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Pakistan’s silver screen heroes of all times

Written by Omair Alavi

Here’s our short list of 5 men that ruled the big screen and are etched in film history as heroes of all times.

Pakistan’s film industry may not be as old or experienced as Hollywood or Bollywood but it has a 70-year legacy and has delivered some bona fide hits. With those hits, there came the rise of the heroes.

From the very first film released in 1948 (Teri Yaad) to the last hit (Superstar), one thing has remained constant – the leading man and his lure to draw people to cinemas. Many actors came and fizzled out without making much impact but five names stand out as men who ruled the screen with their elegance, performance and brilliance, both on and off camera.

These are the five actors who are still remembered for creating magical moments in cinema…

Santosh Kumar

A young Pakistan needed a young leading man and that’s when Santosh Kumar appeared on the scene and made a mark with his dashing good looks and ability to perform any kind of character. Born as Syed Moosa Raza, he made his film debut in India before partition (Ahensa, 1947) but chose to migrate to Pakistan where he reached new heights. Most hit songs of the fifties and the sixties were filmed on the legendary actor who had countless film credits to his name such as Do Ansoo, Waada, Sarfarosh, Mauseeqar, Ghoonghat and Anjuman, among others. Add Sabiha Khanum to the mix as his future wife and you have the perfect first family of Pakistan’s film industry, representing the country around the world while turning heads wherever they went.

Waheed Murad

He came, he saw and he conquered. That was Waheed Murad, who represented the youth of Pakistan from mid-sixties onwards. Unlike his predecessors, he could dance and look elegant at the same time; his dashing looks and dialogue delivery made him popular even in neighboring countries whereas he taught his successors how to bring romance to the screen without looking awkward. The chocolate hero of cinema, he was not just the writer, producer and leading man of Pakistan’s first platinum jubilee film Armaan; he continued delivering hits as late as the early eighties. With Armaan, Doraha, Ehsaan, Andaleeb, Anjuman, Jab Jab Phool Khile, and Hero to his name, Waheed Murad remains a leading man who stood the test of time and delivered as the ultimate actor.

Mohammad Ali

It wasn’t until Shararat (1963) that Mohammad Ali played a filmi hero; he was the first choice to be an antagonist till then and stood tall against Darpan and Masarrat Nazir in Bahadur as well as Syed Kamal in multiple films. After switching over from the dark side, nothing stopped Mohammad Ali from achieving success, first as ‘The Angry Young Man’ and later as a character actor, and he carried on till the late eighties, ending his career with Shaani, the first sci-fi flick made in the subcontinent. As a leading man, he was part of the Waheed Murad, Nadeem troika in the seventies that delivered countless hits and even shared the screen in three films – Shama, Jab Jab Phool Khile and Phool Mere Gulshan Ka. Due to his command over tragic scenes, Mohammad Ali was known as Shahenshah e Jazbaat, a quality that made him standout from other actors of his generation.

With his wife Zeba Begum, they delivered many hits together and also represented Pakistan in India by appearing in Manoj Kumar’s Clerk in the late eighties.


Had it not been for Nadeem, born Mirza Nazeer Baig, the Pakistani film industry wouldn’t have survived the Zia regime, or seen a revival in the 1990s. He made his film debut through Chakori that launched him as a Pakistani Dilip Kumar but in no time he switched gears and developed his own style that inspired countless actors to follow suit and become actors.

With Waheed Murad refusing to change with the times and Mohammad Ali becoming comfortable in mature roles, it was Nadeem who continued till the mid-nineties as the leading man. He not only upgraded his hairstyle but also formed a successful team with the top heroines of the day, namely Shabnam and Babra Sharif. Until the arrival of young heroes, it was just Nadeem who looked 40 even when he was nearing 60. He did graduate to character-acting but not before delivering one hit after the other in the eighties and the nineties. In fact, he played an ‘Angry Young Man’ in Doordesh, an international film featuring Parveen Babi, Raj Babbar, Shashi Kapoor and Sharmila Tagore.


He may be the son of ace writer and director Riaz Shahid and film star Neelo but Shaan had to work hard to make a place for himself in Pakistani cinema. He made his debut with Bulandi in 1990 and with his ability to portray nearly any character Shaan ruled the cinema industry for 20 years, delivering hits like Nikaah, Majajan, Mujhe Chaand Chahye, Zille Shah and Khuda Ke Liye.

It was Waar and 021 that kickstarted the revival of cinema in the country and the audience will remain indebted to the actor for not switching to TV from films when everyone else was doing pretty much the same.

Currently busy with his prolific, upcoming project Zarrar, the legendary actor has no real equal, and no competition. His mannerisms, dialogue delivery and persona make him an idea role model for young people who want to see him work more often and a lot more regularly in quality projects.

Near Misses: Shahid, Ghulam Mohiuddin, Javed Shiekh, Humayun Saeed, Fahad Mustafa with the latter two having rocked the box office but don’t possess the body of work as their predecessors -yet.

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About the author

Omair Alavi

Omair Alavi is a highly regarded journalist, critic, and commentator, specializing in news, sports, showbiz, film, blogs, articles, drama, reviews, and PTV drama. With extensive experience and a keen eye for storytelling, he captivates audiences with his insightful analysis and compelling presentations. His expertise and contributions have made him a prominent figure in the media and entertainment industry.