
By Anis Shakur
Live while alive
The above proverb holds true to actor-director-singer-music composer, Rafiq Ghaznavi.
In the real world, where tinkerers toil, the process often involves bringing together
teams of experts from different disciplines—like directors, writers, producers. Together they climb over the walls and
fences of their individual expertise. Below is the real life story of one such great human who also happened to be a self-made
Born to an enlightened family in 1907, in Rawalpindi, Rafiq Ghaznavi was full of life
since his earliest days. He passed his childhood amidst scenic, natural beauty, surrounded by mountains, valleys and lakes.
After receiving his matriculation examination degree, Rafiq Ghaznavi moved to Lahore.
In Lahore, he completed his intermediate examination from Islamia College, Lahore. Then he graduated from the Punjab University
During those days if a handsome, enthusiastic young man was endowed with acting talents,
he was more inclined towards the glamorous movie business. Rafiq Ghaznavi was
no exception. Let us go seventy-five years back in time and see how movies were made in that time period.
Those were the days of silent movies. Though the vocal film ‘Alam Ara’ was
released in 1931, still silent movies were in vogue for quite sometime, just like black and white movies continued to flood
the market after the advent of color movies.
Visionary movie director, Mian A.R. Kardar, is considered the discoverer or ‘Columbus’
of the Lahore film industry. Moved by Rafiq Ghaznavi’s powerful voice and good looks, Kardar signed him as hero for
his silent movie, ‘Brave heart’, while the latter was studying in college.
Thus, Rafiq Ghaznavi debuted in the film ‘Brave heart’ in 1931 at the age
of twenty-four. Soon Rafiq Ghaznavi began to outlive his town and his time while his companions were thinking what to make
of their lives.
Perhaps, Rafiq Ghaznavi was one of Indo-Pak sub-continent’s most admirable, attractive,
capable, good-natured, handsome and happy-go-lucky artists to grace films. He attained enormous respect and renown because
of his versatility.
Director A.R. Kardar, on the other hand, made his first talking film, ‘Hoor Punjab’
in 1932. Later, he changed its name to ‘Heer Ranjha’ and it was released under the banner of Play art photo tone.
Handsome, as Rafiq Ghaznavi was, Kardar picked him up for the romantic lead role of ‘Ranjha.’
While actress Anwari played the lead romantic role of ‘Heer Seyaal’. Additionally, Rafiq Ghaznavi composed music
and lent his impressive voice to all the songs. Hence, he was the hero-composer-singer in the film ‘Heer Ranjha.’
Since all the songs were pictured on him he was also the singing star.
In private gatherings, Rafiq Ghaznavi often said that whether it is a beautiful face or
a lilting voice, gorgeous dress or demeanor, wonderful environment or a great moment, tasty food or an interesting conversation,
one should always live to the fullest and makes life easier for others. He himself was a great talker an optimist, and expected
others to talk and think positively.
After working in ‘Heer Ranjha’, Rafiq Ghaznavi migrated to Bombay and worked
diligently for the Bombay film industry. Meanwhile, a world of new ideas had taken shape in an all-new era, as Rafiq Ghaznavi
appeared in ‘Bharat movies’ film ‘Roshan Ara’, directed by G.R. Sethi.
Rafiq Ghaznavi was acclaimed for his character and music in director Shanti Dev’s
movie ‘Jawani deewani’, which was released under the banner of Junaid pictures.
He eventually attained stardom with his convincing part in movies like ‘Samaaj ki
bhool’, directed by Somi Master, and released under the banner of Imperial Film Company.
Rafiq Ghaznavi was doubtlessly a high-energy, first-rank film star, though; through his
acting he exudes an old world formality. He acted in the film ‘Behan ka prem’ and composed the songs as well.
It was released under the banner of Prosperity Film Company.
Though Rafiq Ghaznavi was the actor-director-composer in the film ‘Prem pujari’
such was the versatility of the man and his artistry. His best subject was music, which he anatomized in movies. ‘Prem
pujari’ was released under the banner of Junaid pictures in 1935.
Essentially, Rafiq Ghaznavi was a lovable man whose hatred of hypocrisy was legendary.
He learned a lot from his colleagues. But he was his own man, always. He was such a smart actor
. Below are two examples of his intelligent acting:
The film ‘Ghulam daku’ director, Moti B. Gadvani and released by Imperial
The film ‘Lail o nahaar’, director, Ardesheer Irani, and released by Imperial
Rafiq Ghaznavi, who was well known for his artistic creativity, often found, of all things,
civility and honor in the entertainment world. The truth shines through every frame, thanks to Rafiq Ghaznavi’s acting
skills and his unaffected radiance. Below are three examples:
Imperial Film Company’s movie ‘Meray laal’, director Gunjaal.
New orient pictures movie ‘Prem Bazaar’ director O. Nayek.
Imperial Film Company’s movie ‘Do aurtain’, director Moti B. Gadvani.
A part of his charm derives from the obvious fact that he was so much involved in the
movie shoot he was enjoying at the same time. Rafiq Ghaznavi’s portraits of romantic and tragic scenes are unsurpassed
in their honesty, refreshment and lasting corrective value. Below are three examples:
Imperial film company’s movie, ‘Us nay kiya socha’ director Hafiz Jee.
Mohan pictures movie ‘Bhaidee tarshol’, director M.A.Khan.
Imperial film company’s movie, ‘Kis kay liye’ director Moti B. Gadvani.
Throughout the forty-three years of his show business career, Rafiq Ghaznavi had made
music that was simultaneously poignant and playful, tragic and comic. To talk of Rafiq Ghaznavi today lends one to see the
cinema in a whole new light.
Below are three examples of deliciously entertaining films of this highly educated artist:
Maan Sikh pictures movie, ‘Chalti duniya’, director Gunjaal.
Filmistan’s movie, ‘Chal chal ray naujawan’, in 1944, director Gayan
J.M.R. pictures movie, ‘Shaam sawera’, director M. Sadiq.
Rafiq Ghaznavi was one of films class acts in director Sohrab Modi’s film ‘Manjdhaar’,
which was released under the banner of Minerva Modi tone.
It was his distinctive facial expressions and sophisticated style that made him a household
name within no time. He continued to flourish as a star for quite a while, during which he acted in movies like the two below
in which he composed songs as well:
The Oriental pictures film ‘Potar Ganga’, director, J.K. Anand.
The Maharashtar Sunny tone Prithvi Raj’s movie ‘Sanjo gata’, director,
Rafiq Ghaznavi’s movies like ‘Kala Naag’ holds up interest, thanks to
his fiercely committed and convincing performance as a leading actor. ‘Kala Naag’ was released under the banner
of Majestic movie tone and directed by Meherbaan Irani.
One of pre-partitioned India’s most handsome men, his popularity grew with every
new role. Rafiq Ghaznavi worked with distinction in the film ‘Kaun kisi ka’, and also composed its music. It was
released by Hindustan films and directed by C.M. Lohar.
Skilled at singing, music, acting and directing, Rafiq Ghaznavi captivated pre-partition
era audiences. The intimate, heart-warming films like the two below bought more encomiums to him. He also composed music for
The Everest pictures film ‘Sitara’, director, Azra Mir.
The Kishore Sahu productions film, ‘Bahu Rani’, director, R.S. Janar Kar –
Rafiq Ghaznavi’s effort to make the strange familiar made him one of the most sought-after
artists of the time. Moreover, the lusty tone he evoked from his musical instruments, the sheer brilliance of the musical
notes he produced, and the way he made the composition, played uniquely as his own. Cine-goers marveled at the spectacle.
Below are three examples:
The Hindustan sunny tone’s movie. ‘Apni nagarya’, director Gunjaal.
The Minerva Modi tone’s film ‘Sikandar-e-Azam’ director Sohrab Modi,
music, Rafiq Ghaznavi – Meer Sahib.
The Minerva Modi tones film ‘Prithvi Vallabh’, director, Sohrab Modi.
Most definitely, Rafiq Ghaznavi’s career was magnified with the coming of sound
and he thrived in the new talkie age. Basically, he was a party-hearty man and his scrumptious personality added flavor to
the stew. Besides, his vast experience in the films also added credibility to his performance. Below are three more movies
in which he acted and also composed music:
The Minerva Modi tones film ‘Aik din ka Sultan’, director, Sohrab Modi.
The Sarko productions film, Swami, director, A.R. Kardar.
The Hindustan pictures film ‘Kajack’, director, Nazeer.
A lover of laughter, Rafiq Ghaznavi was not witty or humorous in only single instances
or small quantities. He was full of mirth and fun. His was a gallant soul. The two movies below proved both their breadth
The Hindustan pictures film ‘Society’, director, Nazeer.
The Hindustan pictures film ‘Laila Majnu’, director, Nazeer, assistant director,
Like the character he played in the film ‘Mazaaq’, Rafiq Ghaznavi was a genuine
actor, triumphing over roles in movies like ‘Najma’ and adding zest to such great films like ‘Taqdeer’
and ‘Nadaan’ in 1943.
The film ‘Mazaaq’ was released by Zahoor Raja’s film production, Raja
The film ‘Najma’ was the first Muslim social film directed by Mehboob Khan
and released by Mehboob Productions.
Mehboob Khan directed the film ‘Taqdeer’.
In some ways, Rafiq Ghaznavi’s character is just as deluded and committed to his
art as possibly it could be. A quick example is director Shaukat Husain Rizvi’s film ‘Naukar.’ It was released
by V.M. Viyas’s film production, ‘Sun Rise pictures.’
After partition, Rafiq Ghaznavi migrated to Lahore. Later, he moved to Karachi. In Pakistan,
he composed music for director Ashfaq Malik’s film ‘Pervaaz’ and director Aziz Ahmed’s film ‘Mandi.’
Next, he joined Radio Pakistan and dedicated himself whole-heartedly to the cause of Radio programs.
Dwelling on his personal life, Rafiq Ghaznavi married film actress Zehra and had a daughter,
Shahina, from her. Shahina grew up and made her mark as an actress in movies like ‘Beli’, ‘Nigar’,
‘Aankh ka nasha’, ‘Bharosa’, and ‘Intiqaam.’
Rafiq Ghaznavi also had a son, Murad, from his first wife, Zehra. In due course of time,
Rafiq Ghaznavi divorced Zehra. She married director A.M. Mirza and was known as Zehra Mirza.
Actress Anwari was the second wife of Rafiq Ghaznavi with whom he had a daughter, Zarina
Agha. Later, Zarina Agha changed her name to Nasreen and worked in director A.R. Kardar’s movie, ‘Shah Jehan’
and Daud Chand’s movie, ‘Aik Roaz.’ Further, Zarina Agha’s daughter, Salma Agha, achieved great name
and fame as a singing star.
Actress Anu Radha, whose real name was Khursheed Akhtar, was the third wife of Rafiq Ghaznavi,
with whom he had a son, Ayaz Mehmood. Furthermore, one of Rafiq Ghaznavi’s daughter married popular writer-director,
Zia Sarhadi. Zia Sarhadi’s two sons, Khayam Sarhadi and Bilal Sarhadi attained fame in show business.
Interestingly enough, all three wives of Rafiq Ghaznavi were real sisters and they hailed
Rafiq Ghaznavi, who was such a charismatic figure, a talented composer of the highest
grade and a visionary, passed in 1974, in Karachi, at the age of sixty-seven.
His acting, direction, singing and music have left us a legacy of cool serenity, of quiet little moments,
and yet he has left us so much, a whole universe in a room.