Sudhir aka Lala Sudhir was the first action hero of Pakistan. Sudhir’s real name was Shah Zaman Khan and he was born in 1922 in Lahore to an ethnic Pashtun family. He started his career in United India opposite the popular leading lady of those times Raagini in film Farz. Farz was released in 1947 under the banner of ‘New Hindustan’ and directed by Niranjan. Other cast of the film included Chand Burque, Farida, Agha and Leela. After the country was partitioned into two, he migrated to Pakistan. His first film in Pakistan was Hichkolay in which he starred opposite Najma. Hichkolay also marked the debut of Master Inayat Hussain as music director in Pakistan and its songs including “Jise dekho wohi dushman hey mere ashiane ka” by Munawar Sultana and “Mein payar ka dia jalata hun” by Ali Bux Zahoor are still remembered.
His next big venture was Sibtain Fazli’s Dopatta. Although Sudhir was cast in one-dimensional, undemanding role of the good, supporting doctor – he performed his role efficiently enough to get noticed. As a result, Dopatta was his breakthrough film, making him a notable starlet in Pakistan.
From 1953 – 1955, he starred in Tadap (1953), Deewar (1954), Gumnaam (1954), Sassi (1954), Sohni (1955), Bulbul (1955), Jheel kinarey (1955), Toofan (1955) and Khizan ke Baad (1955). Of these special mention must be made of Gumnaam and Sassi. Anwar Kamal Pasha’s Gumnaam was an engrossing film about a mentally disturbed girl waiting for her husband to return from the war front. The husband never returns but she receives the telegram with a sad news when police takes in the hero (Sudhir) for a murder. The film is still remembered for Sabiha’s portrayal of mentally disturbed girl and Master Inayat Hussain’s music including the super hit song “Payal mein geet hain chham chaam kai” sung by Iqbal Bano. Sassi was a big budget movie and was filmed around the most picturesque areas of the country. It was the first Golden Jubilee film of Pakistan and established Sabiha as the first superstar, then only a starlet.
In 1956, he starred in Asfaq Malik’s Baaghi (The Rebel). The film was inspired by Apache, an action packed drama starring Burt Lancaster. Sudhir played the key role of a patriot who fights against the colonial British masters and lackeys. Mussarat Nazir was the sweetheart of the revolutionary hero. The action scenes were filmed at captivating locales which enhanced the impact of story on celluloid.
The film was a great triumph for it established Sudhir as the macho man of the silver screen and it made Mussarat Nazir as well known as Sabiha. Allaudin emerged as the archetypal villain and above all the producer, Ashfaq Malik, became owner of A.M. Studios from his share of the gate money. Legendary Punjabi film hero Sultan Rahi made his first film appearance in Baaghi as an extra in a gang of thugs. In 1958, Sudhir-Ashfaq Malik teamed up again in another action packed film Aakhri Nishan . The film did very good business and further established Sudhir’s status as action hero.
After the success of above mentioned films, Sudhir acted in lots of films for three decades ranging in themes from costume to action to romantic. He also produced several films including Aankh ka Nasha (1957) and Sahil (1959).
On personal front, he married three times. First, with a lady from his own family. Second, with actress Shammi and third with actress Zeba . His last marriage with Zeba didn’t last very long and Zeba left him to marry Mohammad Ali. Sudhir died on January 19, 1997 at the ripe old age of 75 – Mr Jinx