Nazia Hassan — an icon of the Pakistani music industry — rose to fame with the song “Aap Jaisa Koi Meri Zindagi Mein”, which she sang for an Indian film titled Qurbani. Hassan was introduced to Qurbani director, Feroz Khan, by Indian-British songwriter and composer, Biddu, and after that there was no turning back. Hassan won a Filmfare Award for the Best Female Playback for this film and later her association with Biddu enabled her to produce her debut album titled Disco Deewane.
From the 15-year-old in ponytails (as seen in one of the videos) to a girl with wavy hair and strikingly good looks in her later years, Hassan was the rising star of the 80’s. She and her brother Zoheb, produced phenomenal songs and out of the box videos; something that nobody had thought of in those early days of Pakistani pop music.
Hassan was a breath of fresh air during General Ziaul Haq’s time, when it was banned to screen women dancing and singing on television. Despite these hindrances, her very first album was a hit, turning her into a celebrity who soon earned the title of the ‘Sweetheart of Pakistan’. Uzma Mazhar, a journalist says, “Making a mark in the world of entertainment during General Zia’s era was not a very easy goal to achieve. Only Nazia Hassan’s music could do it.” She was able to release four albums titled Disco Deewane, Boom Boom, Hazan and Young Tarang during this time. Hassan was the playback singer for eight Bollywood films but it was Aap Jaisa Koi and Star that really added to her fame. Terming her as an extraordinary singer, Amna Raza, a banker says, “There was a time she played a pivotal role in our lives from making the best music to showing posh, youthful videos that served as catharsis in their own way.”
The theme of masquerade parties that she introduced in “Ankhen Milane Wale” was a completely new concept for the Pakistani audience. Whereas, “Dum Dum Dede” was based on the concept of fortune telling and fairytales, with Hassan portraying the role of Alice from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Alice was written under a pseudonym of Lewis Caroll). Both these themes were again very new to the media-deprived Pakistani viewers of the 80’s. Uzma Mazhar, a journalist says, “She positioned herself in such a way that today Pakistani music has gained recognition by working on those same lines.”
However, Hassan’s fifth album Camera Camera was not a hit amongst the masses and the brother-sister duo failed to receive the acclaim they were probably hoping for. It was after this that Hassan took a step back from singing and focus more on her personal life. She married businessman Mirza Ishtiaq Baig in 1995 and gave birth to her son Arez in 1997. The young star contracted cancer and passed away in 2000.
In 2002, she was conferred with Pride of Performance and in 2003 her family started a charity organisation under her name.
Hassan’s larger than life aura still looms over the music industry and is deeply embedded in her fans who can’t seem to forget the artist. Ahmed Haseeb, another one of her fans, directed and produced A Music Fairy: A Tribute to Nazia Hassan in 2007. The documentary was screened at Kara Film Festival in 2009 and won an award for the Best Documentary at the festival.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 13th, 2011.
Correction: Alice in Wonderland was written by Lewis Carroll, a pseudonym used by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson.
The movie Qurbani was incorrectly mentioned as Aap Jaisa Koi. The correction has been made.
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