Joined: 29 August 2005
The Origins of Devdas
IT WAS 4.00 P.M., DRESSED IN A BLACK SHALWAR KURTA WITH A SPRINKLING OF WHITE SHOWING THROUGH HIS OTHERWISE DARK, THICK MANE OF HAIR AND STILL LOOKING SLEEPY (HE WAKES AROUND THIS TIME), MOIN AKHTAR, THE COMEDY ACTOR AND HOST OF NUMEROUS STAGE SHOWS AND ENTERTAINMENT PROGRAMMES ON TELEVISION, RECENT BEING 'LOOSE TALK', - MADE AN UNDRAMATIC ENTRANCE INTO THE DRAWING ROOM AREA OF HIS HOME IN GULSHAN-E-IQBAL. WE PROCEEDED TO SIT DOWN ON AN ALL BLACK SOFA, IN THE ROOM - TILED AND PAINTED ALL WHITE, A COLOR MY HOST TELLS ME HE LOVES BECAUSE IT GIVES HIM THE FEELING OF SOBRIETY; BETWEEN ORDERING TEA AND LIGHTING UP A CIGARETTE. WE SETTLE DOWN TO A 'MORNING FOR HIM AND EARLY EVENING FOR ME' CHAT.
Had he managed to fulfill any part of that dream?
couldn't carry on my studies." He says with some emphasis, "I never ever even had the urge to come into this line; never had the lust nor thought to become an actor. Never! ...How I started off was that I happened to know a certain doctor who owns a hospital out here, one of a few male gynecologists in this country - Dr. Naseem, he was a third year student of DOW Medical College then and as they were arranging some kind of celebration, he asked me to put an act together. I told him I had no practical experience, so he told me to just do my best. I would say the correct word to describe my act then would be 'untidy' or haphazard. There was no semblance to the act. But luckily for me the one thing I had never had was stage fright as I had been taking part in a lot of debates, interschool declamation contests and all... that gave me a certain power to stand up in front of so many students; believe me it's a very tedious and tough job to tackle students as they can be quite harsh in their comments.
I still remember a student who stood up that night and jeered out, 'Abhay, shave karke aya hai (Hey, have you shaved). I just kept quiet and gave them ample time to be themselves. Finally I told them to give me five minutes and if I didn't meet up to their expectations they could throw me out." Moin reiterates, "It was not 'Moin Akhtar', but the confidence of the stage, of debates that held me through it all. I was on stage for forty five minutes!" ...and with some showmanship and pride, "They were impressed, more so because I was intelligent enough to use some English skits in my act; at the time that kind of comedy was very sub-standard and localized, people used to imitate common genders and stuff. I was totally different; I was doing impersonations and mimicry of various foreign film actors and personalities like Gregory Peck, David Niven and Queen Elizabeth amongst others. After the show, to my surprise this gentleman with a beard, by the name of Liaquat, studying at a place called Nabi Baksh College, came up to me and handing me some money said, 'Here is your advance. We want you to perform at our college on this date.
He'd given me Rs.10 as an advance!' I was very shocked that I could actually earn money through this work and thought, 'Achah es kaam ke paisay bhi miltay hai!' That ten rupees was very meaningful, it was a kind of door to my entering this profession.
Did he ever regret his choice of career?
"After so much of fame and popularity, it's a curse to regret anything. No, I don't regret it. I am very grateful to Allah for being kind and generous to me, bringing me out of anonymity and giving me so much. I was always one of those lucky people who never actually worked very hard to come up. My coming was more of a (And Moin quotes a certain famous line), 'He came, He saw, He conquered', all by the Grace of Allah. I feel I am very different from the other actors. I like to maintain that particular distinction even today. What I does, no one else do it; the variety and numerous roles I have played are immeasurable. Its not self praise, but I do have my own standards of measuring myself."
His method - comedy?
"For such kind of an act, I believe one has got to be God gifted. It's a natural instinct with me, but having said that I still feel one has to keep on polishing ones talent. There is an English saying, 'Practice makes the man, perfect', its now thirty-seven years of practice so it has made me almost very near perfect.
Had this 'perfection' not also made him somewhat cynical?
Not one to mince his words he agrees immediately, "At times, yes." His own judge and jury: "When I look at the kind of work I did in the past and compare it to the present I feel that I have improved a lot. I am a very good self-critic; I don't need anyone else's criticism. If I have done something badly, I already know I have done it badly.
Did he write his own scripts?
I used to; until I met Anwar Maqsood some thirty years ago, since then he has written the maximum for me. We have an excellent rapport and interaction; what he writes I understand and how I perform he knows it - there is no other pair at present in this country that is quite the same. It reminds me of the famous duo 'Allan and Nana'. They were amazing! I still remember that whenever their program was telecast, there was minimum traffic on the roads, everyone used to be watching the program. PTV, in those days, was the only channel and source of entertainment." There are so many more channels now... "I don't understand what kind of planning is going on! One needs complete planning plus a relaxation of censors.
PTV has always been the government's baby, whereby the channels being aired nowadays are being operated from outside Pakistan via satellite, so it's definitely easier for some such to put on programs of their own choice and censorship." The competition being strong... "The problem of the country is that one has all kinds of entertainment available here. If you want an x-rated movie and can't watch it on television you can get it from the market. Secondly, the cable operators are offering almost 52 channels for a mere two hundred rupees or so; out of the 52 channels there are some which are very obscene whereby they are almost promoting and propagating po*nography.
Was their any entertainer that could fill his shoes?
I feel talent is something God gives you. Tomorrow there might be a more talented man than 'Moin Akhtar' and then maybe not."
Moin's modest beginnings are to him but of little consequence, "We were poor to the extent that we would have one meal and the second one would be a question mark." For what was... "We were once well to do in India, where my father had a business - but he had a falling out with his father and so sold out, and one fine day decided to move to Pakistan. So, I was born here. I wanted to get into a good school, as I was very bright. In fact I remember when I was quitting my studies, the Principal of my school came to my house and said 'if money is the problem we'll sponsor him because he's very brilliant'; Scripts even today are given to me then and there and I just have to look once to deliver the lines," on a nostalgic note, "...but as time passes by slowly everything deteriorates, as is my memory; this is due to the insomnia for which I have to take tranquilizers.
Why the insomnia?
It was a reversal in my daily routine. For me night became day and day became night, hazards of the job I am in; my job starts at nine and mostly goes maybe till three in the morning. You hardly get time to sleep and also a lot of non-stop traveling from one country to another. All this is no doubt very bad for health... all to do with chemicals of our body; then I had this heart problem for three consecutive years and never went to a doctor because I never had time to do so. I have never been a very attentive or health conscious man, quite careless actually - that's how I landed into the heart problem and open-heart surgery. I had another attack again in America five years down the road." Moin on a tangent, "In fact, I'm not conscious of anything, not even clothes. I come from a very poor background. Even today I sit with my chawkidars and guards to have a meal. These things don't matter to me." So what is he doing to avoid the same health problems? "There is a saying, 'Precaution is better than cure' and I, one hundred percent agree with that but a man like me... We are extremist people 'if we love some one, we love them to extreme and if we hate them than that too is to extremes'." And for some effect, or perhaps a nonchalant attitude, "We, in this line, are totally different creatures, very unpredictable and abnormal kind of human beings."
His thoughts on early marriage... "I was married by the age of twenty two. I don't think people in showbiz should get married. You can't 'explore' the world once you have liabilities and responsibilities. Had I not gotten married at that age, I would have tried to touch the Hollywood heights." "I have three daughters and two sons. My eldest daughter got married after her graduation and my number two daughter has done her BSC." While his older son is doing his MBA, his youngest daughter recently completed her high school from America, "My youngest son, whose fifteen, was studying in Chicago. He was in the eighth standard and recently he scored (says the proud father) 97 per cent marks in the whole school. I've called him back to Pakistan to do his hifz of the Quran.
American immigration though... "Someone asked me to apply for it. I thought why not just for the sake of having one; there is a clause in the form where anyone who excels in their field can apply.
Lahore and Lahoris?
Place is good but I can't settle there; the Lahoris are very receptive and warm-hearted bunch - they talk loud, they shout out loud, they fight loud and they appreciate loud. I get a lot of respect out there. This acknowledgement makes one feel as if one has done something in life. Karachiites are a little different in the way that they couldn't care less who you are.
On performing in front of an Indian audience:
Indians are very entertainment oriented; they almost worship their artistes. It's a part of their culture. I have hosted many Indian programs abroad. The Indians are quite down to earth, nice and simple people. I have worked with many artistes from there."
How come 'Moin Akhtar' the performer did not take up acting in films on a full time basis, why limit himself to television and stage only?
You see when a genius or an intelligent man makes a mistake, it's not a mistake, and it's a blunder. I did a couple of movies, but honestly speaking I am so ashamed by them, I don't even want to name them; having said that, I am now determined to do a comedy film with some sense to it. I am forcing Anwar Maqsood to write the script. In 'Loose Talk' I play the role of this drunken,"a 'Moin Devdas' caricature. The 'real' Moin goes on to clarify that he does not imbibe, "I would like to do my film playing that particular central character. We have started working on the structure of the story and we want to make it very entertaining. It should be done by mid 2004."
On finally settling in.
I am making a house in Malir Cantt, D.H.A. (near Gulshan)." Clears my misconception, "It is not 'the Defense'. I can't live in that area. It has become more of 'status symbol', plus I can't live too close to the humidity there. My physicians suggested the further away I move from the sea, the better for me; this is also why I live out of the city limits; I want a very artistic house on split levels. You know every man has a dream, and Allah has blessed me with so much that my dreams are about to come true. I want a house that when people walk in, they should feel that they are in someone's heaven. It is not the money you put in but the taste. I am basically a very sober man, very different from what I am on screen.
Would he ever want to retire from this field?
I am almost at the stage of retirement, just pray that I keep my health. As long as I have my health I will work. However, my physicians have asked me to leave it all and stay at home but I if I sit at home I'll die," Moin says this with some internal conflict showing through his external self. "I don't have friends, I don't go anywhere. I don't meet people. Even when I am home I stay isolated in my room and nobody dares to walk in. It's a habit I've had from as far back as I can remember. I don't like to be disturbed. I prefer to be by myself. In fact, even my wife says I shouldn't have gotten married; Men like me should never even attempt to get married."
The down-to-earth star's love and thirst for knowledge has, he claims, lead him to read
'anything and everything', "At one point I was crazy about fiction too - Agatha Christie and James Hadley Chase."
Having to go for a recording, our tte--tte ended with Moin announcing somewhat shyly, "You know it's my birthday today." I asked the 24 December, Sagittarian, if he was doing anything to celebrate the event. Receiving an answer in the negative I wished him 'long life and happiness' as I bid him adieu.
"I can host the Oscars"
(The News Paper Pakistan Link California USA)
And then it was Moin Akhtar. But when was that? Before a nothing, nobody. Moin Akhtar is the sole anchor/compere of some repute that Pakistan can boast of. Prior to his entry into the glitzy world of showbiz, the only name that springs to mind associated with hosting a show is Zia Mohiuddin. But Zia's not a compere, in the literal sense of the word. He's a chat show host. Don't ask for the difference.
Moin over a period of considerable time, has gained a lot from fan following. His fame is not just confined to the four provinces of Pakistan. He is the favorite variety-show host of many an India film star as well. This is precisely why whenever there's a need to host music program at some neutral venue, let's say America or Dubai, Moin is preferred to others, if there are any. A tte--tte with Moin.
We've heard that you have warmed to the world of
If you are aware that the standard is deteriorating, why are you being part of it?
For your information, I had left the world of showbiz temporarily. PTV had offered me a program, but I turned it down. Let me tell you one more thing: when I went for Hajj earlier this year, I prayed to God to enlighten me whether the money I gain from showbiz is haram or halal. And if I had, knowingly or unknowingly, gobbled up some haram money, then I pray to God that he forgive me. To date no one has given me an authentic fatwa regarding the issue. Actually, in Islam there are certain predefined boundaries, if you cross those boundaries, then you are not obeying Allah Almighty's commands, and hence creating problems for yourself.
I would like you to revert to the subject of quitting showbiz. Would you like to elaborate on it?
One of the reasons is that creativity is almost nonexistent now. Or perhaps, it has come to a standstill. The problem is that there are not too many good writers. Apart from that, artists don't work hard enough. Not many artists even come for rehearsals. Are Pakistani performers more competent than Burt Lancaster?
Richard Harris, Alec Guinness, And Tony Lee Jones. But when they come to the Oscars, they prepare their speeches in advance, do a great many rehearsals and produce the same results. You see: I can host the Oscars Awards better than anybody else. But...
Of course, what's so special about it? Do they come from a different world? By the Grace of Allah, I am a better Orator. The point is that I must be provided with all those facilities that the like of Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystel are accustomed to, apart from the disciplined audience.
In Pakistan, most of the shows are lost to the worst kind of hooliganism and vandalism. At times, we don't even look like human beings.
|You started your career appearing in a mimic in the Zia Mohiuddin Show. A lot of people opine that basically you haven't gotten out of that shell. And owing to your limited diction you are not an eloquent speaker.|
I admit to it. But that wasn't the case from the beginning. The reason is that I'm fed up with people's attitude. You must've seen me in the past. The standard of the programs used to be far better and the quality much higher. The jokes that I used to crack, the language that I used to speak was of the highest order. The thing is that you people like us for the fall. You always catch us then we've gone off the boil. Actually it's a global phenomenon. All around the world, scripts are
What would you like to be recognized as, a compere or an actor?
I would like to leave that to the viewers. It shocks me to know that no established artist of Pakistan is willing to accept me as a good actor. Whereas in India, in one of their television programs, they opined that I did well as a woman in Rozi, compared to the performances of actors like Kamal Hasan and Govinda as females.
Some people say that you are not a witty person when they draw a comparison between you and Umar Sharif.
Once you couldn't handle Qadir Khan (the Indian actor) during a stage show.
When did you first work with Anwar Maqsood?
I don't remember correctly, but I think first met him during the Zia Mohiuddin Show. He was one of the writers who scripted the programme for Zia. I had four or five appearances in the show. People used to ask Zia " why do you call Moin on your show frequently?" He replied, "give me a better Moin Akhtar then."
Have you ever been caught in a scandal?
Once. But they didn't prove anything.
I want to preach Islam. I also wish when I die, there shouldn't be any burden on my chest. I have had my share of popularity and prime. Now I'm waiting for Allah to bless me. Everything that we see, witness and experience in life speaks volumes of Allah Almighty's munificence and great.
Would shows like Studio 2 and Studio 2 have been successful minus Moin Akhtar?
I would comment on that. It's up to the viewers and critics to decide.
We think that your contribution was very special because you need to improvise and ad-lib a lot.
I'm the only person that Anwar allows to improvise. But, of course, bearing in mind that I don't distort the meaning of the script. And if you push the issue further, I'd say that if Anwar's contribution to the success of those shows was 70 percent, then mine was the remaining 30 percent.
Do you watch films?
What are the reasons for our films not matching up to the standards of international cinema?
Low literacy rate. You see, in democratic countries, great importance is given to freedom of speech. In western countries, you can mock their political leaders. But in Pakistani, you can't even imagine about it. You see if you want to grow in stature, you must first learn to laugh at yourself.
Did you see Tootsie before venturing into Rozi?
I'm a Muslim and I don't lie. Yes, I've seen a bit of it and I didn't think like Dustin Hoffman at all.
You think you can surpass Dustin Hoffman's performance if you are given the right script and the required facilities?
Why not? What's the big deal? Has he descended from another planet?
Then why did you do Mr. K-2?
I was not willing to do Mr. K-2. Furqan Haider came to begging. He wanted me to direct it because a few months ago Umar Sharif's experiment of making movies had done wonders for him. Ruefully, Furqan is the most incapable person to direct a film. Theatre and television are two different worlds. It was a bad film so it came to a cropper. However, it doesn't prove that I'm not a good actor. This is what you people do best: criticize at the drop of a hat. Look at the effort we put in. In the PTV World Awards everybody carped about me, "Moin has gone stale, he has lost his charm." For God's sake, it was a mess there. I'm a heart patient, and I stood there for six long hours. There wasn't even a chair to sit on. You see: we do shows under such duress and circumstances. You should come up and pat my back.
Have you ever fallen in love?
Once before marriage but it didn't work out.
"An Entertainer of transcendent genius"
(Showbiz magazine MAG Pakistan)
|Moin Akhtar is not the name of an artiste. It is the name of a whole era. Sounds like a clich doesn't it? But if I had to use these words for anyone in the world of showbiz. I would choose Moin Akhtar. And to substantiate my choice, I would quote the superb ghazal singer, Jagjit Singh, who once said, " we have the best of actors, singers and musicians but we do not have a Moin Akhtar"|
Be it comparing Acting or parody Moin's performances have been seen with great clat. No wonder octogenarian knows him as the beloved entertainer of infant.
We can talk about any thing on this planet, sans the baseless scandal, which was obnoxious attempt to bolt my copybook, Moin said in exasperation. But you yourself gave people a chance to say all this. I could not help commenting. But Moin brushed aside the topic and slumped into a disagreeable silence.
Of course I was off to a bad start. The environment was not very conducive to
You had been in the field of showbiz for a long time butwhy wasn't it until 1984 that you took up comparing seriously, Moin taking a drag of his half- finished cigarette began, one has to be recognized to do something which hasn't been done by him before. Even though I had been conducting the shows, yes 1984 was the year I took up compering seriously. And the credit goes to Mohsin Ali and Shoaib Mansoor who choose me to conduct the grand occasion of the twentieth anniversary of PTV.
They choose Moin Akhtar and they choose the right person. Moin's epigrammatic sentences, coupled with spontaneity and intelligence, very soon made him the most wanted compere.
Success of a show became synonymous with Moin's name. Recently when PTV was celebrating its 30th anniversary Moin Akhtar did not conduct the grand finale. The results were catastrophic. Obviously I tried my best to make Moin says that the basic reason behind the debacle of the grand finale was horrible comparing, but Moin wanting to sound condescending said that it was not necessary to call him for every program.
What in your opinion should a good compere possess?
A compare should be multifarious. He should be a mimic, a singer, a humorist and everything he is required to do on the stage or in front of the camera. Plus, he should be very confident, like, I know that I am not a good singer, but whenever I sing, I sing confidently. Confidence is the passport to good compering, he explained.
What do you feel when you see every Tom Dick and Harry trying to become a compere?
I believe in egalitarianism and I don't mind seeing non-regular compares conducting the shows as long as they have done their homework and are well prepared to conduct the program. You see, it is a very sensitive job. I primarily hold a compere responsible for the success or failure of a program/ He is like a captain of the ship who should be responsible for its smooth sailing, he expounded his views.
One thing that gives Moin Akhtar an edge over his contemporaries is his increasing demand among the Indians stars. Moin Akhtar conducts most of their shows. How and when did it all begin?
|I could see a flash of pride in his eyes while telling this one when the famous Indian actor Shatrughan Sinha came to Karachi, he rang me up and said that he wanted to meet me. We met and it was a pleasant meeting. Shutru told me how much the people of India including the film stars admired my performances. Then when the living legend Dilip Kumar came to Karachi I was given the opportunity to conduct the organized in his honor at the chief minister house. That was my first introduction with Dilip Sahib. Since then we have shared a very cordial relationship with each other. How close the thespian with Moin Akhtar is can be known by an incident. During a show in Dubai one of the organizers asked Dilip Kumar if he had discussed with Moin Akhtar what he was going to say on the stage.|
We have had enough on his compering. Now I take a new turn and start talking about his acting. Rosy came as a rescuer to Moin Akhtar to save him as an actor. It added lots of pride to Moin Akhtar.
I am very grateful to Sahira that she offered me the right role at the right time. It's true that I had established myself as a compere, but it was not the only thing that I could be satisfied with I am an actor first and to me proving myself as an actor was even more important. I did not have enough time for the rehearsals as I was highly occupied with the compering assignments here and back in Bombay. I had to go to Bombay and Dubai very frequently for the show. But then Sahira and I both were very keen to doing that role. Sahira's decision of casting Moin in Rosy as Rosy paid off and viewers saw a performance they had never seen before and probably nor will they see it again.
He cleared his throat and said in the same tone "people think Rosy was a comedy play" But on the contrary, it was a very serious topic. Imran Aslam did a marvelous job. He just didn't adopt the play, but he also wrote something on his own which made men realize the problems women face in our society. It was certainly a very delicate topic, which Imran tackled with sheer perfection.
Having spent more than an hour, I felt a little more comfortable with him than I was feeling in the beginning. And this easiness led me to ask question he would not have even listened to in the beginning of this conversation. It is said that you act well only if you are given a very good and powerful script. You yourself are not a witty person.
Moin was taken aback at this accusation and quizzically said, why only me who doesn't rely upon a good script? Then defending himself, said people like Dustin Hoffman and Peter Sailors depend on a good script. And for me being witty or not you can ask Anwar Maqsood. I deliver many dialogues extempore and I have had the privilege of making amendments in Anwar's script. So you can't say that I do not create anything. I have created hundreds of things. Many a people think and say that without Moin these dialogues would be lifeless.
Why do you pressurize junior producers who are in your awe? It is said that only senior producers can direct you because you make junior producers' life hell by interrupting in their work.
Taking offence of the allegation he retorted I do not agree with this. When I entered showbiz I was a weak performer, a week artiste. Then slowly and gradually I turned into an artiste who can give the maximum what his producer or the writer demands. That I learnt not only with my experience, but also by seeking guidance from the senior artistes, writers and producers. So now whenever I work with weak producers or artistes I consider it an obligation to tell them how to do a particular scene or how to deliver specific lines. Because when I was new, I sought guidance from my seniors. It is a team work and I advise them in good faith. But if the same people consider guiding as interfering then I feel sorry for them. I am an easygoing person and do not want to create problems for the producers or the co-stars. I give my producers a professional opinion.
Don't you impose it?
No, no I don't impose anything. I debate with producers if I feel that certain things are not going properly. Believe me I am not at all problematic, he said coolly.
When you had seen many of the very successful television artistes getting miserably failed on the silver screen, why did you risk your career by going to the filmdom?
He averred many of my friends and fans were dead against my joining films. But the point I was trying to make was that we must come forward to entertain our film viewers with some good stuff. I wanted to prove that even today we could make films, which can be seen with the entire family without squirming in embarrassment. I haven't grabbed my heroines. There are no obscene dresses or vulgar dialogues. I had a couple of dances chopped off from the film to make it a family movie.
Once in an interview with Naeem Bukhari you said that there are different phases in the man's life. First it's his hard work that feeds him. Then comes a time when the man en- cashes on his name. But in the third phase the man has to fall back on his work. What is your present phase, name or work? He said for staying in the showbiz one has to be very, very versatile. Monotony is the artiste's death. I have been in showbiz for twenty eight long years, but I feel that I still have to go a long, long way. I am still in the process of grooming. I am still looking forward to an opportunity to do something, which could make me a legend.
To us Moin is a living legend but it is good that he has refused to stay on his laurels.
(By Kokab Farshori)
Life is not a bed of roses
(Pakistan's Magazine EVE)
Moin Akhtar has a twin personality, the former (Moin) being an artiste whereas the latter (Akhtar), is the eldest offspring in the family. At home he is just called Akhtar. Today, Akhtar will interview Moin frankly without any concession whatsoever.
Akhtar- well I know Moin since 1967 when he ventured into the show business as a debutant. Despite being the member of a poor family and without a higher educational background he had a passion to dress up like a big shot because he wanted to do something exceptional in his life with recognition. Groping his way he wanted to become some body with worth. Often returning home late at night he had to bear the bitterness and the beatings from his father, but still he did not give up. One day I tried to make him understand the realties of life and suggested him to either carry on with his studies or do some work to which he pointed out the economic conditions of the family. I replied that Baba (Moin Akhtar's father) had said that if he was ready to continue his education, he (Baba) would sell himself out for his purpose, to which Moin, blunt as he is, at once reacted "I am not a shameless person to auction my father just to pursue my studies," please
Fortunately, in 1967, Dr. Nasim who now owns a hospital in Gulshan sent Moin to the Dow Medical College to perform at the stage and thus began his career. Gradually, Moin became prominent in the city as an artiste and often people would congratulate his father on his performances, but this only added to his father's embarrassment, since in those days show business and the people attached to it were not warmly by the society.
Thirty long years have lapsed since, and now Moin has risen as a super star of performing art in Pakistan. Now I'd like to tell you something about Akhtar. I i.e. Akhtar is a very simple man, whatever given to eat accepts it, wherever offered a place to live bows with humility-no complaints whatsoever. On the contrary, Moin the artiste likes to wear VIP suits, expensive fragrance and perfumes, new styled watches and latest cars. I once asked Moin, my dear you can live a simple an inexpensive life to which he reacted sharply and said "come on! Give me a break, O.K you don't know what is show business- it is all exhibition, an art of showing off, you better mind your own business."
Then, once I saw Moin cheering amidst international personalities like Jordan's King Husain, Gambia's president Mr. Daud Aljawara, president of Pakistan, Gen. Ziaul Haque
and the Pakistani premier, Mr. Mohammad Khan Junejo. He was busy chatting with them in fluent English. Even Gen. Zia introduced him to King Husain and remarked "Your majesty Moin Akhtar is an asset of Pakistan," and Moin touched the heavens and felt pride in him.
|Moin is also fond of pets; he has monkeys, dogs, parrots and pigeons in his house. Moin cheers with them and vice versa. They all become happy when Moin returns home after work. Not coping with Moin's hobbies, his mother once said, my son I will not come to your house if these dogs are not removed because I offer daily Namaz, Moin tried his best to convince mom but did not succeed and finally he had to gift the dogs to one of his friends. That day Moin wept a lot, he lost his dear friends, whom he loved and adored. Moin is by nature a very soft hearted person, he ca not see any one in agony, in trouble and tries his utmost to solve the problems, to help the needy and to share the grievances of the aggrieved. Since he is extremely sensitive, he has survived an heart attack, just because of the scandalous behavior of the people.|
It was in 1992 when Moin was awarded the pride of performance by both the president and prime minister of Pakistan Messrs. Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Nawaz Sharif, respectively Luckily his father watched the ceremony on television felt proud, busted with tears of joy he told mom that today Moin has reached his destiny and achieved his desired goals by the God's grace and mom's prayers and blessing.
(Magazine Society & Screen Pakistan)
Moin Akhtar the ace comedian cum mimic and compere is today most sought after showman with a highly popular image graph of respectability which usually and it is a pity, no comedian in our country enjoys. Ever since he came into show business he had difficulties to establish his true character in perspective. A mimic in paradox, who has now proved himself as an actor of versatile virtues he has faced a crude opposition without legs, by mostly his own colleagues (in complex). That way MA is suffering thru an inner conflict, which perhaps many may not realize. Usually a man who is perfect success in life, think hardly of such side thinks hardly of such side problems. As far as you make a fast buck, you are fully enjoying popularity and are at the zenith of your success that cares about trifle words of dislike.
In his third decade of acting, he is still considered a mimic, a comedian or a stage performer. In this he has no parallel nor there is anyone to challenge him while comparing a show. He gets away with full confidence.
But what a surprise that in whatever roles he has delighted his audience his basic quality has not been his acting prowess but hi s deep sense of observation of a character and how to mimic it. As the late lady principal in Showtime, he had given the impression of how well he had observed the pros and cons of an educationist. The problem was that he had copied well not acted, He appeared on stage but then Umar Sharif had an edge over him although he too over acted but then he did not have the good luck of working without a script. He needed a real good situation to make people laugh.
As a compare of Imran's show in Lahore, he was too good to be believed. Impressed Imran then asked him to compare all his shows. In fact lately Dilip Kumar and Raj Kumar thought there was no better person to make a success of their shows. From Karachi to London and then to USA, he made a name for himself as a compere who can stagger the crowd to hilarious fun and also make a sure success of the show despite some odds that one, has to face. Take for instance Raj Kumar's own silly idea in Dubai. I just don't want to repeat them because I have had an experience of this ego filled actor in Bombay.
For a long time I was trying to have a chat with him and it took a few years and very strong words of compliments for me from Dilip Kumar that he agreed to an interview. The venue was the Cricket Club of India, Bombay. I arrived at the appointed time. He met me with a nice smile, offered me tea and in sympathy
|offered me an envelope containing some heave matter and after giving it, he told me, well here is every thing about me. You don't have to ask me any questions. Just print it. For a minute I was flabbergasted and while I opened the contents I sat down to see what Raj Kumar was. As I scanned thru the article I felt not only berated but also in fact humiliated. There was nothing but adjectives and superlatives about him. Nothing that I did not know about him. So I thanked him for his nice cup of tea and left. Of course with his envelope. And that is what last I saw of him. Moin too had the same problem only that he had no envelope. It was arranged that we would not talk about his date of birth, his career as a whole, kiss wife, kids or his recently engaged daughter. Just an informal chitchat about how busy he is this year.|
But then we began our chat with the good old days when he was struggling very hard to find a place under the sun. The house of late Iqbal Ahmed Khan and mine were the only two places in Karachi where we used to have musical and cultural shows. One Saturday at my house and one Saturday at Iqbal's place. I was then compere of the most popular show on TV "HAR TAAN HAI DEEPAK " and the time when I decided between the two boats. Show business and writing.
I had seen the future of many dwindle since Minerva's super star Sadiq Ali to Meena Shorey. I had also seen the making of many an actors including MA. He used to come regularly with Shaheen Khalil. He started with jokes. Then went to mimicry. Once he compared a show and even sang a song. Society and screen had just come to the forefront and Moin had a place in it. He never got a chance then in films. TV or theatre in a big way it was only thru these tit bits that he sprang up as a versatile personality with a confused identity. In his TV plays he mostly acted as some one else. What a fine actor he was. But then he was destined be first recognized as a compare then as a comedian and now is in the process of finding his place among his colleagues as an actor.
In Studio Dhai, he was once again a mimic. Acting as a Memon, a Pathan, a poet or impersonating Imran. But then Imran did not like it. In fact he was not so good in it. But his other impersonations were superb.
The comments that keep coming about him are not a true reflection of his work as an actor. In Tootsie, I mean Rosy, he has a unique role played in Hollywood by Dustin Hoffman. They say that he did not see Tootsie or Dustin Hoffman although Saira Kazmi had asked him to do so. Rosy was not a comedy play. It had the opposite aspect too. The serious side perhaps a little tragic and this is Moin Akhtar showed his inner talent. But you will be surprised to know that the day Rosy was on air, I rang up many of Moin's friends. No body was home. In fact it took me something to contact a number of performers to find a about their opinion. There seemed not a single person who was frank or honest. One said that the light had gone out and he could not see. The other was busy in a marriage. Others were too busy to press the TV button. And some who did come in concert were diplomatic. Only those who had vested interest with Moin spoke
highly of his performance. The rest said it was not wise of MA to play Dustin Hoffman. Kashan Dustin aur khan Moin. Chay nisbat khak ra ba Alam-e-pak. Imagine Moin playing Dustin Hoffman, one of the greatest actors of our times. He made a mess of Tootsie. But I personally think, Rosy is a milestone in the life of Moin Akhtar.He looked an actor every inch. For a change no mimicry. Both the roles were fascinating. In fact as Haroon has a most difficult role to play and he was extremely involved as a true actor. But again Moin will have to keep doing
such good roles to establish his integrity as an actor and for which he has at present no time. Lets go thru his schedule of activities for the rest of 1992.
He is comparing a show for the Vital Signs. Then he is going to England for Imran's show. By the time you read this article he will be over and done with it. It is at the Wimble Arena were Amitabh held his show. Others taking part in it are Shehky, Hassan Jahangir, Mehnaz, Bushra etc. He takes a hop to America with another team with Saleem Javed, Shakeel, etc. On return he is doing a talk show with Anwar Maqsood. May be again that impersonating people business will take place. So once again that war of conflict. To be or not to be. Then he may get a chance to act in HITLER for NTM. It has Gobbles, Churchill and even Eva Brown. Imagine Mahak Ali playing Eva Brown Life has been tough and I have given little time to my wife and kids. But then they understand the reasons. I want them to have more comforts in life. I want them well educated and established and unless I am busy how can I be of any use to them.
So this is Moin Akhtar, a man who has really worked, single handed to learn and teach himself to achieve what one aims in life. People in the country and the outside world regard him as an entertainer who makes them happy despite the fact that a clown deep inside has tragedies in life. Take Raj Kapoor who tried to prove it in dream film Joker. Being a clown is joke but its no joke being a clown. He is a person who has gone thru the rig ours of life. We now look towards the days when he will totally devote himself to acting and live for acting honors, a tough job.
Moin Akhtar says that he is a professional so it makes no difference whether he is working for PTV or NTM. But since PTV has been base I would prefer PTV on NTM, or for that matter any other channel.
So this is what he has for 1992. He says he thinks 1993 will be a year to show my finer creative talent. May be I will take up direction. I am also having the honor of playing Moin Akhtar. This is a documentary and I would prefer if PTV takes Sahira Kazmi for this work. I am delighted and honored that someone on TV has thought about a documentary on me. I hope it will cover other stars and actors also.
Moin feels that the challenge of media is increasing day by day. With Dish Antenna and worldwide importance of TV, we will have to work hard. In fact when Satellite is launched in Pakistan, it might be expensive but we will be better equipped to face the world.
The show man!
In an interview, veteran actor Moin Akhtar talks about his journey from theatre to films.
Legends never die, and very likewise, 'I want to stay alive in the hearts and minds of the people, even after I am gone, says an ever yearning and ambitious Moin Akhtar.
Moin Akhtar coming from a simple, educated family; one can certainly cut the educated part out for him, which he readily regrets as lacking. Half his family pursued careers in teaching and most of Moin's young life spent in frustration and struggle as his family pushed him to obtain education to undertake the burgeoning responsibilities of his next in kin. Thus, he put aside his dreams which he again wished would become true one day, "it's not in the hands of the human being to realize his dreams without any bases, and therefore I turned to education."
In the end, that's what paid to him, in 1967 while acting 'Shylock' for the school play of 'Merchant of Venice', he achieved the first prize and hence that was the beginning. "It all came accidentally to me, I had never dreamt of acting". His first entertaining performance was at a Dow Medical College function. Whether it was good on his pocket wasn't the question then, because that's where he gained his confidence.
What has he not done is the question? He has been the backbone of the entertainment media in Pakistan to say the least. This man is an innovative genius, a lovable character from
spends most of his time in serenity, reading, philosophizing, and in spiritual enhancement. His popularity ranges from a five year old to an octogenarian, not much needs to be written as a lot is already known. In early days, it was staunchly believed and I still believe that an artiste should not be praised to the extent that he becomes victim to over confidence or pride. All due respect and honor should be beset upon him after his death. I would still go on to say that if Moin were material, I would call him 'priceless'.
Soon he started doing stage dramas, and the transition to television didn't take very long. An actress Santosh Rasal introduced Moin Akhtar to the people whom he would soon become very familiar with or in other words the people working for the tube. Moin recorded his first television program called 'Chor' under the production of Ameer Imam.
The bells tolled for him in 1972, his wife happened to be his maternal cousin who also bore him three daughters and two sons.
It was the other way round for him, most pioneers of television came down from the radio, for him it was the descent, radio did not recognize his efforts as soon as television did. Moin Akhtar was a household name before he even knew it, gained a vast experience of working on radio, television, stage, and theatre. Life not slowly but he was a self made man, "no one is a self made person. Allah makes and breaks everyone", a very stern Moin replied.
With every project he rose to newer heights, accomplished excellence in every field of entertainment, he also was one of the pioneers of theatre, worked with personalities like Zia Mohiuddin who introduced the true concept of theatre in Pakistan. Moin tries to avoid any questions on theatre because for a pioneer, the present state of affairs of the theatre is a crying shame. Television churned out the real Moin Akhtar when it opted him for talk shows. When asked for the reason Moin replied, "no artiste individually can make a production a success. It's always a team effort. But, in my talk shows, it's a one man show, and I control it, no hassle, no intervention". Soon Moin was seen at numerous occasions as a compare. Due to his great comic sense, he proved to be a blast. And now, he is a renowned entertainer the world over, recognized by personalities like Dilip Kumar, Mithun, Govinda.
Perfection is not a very rational term to be used for humans, which certainly means that Moin Akhtar has even faltered, yes and in the field of movies. He appeared as a hero in 'Mr K2'. the movie miserably failed not because Moin looked world apart from the original 'T2' but as he puts it, he succumbed to his obligations and courtesy to friends.
As a senior artiste, Moin speaks out against the stubbornness and lethargic attitude of the younger, generation, reluctance against the will to learn from their seniors, to understand the concept, to culture their minds. Moin very proudly says that he credits Anwar Maqsood, Naeem Bukhari, Zia Mohiuddin for the dignity he has attained to date. According to him, acting is a God gifted talent, not many would have survived without it, and this he backs up with expressing his favorite actor in Nana Patekar.
"They pay us in peanuts", was the reply to an inquiry about remunerations, followed by an expression of disgust. A devoted servant of PTV speaking in such disgust is a sign of disgrace for the concerned authorities; earnings go up in millions whereas the salary structure stands very poorly this is not the complain of one but many artistes.
Moin possess magic, a trace that he spells over the audience while acting, we certainly were very anxious to know more about it. According to him, he first studies the character, the atmosphere, environment surrounding the particular character, visualizes the scenario, all this and more helps him in the true enactment of that character.
This man has changed the meaning of the word 'ambitious'. He is a born entertainer. In the field of entertainment, only one aspect was left out and that was the tuning of the vocal chords. He is at it again, already recorded 80 songs, quality of which has been validated by the great maestro Mehdi Hasan Sahib.
Moin Akhtar is certainly a very changed person now from what he had initially emerged as, a lot more spiritually enhanced, well composed, and now has more substance of content. The turning point in his life came amidst his beaming career as an entertainer.
"I was lost in the obscurity of popularity when Allah showed me the right way," this was the sign through which he feels that the Almighty accepted his performance of j Hajj. The last thing he would yearn for is a mark of prostration on his forehead.
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