He may have been the younger brother of film stars Santosh Kumar and Darpan (real names Syed Moosa Raza and Syed Ishrat Abbas respectively) but he managed to carve a separate identity for himself as a director.
Born on 29th December 1938 in Hyderabad, India, S Suleman was always destined to make a name for himself in films. By the time he had appeared as a child actor in a handful of Indian films such as Doosri Shaadi and Mela, his family decided to migrate to the newly created Pakistan and try their luck in the Muslim state. The elder brothers became superstars and S Suleman followed as an actor, but couldn’t make it as big as them.
That’s when he decided to try his hand at direction, and after assisting Anwar Kamal Pasha, turned full-fledged director with Gulfaam in 1961 that featured his elder brother Darpan and Musarrat Nazir as the leading pair. The costume drama became a huge hit and pushed S Suleman into the world of direction, forever.
For the next two decades, he was not just the leading director in Pakistani cinema, he tried his hand at everything from action, thriller, suspense, comedy, drama, and tragedy. From 1961 to 1982, he churned hits after hits, and till his first break after Tere Bina Kia Jeena, he was amongst the most successful film directors in the country.
He made two comebacks to films – first in 1987 with Love in London and Saat Sahelian and the other in the late 90s with Very Good Duniya Very Bad Log – before turning to Television. He directed a couple of hit serials for TV including Anwar Maqsood’s Colony 52 and was quite active when private television channels took over the production scene in the country.
One thing that set S Suleman apart from his competitors in the 1960s and the 1970s were the soundtrack of films; nearly all songs from his films became popular and are still remembered after nearly 50 years. What he did in Sabaq in 1972 was recreated by Saqib Malik in 2019, whereas many of his songs were copied in Bollywood during the 1990s.
His super hit film Lori might be forgotten today but its songs are still popular; in fact, the movie provided the blueprint for Salman Khan – Madhuri Dixit starrer Hum Aapke Hain Koun nearly three decades after its release. This lullaby is something most of the folks in the 1970s and 1980s grew up to in Pakistan, and many sing it to their young ones, still!
Chanda Ke Hindole Main (Lori)
He directed the first two Ali Zeb productions when the newly married Mohammad Ali and Zeba decided to turn producers. Nearly all the songs from Aag and Jaise Jantay Nahin became chartbusters, and are considered classics that will never grow old as long as cinema is alive and kicking.
Yoon Zindagi Ki Raah Main (Aag)
Aise Bhi Hain Meherban (Jaise Jantay Nahin)
He may not have worked much with Waheed Murad but S Suleman’s magic was evident in his only film with the late star.
Tum Ne Kia Kehdia (Bewafa)
Who can forget the classic Ahmed Faraz ghazal that was brought to the screen by S Suleman in the early 1970s? The song became a rage because of its meaningful lyrics, Nisar Bazmi’s melodious composition, and Mehdi Hassan’s rendition, and is still considered one of the best melancholic songs of all times.
Ranjish Hi Sahi (Mohabbat)
And then there was the ‘wild’ Runa Laila number ‘Don’t Be Silly’ filmed on Husna and Hanif, in the early part of the 1970s. It was later remixed for Saqib Malik’s Baaji and didn’t lose its magic in either form.
Don’t Be Silly (Sabaq)
S Suleman wasn’t just limited to serious films; when he tried his hand at comedy, he aced it as well. In this Mehdi Hassan number, he forced Ghulam Mohiuddin to dance in a box-shaped area and the rest is history!
Chalo Yunhi (Shararat)
In the mid-1970s when the standard of Pakistani music was not what it used to be, S Suleman kept the flag high with this romantic number, which was later copied in India during the 1990s.
Rafta Rafta (Zeenat)
There was also this number from his action-packed Zanjeer that found its place in Bollywood, but not before enthralling millions on this side of the border!
Na Koi Gila Hai Mujhko (Zanjeer)
S Suleman never settled for less and this song from his last film Very Good Duniya Very Bad Log is a proof of how far ahead he was from his contemporaries. Even in the late 1990s, when people were making low budget films, he went so big that no one has been able to match his efforts even today.
Ghoongat Utha Zara (Very Good Duniya Very Bad Log)