It has been said before that most of the early film artists were already fully out of the burner in India, and they literally put what they learnt in Bombay to better use in the Pakistani silver screen to illuminate it with a special spark. In this context, one such artiste who made it in Pakistan with much adulation and incredible voice is Himaliyawala. Known for his impressive decibel and his typical dialogue delivery, he made a place of himself amongst such senior luminaries as Late Ghulam Mohammad, Shahnawaz, M. Ismail, Alauddin and Talish. It is sometimes asserted that if Prithvi Raj stands heads and shoulders above anybody for his role of Mahabali Akbar in Mughal-e-Azam, Himaliyawala must be on the second leg of the podium for his echoing delivery as Akbar in Anwar Kamal Pasha’s Anarkali, which was released in 1958.
Himalyawala belonged to Dehradoon, that most beautiful health resort in U.P., and was a scion of a very well-known family of the region. His real name was Afzal Khan. Fair complexioned, blessed with tousled long hair and a tall and well built frame, he looked like a film star. Pining for silver screen dominance and a chance at expressing himself on the media, he visited the Bombay industry. When he met Shaukat Hussain Rizvi, the famous director stepped backed and looked him over. “You say you want a small role in films?” he said. “Just go back to the gate and a make turn to walk in.” When Himaliyawala did as he was told, Rizvi Sahab smiled and shook his head. “Don’t be nervous. Just walk as in casually as you were behaving before you met me.” Having judged him from that entry, Shaukat Hussain Rizvi nodded approval. He had just had a major success in his milestone movie, Khandan, and was fully smitten by Madam Noor Jahan. He was in a good mood and referred him to his friend and colleague, director M. A Mirza. “You must have heard of Pethawala, Ponawala and others, but today I have brought you a rare gift, a remarkable young man, whom I have given the screen name, Himalayawala.”
Hence, Himalyawala made his debut for Bharat Talkies’ movie, Kisi Kee Biwi, which was directed by M.A. Mirza in 1942. The leading actors of the film were Anuradha and E. Billimoria, while the famous Rafiq Ghaznavi composed its music. Himalyawala was noticed enough to be presented in another movie the same year called Mata, which was directed by a fellow called Gunjaal. Next year he was again working for a couple of noticeable films like Aankh Kee Sharm, which had Prithvi Raj in a leading role, and Vishwas, the musical score of which was given by Firoze Nizami. Himalyawala made quick inroads into the industry and was very soon being considered an integral part of the big banner films, along with stalwarts like M. Ismail, Jagdish Seth et al. His other movies in India include Qismatwala, Humayyun, Eilan, Dharam, Samandaron Kee Malika, etc. Humayyun was directed by top director, Mehboob Khan, while Himalyawala also figured in an important role in A. R Kardar’s Shahjahan.
It is an interesting detail of his career that he had married the famous Indian playback singer, Amirbai Karnataki. His second wife was an actress called Begum Parveen.
Despite his success in India, Himalyawala was a staunch supporter of Quaid-e-Azam’s ideology and his style of political workings. That fact was again borne out when the Jaal movement started in 1954, against the screening of Indian films. He was always in the forefront of that movement.
After partition he was one of the first artists to come Pakistan. In the very second film that Pakistan produced, called Shahida, Himalyawala acted so inspiringly that his name became known to all and sundry in the country. Shahida was directed by another top artist from India, Luqman, and its music was by Ghulam Haider and G. A. Chishti. Film critics wrote heart-felt reviews of his performance in Shahida, and likened his acting to Mehboob Khan’s hit film in India, Eilan, where he had done similar work. Anwar Kamal Pasha’s Do Aansoo was a very impressive film indeed. In Kundan, released in the last months of 1950, and Shararey, screened in February 1955, he was the hero opposite Ragni. Sailaab, Mehbooba, Roohi, Qatil, Sarfroosh, Gumrah, Gumnam and Anarkali were some of his famous films, where he expressed himself at optimum levels; other films to his credit include Naghma-e-Dil, Chan Ve, Azra, Watan etc. Chan Ve was his only Punjabi film – Zulqarnain Shahid