Living and Singing with a Conscience

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Sanaullah Khan playing harmonium and singing a song.

It was winter 1963 when a Peshawar bound railways train from Karachi started pioneering a new sort of entertainment, television, in Pakistan which was just an alien medium at that time.  It had special compartment in which a close circuit TV was installed due to courtesy of a foreign company.  

This train was supposed to stop at every prominent station, railways’ junctions and its district headquarters and it was giving chance to new talent to appear before the camera and the audience at the platforms had the chance to enjoy live broadcasting of TV.

Young and energetic Sanaullah Khan had also heard about this new medium and he was eagerly waiting, along with hundreds others at Gujranwala Station for the arrival of the train. The train remained stationed for three hours at the platform and a foreigner, who was the manager of the new project, invited him to perform in front of the camera. He sang a melodious movie song and thus made his debut at TV screen even before the launch of PTV which was later on founded on November 26, 1964.“I’m as a TV artist a year senior to PTV itself,” he proudly claims.

Born in a Jhelum on March 6th, 1944, Khan was given chance to work for Radio Pakistan Rawalpindi in 1965 to play flute and to work as drama artist. In the winter of 1967, PTV was launched for Rawlapindi/Islamabad Centre in the barracks which were located at Staff Road Chaklala and Khan was also selected for this centre for one of its segments ‘Rawal Orchestra.’ But it was just a beginning as after that he appeared at PTV as narrator, an actor and as flute player.

In those days he performed as a narrator in different programmes, including Nazar-ul-Geeti which was produced by music director Muslihuddin and his wife playback singer, Naheed Niazi.

He also wrote a few scripts in Urdu in connection with National Integration between  West and East Pakistan.

In 1968 the artists’ community started a campaign for protection of the artists and promotion of art which was headed by Faiz Ahmad Faiz and Khan was the part of this campaign as a young artist while Dr Anwar Sajjad, singer Shaukat Ali, actors like Sikandar Shaheen, Mahmood Ali, Zahoor Ahmad, Salim Nasir and many others renowned actors and writers were its part.

He also played important role in formation of Pakistan Artists Equity and struggled a lot as an activist for the rights of artists. At that time he was well known for having an opinion that redtapism was operative in the radio TV and favouritism and nepotism were flourishing in both these institutes.

“Aslam Azhar who was controller PTV was promoted overnight as Managing Director PTV when a politician took over as the chief martial law administrator. Azhar had a ferocious attitude toward helpless artists. I was battling against the corruption of cancer and nepotism at PTV and I was banned entry to PTV,” he bitterly narrates.  

According to him, after this episode, as the result of his sacrifice, no artist or writer was ever banned at the state-run TV channel.    

To earn his livelihood he has been working for musical and dramatic programmes for many educational and social welfare organizations such as International School of Islamabad besides performing at the events of different embassies including that of France, America, Korea and many others. He also worked for Far Eastern Broadcasting Association as producer and writer. The general public of today’s age mostly knows him as a flute player and he had started blowing flute at the age of six.

Radio Pakistan have been rather kind to him despite has career as an activist as during late 70’s and early 80’s he was given package of five years to write and broadcast social reformatory features and dramas on weekly basis for Radio Rawalpindi.

While commenting on his achievements he says: “As if financial success is he only criterion needed to define artistic success, yes no doubt I am loser. However, I lived my life on my own terms and conditions and never compromised on my principles and at the verge of my career artistic excellence seems somewhere behind the last mountains.”

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1 COMMENT

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