Amongst those film makers who resurrected social values through their positive exposure on the silver screen, the name of S.M. Yousuf will remain amongst the top ten Muslim directors in the sub continent. He not only concentrated on eastern values and their positive aspects, but also highlighted the role of women in society. S.M. Yousuf’s concept of change in society was that if you can keep your house in order, your country would prosper in the same way. His famous Pakistani hit, Aashiana is the embodiment of the principle where a good wife, played magnificently by Zeba, changes the whole face of the family, and infuses a new spirit amidst the routine life of the girls in the household. Hence, the Aashiana is saved and set right by a well bred and well educated, middle class bahu. This was the picture that typifies S. M. Yousuf’s style. He literally brought forth the metaphor of Naik Parveen in the way it was used in the proverbs.
The reason our films are suffering is that we have no idea what such social reformers of the screen accomplished. When middle class values were uppermost in society, both Indian and Pakistani social films made tremendous mark. People like S.M. Yousuf are not present in the studios anymore, because they were discouraged by the growing violence in Pakistani films.
S. M. Yousuf began his career as an actor, and it was found very early that he had the capability of piloting the ship out of stormy waters. Bharat Ka Lal was his first film as director, which was released in 1936. After that, he made Darban, Aaina, Naik Parveen, Devar, Girhasti, Mehndi and others. This list tells you that he concentrated mainly on family entertainment. But, he made films on other subjects too; like Gumashta, Daulat, Rangila Mazdoor, Kahan Hai Manzil Teri, Haiderabad Kee Nazneen, etc. S. M. Yousuf married the famous actress, Nigar Sultana, and remained in India till the 1960s. When he came to Pakistan, he repeated the title of his earlier film, Saheli, and his very first film was a super hit. It was a remake of his Indian film, Mehndi but proved to be a lovely film and was discussed for many years after its release. Not only for its story but also for its superb performances by Darpan, Talish, Aslam Parvez, Nayyar Sultana and Shamim Ara, all of whom got Nigar Awards, and its ear candy music by A. Hameed, which included the all time hit, Hum bhool gaey har baat, sung by Naseem Begum. Saheli was Aslam Parvez’s first film as a villain, and Talish played a brilliant character role to get a President’s Award. The film itself was given a President’s Award, while the director, S. M. Yousuf, also got a Nigar Award. Saheli was as nearly a perfect film as any that has been made in Pakistan, with every artiste fitting perfectly in the role.
His next film was Aulad, in 1962, again a big hit. Nayyar Sultana was paired with Habib this time, and Waheed Murad made his debut in Aulad. Waheed remained the biggest contribution of S. M. Yousuf. With him, the whole Pakistani screen was changed. A. Hameed again composed glorious tunes for the film, and got applause for them. S. M. Yousuf got another Nigar Award for Aulad, while Nayyar Sultana also got a Nigar for her performance. S.M. Yousuf made thirteen films in Pakistan, the names of which are Saheli, Aulad, Dulhan, Aashiana, Eid Mubarak, Honehar, Suhagan, Sharik e Hayat, Bahu Rani, Zindagi Aik Safer Hai, Haar Gaya Insan, Naik Parveen and Goonj Uthi Shehnai. Film Bahu Rani was a remake of his Indian film, Gumashta, while Naik Parveen was remade by the same title here too. You can judge the caliber of S. M. Yousuf by most of his early films, amongst which Eid Mubarak and Aashiana stand out. He also got a Nigar Award for Aashiana. With standards falling after the early 1970s, and as action films took over, S.M. Yousuf’s standards also deteriorated, and it’s obvious that his son, Iqbal Yousuf, specialized in western style – mafia oriented movies.
In his later days, he settled in Canada. He returned to Pakistan for a few days in 1994, but it was his destiny to die in his motherland. He left for the eternal abode on 17th August, 1994.