Starting from his 1956 film debut in director Luqman’s Lakht-e-Jigar, opposite Yasmeen, (with Noor Jehan and Santosh in the lead roles), right up to his declining popularity in Urdu films around 1966, (due to the soaring careers of Mohammad Ali and Waheed Murad), Habib himself was considered honestly hunky hero, who women didn’t mind cuddling up to. The hero worship was fueled by, and primped under tutelage of famed director Shabab Kiranvi. However, with the promising debut came a stench of failure, Lakht-e-Jigar was released the same time as another movie, Hameeda that had an almost identical plot. Needless to say, Hameeda was a super hit, while LJ was an unmitigated flop, only somewhat salvaged by the inclusion of its heroine, Noor Jehan’s melodious tunes. However, Habib’s career did not sink before it had a chance to begin. His roles in 1958’s Aadmi with Allauddin and Yasmeen, in which he played a double role, and 1960’s Suraiya, co-staring Nayyar Sultana, in which his character aged from a young man to geriatric, showed an actor with a broad emotional range. Other roles during the heyday’ 60s included Haboo with Husna; Khandan with Muhammad Ali and Akmal; Dil Ke Tukre again with Muhammad Ali, and co-staring Nayyar Sultana.

Ironically Habib was also a co-star in the debut film of an actor who would contribute to the decline in Habib’s own career. The actor was of course Waheed Murad and film was S.M Yusuf’s golden jubilee film, Aulad which premiered at Karachi’s Rivoli Cinema in August 1962. The film again had Habib with the elegant and graceful Nayyar Sultana. Naseem Begum’s ditty, Naam lay lay kay, tera hum tou jee ja-ain gay was one of the highlights of the film. Around this time Habib’s career in Urdu films was almost all over. And so like many of his fellow co-stars, he ventured into the more raucous realm of Punjabi films. From around 1966 till 1976 Habib made a slew of Punjabi films, most often paired with film actress Naghma whom he married in 1972. Soon Habib’s thirst for creative control egged him to venture into film production. Habib’s efforts as a producer included Pardes. The film, in which Habib also acted, was unique in that it had filmic scenes of the Khana-e-Ka’aba, through special arrangement with the Saudi government. Other producer/hero credits included 1978’s Mera Naam Raja with Naghma and Munawwar Zarif, memorable because it was Zarif’s last role before his death. Another film, rife with real life misadventures was Haar Giya Insaan, a saga that detailed the story of a father, played by Tariq Aziz (of Neelam Ghar fame) who loses his wealth and his three sons, played by Aslam Pervez, Nadeem and Habib, who are later reunited as adults. One of the highlights of this movie was the catchy tune, Dil Dara, Dil Dara sung by Muneer Hussain and Mala. The heroine of this drama was Naghma, whom Habib divorced in 1988. Habib’s life entered a difference phase and he didn’t appear on the big screen until 1993, when he acted in the Sultan Rahi-Hina Shaheen starrer, Baaghi, a tale about the cruel custom of karo kari (wife killing) that was first made in Punjabi and then later re-dubbed into Sindhi.

Intermittently Habib also acted on TV, most memorably in Mohammed Azim’s 1985 LTV serial Raheen, co-starring Saleem Sheikh. The Lollywood gossip mill recently reported that Habib may again venture into films (though one does not know in what capacity,) and continue in his Lahore-based TV career. Given his quite illustrious movie past, it would be a shame if he didn’t…

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