Yesteryears’ hero Nadeem Baig is a household name in Pakistan. His days of cinema glory are long gone but those who raced to the movies to watch his films in the ’70s will tell you that he managed to rule a screen dominated in the ’60s by the much-adored matinee idol Waheed Murad.
The Express Tribune catches the actor on the sets of upcoming film The System to talk about the return of the cinema-goer.
“Back in those days, audiences would flock to cinemas,” Baig recalls. “The movies used to be screened in jam-packed cinemas. The films we produced did well at the box office which is why actors got that much attention and fan following.”
The Lollywood actor reminisces a bygone era in which Pakistani cinema was thriving. “I don’t have any regrets [about my career] because this industry has given me everything. But I do believe that we have lost the standard of cinema,” says the 72-year-old.
Baig, who became more involved in television projects as the film industry fell apart, was last seen in Humayun Saeed’s Mein Hoon Shahid Afridi. “Film is my first love; it is my identity. In the future, if I am offered a substantial role in a good quality film, I would definitely want to work in it.” The actor was recently in Balochistan to shoot sequences for Farooq Mengal’s film Hijrat as well as The System which is being directed by Shahzad Nawaz.
He blames bad films for driving audiences away from cinemas and says that he moved to TV projects for the same reason. However, rebirth of cinema in Pakistan has given way to some hope. “We lost our audiences by producing sub-standard films but I am hopeful that the time for revival has come,” says Baig.
Baig’s contemporary Javed Sheikh explains that back in the ’70s, no actor was out of work as hundreds of films were being produced at the studios. For leading men like Sheikh, who was recently cast alongside Baig in films Bhai Log and Mein Hoon Shahid Afridi, that time was considered the ‘golden period’ of Lollywood.
Baig feels that the increase in production this year is a sign of better days to come. “During our time, there were more experienced directors and writers, who had enjoyed success for a long period. These days, we have a lot of new people coming up, who have either studied film or have gained experience and are now trying their hand at film-making.”
Baig, who has been famous for being a multi-faceted actor, has also dabbled with playback singing in many of his films. He aspired to produce a film with an aim of building his own support system, but it did not turn out to be feasible. Currently, his work is limited to acting. There were rumours that he would be directing and producing a film but so far, nothing has materialised.
“Making a film is a big responsibility and if you really want to make a good quality film, you have to struggle for a lot of things — such as a good subject for a start. At this point, it is difficult for me,” Baig confesses.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 21st, 2013.