Joined: 02 December 2004
The death of veteran TV artiste Azra Sherwani on December 19, 2005, in Oklahoma City, United States, leaves behind a treasure trove of memorable TV plays and hundreds of shocked mourners all over the world wherever PTV plays are watched. Her death serves as a setback from which drama in Pakistan will never be able to recover, regardless of the fact that the actress par excellence who endeared herself to all and sundry with her roles such as Apa Begum, Ghazi Apa and Fazeelat, spent the last five years of her life away from the small screen to be with her son, Dr Najeeb, in the US.
Born in 1940 at Meerut, India, according to family sources, she began her career with Pindi Television in the late 1960s after being discovered by the late PTV producer, Shahzad Khalil, who directed her in some episodes of Bi Jamalo and Platform.
Since her husband, the late Air Commodore Nafees Sherwani, served in the Pakistan Air Force, she was constantly moving about within the country. Once settled in Karachi, she became every scriptwriter's first choice, every great TV producer's need and an essential ingredient for quality TV plays.
During her screen career, which lasted more than 35 years, she played all kinds of roles and had the distinction of working with the best that PTV had to offer in terms of producers, including the late Mohsin Ali, late Shereen Khan, late Shehzad Khalil, Sultana Siddiqui, Zaheer Khan and Sahira Kazmi. Azra Sherwani also had the honour of working with the best writers of her time including Fatima Surraiya Bajiya, Haseena Moin and Anwar Maqsood.
Who among us, the viewers, can forget the pan-chewing, sari-clad and dominating Apa Begum who showed her anger by repeatedly saying: "Warna mujh se bura koi nahin hoga." In fact, there was no one better than her when it came to character acting as she always portrayed her characters to perfection, making them memorable and lively.
The role of Apa Begum in Haseena Moin's Tanhayiaan was undoubtedly the most famous of her entire career where Shahzad Khalil cast her as a tough taskmaster who ill-treated her employee, Buqrat, played by the late Jamshed Ansari who also passed away last year. She logically argued (and winning in the end, of course) with him as to why he should get bus fare when walking cannot only improve his health but also solve the problem. Her character also wanted her brother (Qazi Wajid as Faran) to marry a dominant woman which, fortunately, doesn't happen.
As Ghazi Apa in Uncle Urfi, she stood between the two love birds, quarrelled regularly with Hasnat Bhai (Jamshed Ansari again) and was the dominant force behind the extremely funny Shaheer Bhai (the late Qurban Jilani). Azra played the selfish mother of Sitara (Atiqa Odho) in Sitara Aur Mehrunnisa and also the despised mother-in-law aka Saliha Begum of Mahboob Ahmed (Shakeel) in Aangan Terha with Bushra Ansari and the remarkable (late) Saleem Nasir as Akbar, the live-in Man Friday with a passion for classical dance.
Then she was the villainous Mai Jaina in Mera Naam Mangu in the early '70s — a play about professional beggars — while she excelled in Haseena Moin's Parchaiyaan as part of a star cast comprising Rahat Kazmi, Sahira Kazmi, Shakeel and Talat Hussain. She also held her own in Bajiya's Afshaan, with fellow cast members Shafi Mohammad, Shakeel, Qazi Wajid, the late Ishrat Hashmi and the late Begum Khurshid Mirza. In short, her histrionic talent set the standards for character acting on Pakistan Television.
Azra Sherwani worked with actors of all generations — from Qazi Wajid, Subhani Ba Yunus, Imtiaz Ahmed, Begum Khurshid Mirza, Qurban Jilani, Shakeel, Shafi Mohammed, Talat Iqbal, Anwar Maqsood, Akbar Subhan, Behroze Sabzwari, Shahnaz Sheikh, Marina Khan, Ishrat Hashmi, Jamshed Ansari, Babar Ali, Mazhar Ali, Mishi Khan, Atiqa Odho, Sania Saeed, Sajid Hasan and Sadia Imam.
When the advent of private productions brought about the decline of quality plays on PTV, Azra Sherwani sustained for some time, working in plays such as Kanwal, Bajiya's Ghar Ik Nagar and Sultana Siddiqui's Doosri Duniya. Her most memorable role during the later part of her career was that of Khala Khairan in Riffat Humayun's serial of the same name. Her character was such that she quarrels with Qazi Wajid, a tenant in the house of Khala's folks who refuses to either leave or pay the rent.
Remembering her, Qazi Wajid, who worked with her the most from 1970s to 2000, said she was a sincere actress and an amazing friend with whom there was not a single moment of boredom. "We were waiting for her to pay us a visit since she was in the US with her son but instead, she bid farewell and left us all."
Playwright Haseena Moin remembers her as an irreplaceable asset who always delivered the very best when it came to acting. "She was a lively character, very sweet and full of life. On the set, she was Azra apa but when the camera rolled, she became the character she was playing and no one could say that she was the same person. All her characters in my plays had shades of positive and negative characteristics and handling them was her forte. She was one of those people who acted for their love of acting and not because of money, which is quite opposite to the acting scenario right now. Getting an actress of her calibre is not only difficult but also impossible. The best thing about her was that she had no issues about her educated background as she easily donned the character of an aaya (Fazeelat) in Dhoop Kinaray while was also the rich begum sahiba (Apa Begum) in Tanhaiyaan."
Badar Khalil was all praise and said she knew Azra Sherwani even before her marriage to Shahzad Khalil. "To me, she was a great human being and I can't forget the way she loved me and my husband. She was very upset when my husband passed away since she regarded him as her son and also since he was the one who introduced her on television. After his death, she refused to work for TV for sometime since she felt that she couldn't go near the TV station without Shahzad there. I still can't believe that she is no more among us."
Behroze Sabzwari became quite emotional when asked about her and said she was a great lady and learned people like her should grace acting since the art needs them. "I knew her for more than 30 years and I can't forget the love she gave to me. She was jolly on the set, while brave and loving in real life. She treated me more like a son than a colleague as I was very young when I started acting. She was with me when we did Mera Naam Mangu and Saleem Ahmed's Tabeer and Bajiya's Aabginay. All those who worked with her miss her but to me, she will always remain special."
Azra Sherwani was also associated with advertising and was part of renowned advertising agencies, churning out memorable commercials on TV and the print media as a member of the creative and client management departments.
After the deaths of Ishrat Hasmhi (January 31) and Jamshed Ansari (August 24), her passing away came as the third big blow to television in Pakistan in 2005. Artistes like her are not born every day and considering the current scenario, it is improbable that we, the viewers, would ever find a replacement for Azra Sherwani.
Joined: 25 July 2005
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yes i know her not personally but i have seen her portrayin diff. characters with the fullest any one can (thats wat i think).
i think she was a really really good actor. her acting wenever i see any of her plays seems like real
and i really think its a big loss for Pakistani Television
and May Her Soul Rest In Peace, Ameen
Joined: 23 March 2005
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