Munnu Bhai: The Creator of Sona Chandi Departs

By Maryam Iraj

Nation mourns the loss of a legend!


Munnu Bhai, a man who served for more than six decades in the field of journalism and literature, starting his career in 1950s, passed away today on 19 January, 2018, at the age of 84. His life, a journalistic charisma, and an excellent journey in literature, needs no introduction. Starting his career as a translator for a local Urdu newspaper, he finally turned into a playwright, primarily, for PTV, and went on to produce classics in 80s and 90s. On March 23, 2007, he was conferred the highest civil honour, Pride of Performance, by the then Governor of Punjab, Khalid Maqbool. He was also the recipient of Syed Waris Shah Award by the Pakistan Academy of Letters, among many other national and internal accolades both in the field of journalism and literature.

His famous quote from an interview given to a national daily, “I learnt everything from people. Writers should understand that glamour is in realism and they should increase interaction with the people to write articles close to the heart of the people.”, renders us a perspective on his writing career. This is not simply a message but his literary philosophy which is deeply embodied in his works. His most famous and memorable works are inclusive of the classics like, 1982 comedy: Sona Chandi, Dasht, and a play Aashiana. His classic works were rooted in the cultural ethos of Pakistan, thus blending realism and aesthetics to heighten the visual experiences of the viewer. Through his plays, he told us who we were and how we had come across. His emphasis, through his plays and poetry, was not only on the philosophy or a theme to be communicate; but also on how dialogues were delivered and integrated into the mainstream culture through the mode of delivery. Time to remember Sona Chandi!

The subtle homour of Munnu Bhai stirred up people’s emotions, and appealed to people’s pity, anger, fear, and hope. His plays and poetry alike appealed to the readers’ fears and values. The struggle of Sona Chandi as a rural couple, new to the city lights, continues to impact our aesthetic sensibilities to this date, because the story is still relevant. Millions of couples struggle the same way to this date. This consistency and time-tested themes define his plays as classics, and poetry as radical and pure.

Well-structured and intricate plots, and timelines of his works remind us of the Restoration Comedies (1660-1710) of William Wycherley, George Etherege, William Congreve, George Farquhar, and Aphra Behn. The main goal of such comedies was to scrutinize the society for its follies with a sense of comic relief. This allowed the audiences to laugh at themselves and at society, simultaneously. Once he explained he explained the same idea that during the tenure of dictator, Yahya Khan, he ran into an intense argument with the then Minister of Information, Sher Ali; resultantly, he was transferred from Rawalpindi to Multan. This was the time when he started criticizing “himself” and according to Bhai, “it was not an easy job.”, and this is what Munnu Bhai did throughout his life through his journalism and literature. Moreover, his take on multiculturalism and humanism is prompted by the fact that he was a foster baby to a Sikh mother who nursed her for 15 days. These memories of compassion and motherly love, beyond religion and culture, stayed with him for the rest of his life, and encouraged him to promote the tolerance and love through his columns and other works.

From the games of love to the desperate economic struggles, his words empowered his readers to find themselves reliving on the papers. Be it tragedy, comedy, or poetry, Munnu Bhai gave it all to his readers. He had nothing to hold back, no political correctness, no ambiguities; only sincerity to the craft of words at its best!