Charismatic, extravagant, exuberant, humble and larger than life — the legendary Moin Akhtar, an artist of Pakistani television, film and stage, is remembered with love on his 70th birth anniversary today.
Rising to fame with his long-standing double act with writer Anwar Maqsood alongside Bushra Ansari in Loose Talk, the humorist, comedian and impersonator soon became an icon in the era of Radio Pakistan; his legacy living proof that he may be gone, but never forgotten.
In a tribute to honour the memory of the man who was truly one of a kind, here are five facts you may have not known about him.
His father initially disregarded Moin's profession as a disgrace
In the words of Sharjeel Akhtar, his son, "My grandfather, Muhammad Ebrahim, once beat my father with a belt upon discovering that his son was pursuing a career in acting.
However, 35 years later, when the Sitara-e-Imtiaz holder was getting ready for a show that would have the President of the country, General Pervez Musharraf, in its audience, his father asked him if he too, could join.
"My father replied, 'Baba, there is a security protocol. The President’s security detail needs to be informed weeks in advance for such an arrangement. I do not know whether it will be possible.'
And my grandfather said, 'Tumhe kaun rokega? (Who will stop you?)"
One can only imagine the pride felt by his father when the president stood up and informed him that his son was an asset to the nation. From struggling with his family's acceptance to being loved by the nation unconditionally, his was a grand story.
Akhtar had mastered 8 languages in his lifetime
He could speak well, emote well, mimic brilliantly, perform parody, and satirise almost anything and anybody — and if that wasn't enough on its own, Moin Akhtar could do it in eight different languages too.
English, Bengali, Sindhi, Punjabi, Memoni, Pashto, Gujarati and Urdu, the man had fluency in all of these, rolled up his sleeve, making sure to adjust his body posture and move his hands with each character differently. Such command over craft and language remains rarely a sight even today.
His first performance was at the age of 13
Redefining the art of comedy and choosing to shine in a career that lay over the course of 40 glorious years, Akhtar's first performance was at the age of only 13.
He played the character of Shylock, a Venetian Jewish moneylender and the play's principal antagonist, in a rendition of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice — a story exploring stern themes of lending money, hatred as a cyclical phenomenon, friendship, the divine quality of mercy and melancholy. Quite surprising for a comic, wasn't it?
Madame Tussaud's expressed interest in acknowledging the legendary figure
Starring in over 400 episodes of the Loose Talk and depicting a style highly dynamic and versatile, Moin Akhtar's wax statue was reportedly wanted as part of the Madame Tussaud's collection. According to news outlets, the museum had taken note of his countless contributions and contacted his family to communicate their interest.
However, while the son of the late actor did in fact receive a call, he was not sure if it was actually on behalf of an authentic organisation. Had the statue been eventually made, it would be the first of its kind for any Pakistani entertainer. Nevertheless, the offer was declined due to religious reasons.
He took special care that his humour was devoid of vulgarity
Demeaning human beings, using foul language or throwing insults in the way of minorities, races or marginalised members of society were far from Akhtar's style. His impersonations, which were often better than the thespian’s' own acts, were never derogatory.
Instead, his was a show you could enjoy with family — entertainment that could make you laugh, yet consciously self-reflect all at once.
Taking special care that his humour was devoid of any vulgarity, most definitely was a fine quality rendered in one of the greatest artist the subcontinent had the honour of producing. So much to know about the man, who's literal translation of the name “Moin Akhtar” is “A Helpful Star.”