The Legend of Maula Jatt – what is the truth behind it?

The 1979 Pakistani Punjabi language action musical film Maula Jatt was directed by Younis Malik and produced by Sarwar Bhatti. The film stars Sultan Rahi as the legendary Maula Jatt and Mustafa Qureshi as his bitter adversary Noori Natt in an unauthorized continuation of the classic 1975 film Wehshi Jatt. 

This film is typical of its genre, which is meant to symbolize the rural culture of central Punjab, Pakistan. Its popularity established action movies as a staple of Pakistani cinema and solidified Sultan Rahi’s position as Lollywood’s top star. Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi’s short tale “Gandasa,” which portrayed life in rural Gujranwala, inspired the movie. One of the most renowned authors, he devoted his life to condemning violence. Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi, honored with Pakistan’s highest cultural honor, the Tamgha-e Husn-e Karkardagi, for his published novel Gandasa, conceived of Maula in pre-Zia Pakistan for an altogether other reason. His interpretation of Maula was opposed to the film industry. The films of the 1970s stole Qasmi’s Maula not to honor it but to steal it, to elevate it not to reveal its uncomfortable reality, but to bury it.

Qasmi discusses wrath and manhood in his essay Gandara. It is written at a time when male role models were increasingly becoming military heroes due to the Indo-Pak conflicts that lasted till the 1960s. School textbooks often include the glorification of the military. How the mother treats Maula is symbolic of how the country treats its boys. It implies that our boys have an additional duty beyond defense and protection: vengeance.

They must show their loyalty to the country by taking violent action to restore American supremacy. Despite the imam’s suggestion to leave things in God’s hands, Qasmi’s protagonist, whom he names Maula (which means lord), delivers death, making him the one everyone must dread.

 The first Maula Jatt film, Wehshi Jatt (1974), similarly opens with a carefree Maula discovering the news that his father has been murdered. Because of this, Maula can catch criminals.

Instead, Maula acted like a “brave lion” by promptly slicing them in two and killing one of them with a knife. The video follows him as he bravely slays the remainder of the neighboring tribe. No parental figure is challenging him. You can confidently force him. There’s no need to. Ultimately, the film “fixes” Maula into the role of a son: a weapon. Like a mutilated relic from Qasmi’s original, every sequel ends with the same sobbing, but only after Maula has stabbed everyone to become the winner. The frozen agendas that inspired Qasmi’s story’s title are transformed into a gory one in the movies. Where Qasmi gave his protagonist the philosophic name “Maula,” the filmmakers give him the spectacular moniker “Jatt.”

Thus the legend is not based on a true story but on real societal values giving it more than just glamor and gore.

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