With Moin Akhtar, a piece of my childhood dies

Published: April 23, 2011

Moin Akhtar was a huge part of our sense of cultural belonging.

Those who remember the 80s well will also be familiar with the brilliance that existed on Pakistan Television (PTV) at that time. In days of severe censorship and fear of the government, PTV (especially its Karachi centre) always found ways of subverting the system and poking fun at the dictator and his lackeys.

There were three names, Anwar Maqsood, Bushra Ansari and Moin Akhtar, who were the mainstay of such satire where things had to be said subtly in order pass through the censor board.

In a rather twisted bit of irony, PTV’s golden days of comedy died with Ziaul Haq. Maqsood and Akhtar’s later attempts to reignite the magic always seemed lacklustre in comparison to the greatness of their heydays.

“Loose Talk” was no match for “Show Time” or “Studio 2 ½”.

To me, even “Rozee” is a character from the declining days of the great comedian.

What I will remember Moin Akhtar most for, was his debonair presence as the host of many stage shows. His flawless delivery of lines in Urdu and his confident baritone reached straight into the hearts of millions of Pakistanis who all watched the same television channel each night. This collective partaking of just one source of news and entertainment created a unique Pakistani cultural identity more real for the post-partition generation than the two-nation theory. Akhtar was a huge part of that sense of cultural belonging.

His death yesterday, felt like the death of another piece of my childhood. As a Pakistani, I had an inevitably politically aware and cerebral childhood, thanks to the satire of such subtlety and wit being a part of our everyday existence.

My fondest recollection of Akhtar is from the 1985 6th PTV Awards – undoubtedly the best live ceremony ever conducted by PTV. Shoaib Mansoor’s script and Moin Akhtar’s deadpan delivery of some ageless gems made it an unforgettable evening for all of Pakistan – one whose star appeal, grandeur and unparalleled entertainment value has never been matched since.

One video from the awards night shows the crowd’s thunderous applause at being made fun of – to have Moin Akhtar acknowledge you from that grand PTV stage was enough cause for glee, even if you were the target of that fun.

However, in another the video that struck me in an entirely different manner is a more recent one, which shows a rather grave and tired looking Moin Akhtar. In the clip, he talks with the sageness of a man who has seen much in life. Yet, since he is Moin Akhtar, he still has the ability to subvert and surprise.

During the interview, Akhtar completely turns the table on a question by the host regarding the Pakistani youth, to which the host is expecting a run of the mill answer. Akhtar, however, unlike many of our 80s and 90s heroes who have either turned Tableeghi or Sufi or live in other shades of denial, chooses to answer with refreshing honesty and heartfelt depth. That his anger is born out of love is evident in the way he speaks. Along with the many hours of laughter Moin Akhtar has provided me with, this act of plain speaking endeared him even more to me.

Dear sir, thank you for your humanity. Rest in peace.

This post was originally published here.

Sabahat Zakariya

Sabahat Zakariya

An English Literature teacher at Lahore Grammar School who freelances for various publications. Her personal blog can be accessed at sabahat24.blogspot.com

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • http://www.backspacetab.com regin out

    The title of your article is the best one to remember this great man. I feel the same that a part of childhood is no more with me. People like Moeen are indeed part of our memories and will always remain. Recommend

  • sana

    this is the perfect genre for you, sabahat. Recommend

  • Happy Man

    ET: Any final words on your contribution to Pakistani comedy?

    MA: Everything I did is a part of history now. To live with history is difficult but there will be people, who will say one day, “There was a man who did it and did it so differently.”Recommend

  • Saad

    I can feel the pain , ! the shows like 50 50 ! studio 2 1/2, half plate , loose talk and the other duet plays of Moin Akhter n Anwar Maqsood made me laugh ! and I feel like I have lost something !
    may Allah Bless you ! and May You rest i Peace ! (Ameen)Recommend

  • khurram hasan

    I am extremly sad today, Moin Akhtar was not just a legend and a great artist of our country but more than that, he was and he is a great man and kind hearted person. He was indeed an angel in a man !!! Recommend

  • shagufta

    Moin akhter is my happy childhood memory when there was craze of ptv heroes.50 50. show time yes sir no sir comedy comedy these show r piece of child hood. and now my crying .He was a genious and a legend no match of him.these golden people who brings happiness in our life they become part of our life,” wo hamary zindgeion ma shamil hoty hae” though we never met. I was crying watcing his death news .Tears flowing just becoz cant see him again…
    May Allah rest his soul in heaven.Recommend

  • Fuad

    So true, our childhoods were filled with laughter and memories which are slowly being buried with passing time.

    Our children will never experience the same prime time fun, on the contrary they are exposed to talk shows with political gladiators and media moguls who only preach gloom and doom.

    RIP Moeen Akhtar and thank you for making us laugh. It must be painful for you to see your fans crying today.

    Your sweet memory remains etched in our hearts.Recommend

  • Khalid Masood

    Wonderful article about a wonderful man.

    As a young man I remained an admirer of Moin Akhtar.

    He was a patriotic person with great love for his country.

    I met him few times and he left inspiring imprint always.

    Once in Malir, we arranged a musical program for troops wanted Moin to act as host/anchor.

    He did not tell us but he was already booked for PM house Isb on same date and time. That was during the time of BB’s first government.

    Moin apologized powerful people at Islamabad and joined the program arranged for military troops – It was courageous and it was for the love of his country.

    Later on we came to know about this and this gesture enhanced the respect for Moin in my heart and mind manifold.
    I salute him – he is no longer with us but he will remain in the hearts and minds of all Pakistanis- Allah may rest his soul in eternal peace.Recommend

  • Aliya Zafar

    Moin Akhter was a great artist.His space can not be fill by any one.Recommend

  • Salman Ahmed

    Moin Akhtar was a greatest artist in Pakistan Industry.! No one could ever take his place in this era.! May Allah rest his soul in peace. AmeenRecommend

  • tania

    Moin Akhtar has lived his life well.It was his time to leave this world, may Allah grant him an even greater success in his eternal life.May Allah grant his family with patience, so that they can bear this loss.We all are going to leave this world at one point in time, we can’t do anything about it, all we can do is to do our best in this life and earn something for the hereafter as well.
    I think Moin Akhtar achieved all in this world and I pray for his success in the hereafter.Lets not shed tears but offer prayers instead.Recommend

  • Silent Spectator

    With Moin Akhtar, a piece of my childhood dies“, that aptly says it all. Well written article with some valid points. I also believe that I lost a piece of my childhood with Moin Akhtar’s death. May his soul rest in peace and Allah (SWT) give his family the courage to deal with this tragedy.Recommend

  • http://www.pkhope.com Maleeha Khan

    Moin Akhter Gr8 Artist!!! a very big loss to industry…. May his soul rest in peace Ameen!Recommend

  • http://wasioabbasi.wordpress.com Wasio Ali Khan Abbasi

    The other day I was saying to a friend that some things are constant in life and we ignore them after a while, believing that they’ll be there. Our parents, friends, teachers, relatives, idols and icons etc. It isn’t until we lose them for good that we realize their importance in our lives. Those of us born in 80s or in late 70s, remember Moin Akhtar, Omer Sharif and Anwar Maqsood on their splendid performance on stage, tv and even movies during 80s and early 90s. They certainly made a huge impact on the otherwise suppressed masses and unified people on many levels through laughter. Our generation learned a lot from the likes of Moin Akhtar and really, the title is aptly fitting, it’s like part of childhood has died. He was a constant of our entertainment industry, someone who is ALWAYS there, and now he is no more.
    The current and upcoming generations have no idea what they are missing. I am sure they’ll be laughing their asses off with the likes of Russell Peters, but they will be completely missing the part of awareness and character development that accompanied the entertainment that our genius comedians provided.Recommend

  • hina

    moin akhtar was greatest………………human in jaisa na koi ta or na shayad koi ae ga kabhi allah unhe janat ma jaga dy bs hm ab dua he kr sktay ha .Recommend

  • Ahsan Akhtar

    Actors are known from their one or two characters. If we even talk about Charlie Chaplin, he was known with his only one way of acting…. But the legend Moin Akhtar, I can bet that he was the only one who has done hundreds of characters and each character would be known for ages…
    We all will miss you – Moin !!!Recommend

  • salma subhani

    the death of moeen akhter is not only the death of an artist for me but it is like as if some one v near n dear has passed away,v will never forget him or allah unhain buhut achy mukam py rukhy
    ,ameenRecommend

  • Ravi Shankar Swami

    very well written article.. Moin Akhter sir was not only a great comedian but a brilliant versatile actor, and such an honest speaker and true gentleman.. still in in disbelief.. one of my heroes is no more… feels like as if a family member has gone.. may his soul rest in peace.. Amen.. miss u n luv uRecommend

  • Zia

    I love your title, says it all. Recommend

  • http://ptcl adilahmed

    my best smart acter moin Akhter n my lovely acter Recommend

  • Siddiqui

    Absolutely right, I feel the same now. Gone are the days… I still miss all those Karachi center Moin Akhter/Anwar Maqsood shows, and that comedy show 50/50, those dramas:Ankahi, Dhoop Kinaray, Tahnhayian…. sighRecommend

  • Benish

    Beautiful piece of writing… You have expressed exactly my feelings. Soon after his death, we got to watch that PTV award show again on youtube and also viewed the same clip of the recent interview you have mentioned. Anyone born in 80s, cannot recall his/her childhood sunbtarcting Mr Akhter. May Allah rest his soul in peace, Ameen.Recommend

  • WAQAR SHAFI

    Moin AKHTER was our asset Recommend

  • Ravi Shankar Swami

    Really.. the title says it all.. the aura cannot be created again…Recommend