One of the challenges facing those of us who write about Pakistani films is that of the many thousands that have been released over the years (over a 100 a year in the Golden Age of the 1960s and early ’70s), relatively few are publicly accessible on the internet or for purchase. Many of the ones that are available suffer from horrible sound and picture quality, making their viewing an exercise in self-torture.
Maut Ke Saudagar, made in the mid-’70s, is in that vast category of films about which I can only conjecture information. I have not been able to locate any reference to the film on any of the several excellent Lollywood-related sites on the net. And the authoritative text, Mushtaq Guzdar’s out of print book Pakistan Cinema: 1947-1997, also has no mention of the film.
But clearly, from the album cover of the soundtrack, such a film was made and at least a few of the songs from the soundtrack were released. So while much about this movie remains a mystery, this particular track is a winner. It immediately conjures up memories of that most famous of RD Burman-Asha Bhosle songs Dum Maro Dum from Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971).
And it is a reminder that once upon a very long time ago Pakistan was a busy thoroughfare along the fabled hippie trail that ran from London to Kathmandu.
Before the traumatic events of 1979 and the arrival of General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq on the scene, Peshawar, Lahore and even Rawalpindi were famous stops along the way where beds were cheap and drugs cheaper. Such a deep impression did these places make that they were immortalised in popular music. Rawalpindi, the only Pakistani city with a jazz song named after it, is commemorated in the wigged out epic Rawalpindi Blues from the jazz opera Escalator Over the Hill (1971), though one does wonder throughout the 12-minute piece in what way exactly the town inspired the composer, Carla Bley.
That same hippie traffic seems to be the inspiration behind Make Love Not War. Nahid Akhtar and A Nayyar sing a stoner’s duet that opens with a man taking a long deep toke of the chillam and exclaiming, “Kash pe kash lagao/ nashemein dub jao” (Take hit after hit/lose yourself in the high).
Nahid echoes the final phrases of both lines before repeating them in a dreamy slur, one of her many artistic trademarks. A female falsetto chorus joins in as the lead singers toss the sexy title line back and forth. After the first verse, a watery guitar cuts a riff that echoes the iconic opening bars of the RD Burman classic: a simple quivering stuttering two-note pattern.
The rest of the lyrics are emblematic of the hippie generation: love everyone equally be they black or white; don’t let religion turn us into haters; respect for humanity.
The song sounds like classic M Ashraf or Tafo with its gurgling electronics, tasty guitar licks, and a general happy bounce. But the information I have (don’t rely on it) suggests the music is composed by Kamal Ahmed, a prolific music director whose work included some true classics like Basheera and Rangeela.
Sadly, this little gem remains an enigma wrapped in a mystery. But there is sparkle (and highs) aplenty here.
Nate Rabe’s novel, The Shah of Chicago, is out now from Speaking Tiger.
A version of this story appeared on the blog https://dailylollyblog.wordpress.com/ and has been reproduced here with permission.