The glamorous world of cinema is not just about the faces plastered on billboards and hoardings. In its engine room toil hundreds of those whose efforts go unnoticed yet they continue to play a key role in keeping the fireplace in the ballroom alive. The 65-year-old Manzoor Musafir is palpably Lollywood’s senior-most stuntman alive today. While the crises have driven many dreamers out of the industry, Musafir still lives in a small room at Lahore’s Bari Studio, which itself paints a bleak picture of the state of affairs.
The on-screen destruction that he has been in the thick of all his life is now being witnessed in reality by the city’s film industry. A native of Jhang district, Musafir boarded the train to Lahore at the age of 18. He entered the world of film as an enthusiast and ended up making a career as a stuntman. He claims he has worked in around 800 Urdu and Punjabi films and performed the most unimaginable stunts that even his counterparts in India shy away from. “I jumped from the third floor of a building on a glass in the film Mera Challenge,” he tells The Express Tribune.
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“Not one stuntman in this country was willing to perform this. I took it as a challenge and fractured my arms in the process.” Musafir says he is Lahore’s first stuntman and in his 45-year-long career, he had hundreds of understudies, many of whom called it quits after film icon Sultan Rahi’s death.
Father to four girls, Musafir says he did whatever he could to provide his family with sustenance. “I never hesitated from any stunt. I have seen some very good days in the industry and was greatly appreciated by acting giants for my work,” he says.
Lollywood is more than home to the man who says he has no complaints about the current situation. “I was able to put food on the table for my family all these years because of this very industry. I can’t desert it,” he maintains. Musafir is of the view that those who jumped ship during turbulent times, added to the industry’s woes. “I was one of the reasons behind the crisis.”
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This is why Musafir tried his best to carry the industry on his now feeble shoulders. He turned director and made a few movies. Musafir has made Rab Di Shaan, Veer Pyara and Aik Say Barh Kar Aik. “I wanted to seek employment opportunities for myself and my colleagues so I started making films.”
Admitting that these were all small budget films, he says, “I earned from them and also supported all these extras who were a part of my crew.” Musafir wants to make a point that his colleagues can’t see – when a stuntman can make films and earn a living, what is there for them to lose hope? “All these injuries and fractures have forced me to quit my stuntman work. But by making films, I am still able to contribute,” he says. “I never asked anyone for support but it is true that there are hundreds of extras and stuntmen who are bearing the brunt of this industry’s losses. Our job is a little different and those who were permanently injured at work can’t get a job in any other field.”
Veteran film-maker Pervaiz Rana recollects, “I have seen the youth of Musafir. He is a brave man and the pride of the film fraternity.” He says it is the commitment of Musafir that has still kept him in business while all the others have left. “He planned to stick around and fight the crisis,” Rana says. He added that he will speak to the authorities for the welfare of people such as Musafir.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 14th, 2015.
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