Kon kehta hai k maut aayee to mar jaoonga
Mein tau darya hoon, samandar mein utar jaoonga.
Who says that death will be able to bind me;
Like a river nearing its end, my waters will simply channel into a much larger ocean
This profound couplet from Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi perfectly encapsulates Moin Akhtar’s life and the impact he had on all of us who were lucky enough to watch him in his numerous performances throughout his long life of entertainment.
Since the time he appeared on PTV as a gangly teenager till the time he departed as a suave and sophisticated performer, he warmed the hearts of both young and old. He said in an interview that one of his earliest performances was in front of a young and boisterous college crowd, where they started heckling him as he walked on the stage. He was understandably nervous but took control by addressing the crowd, and telling them that he was a student just like them, and to give him a chance to perform and to then decide whether he needed to be walked off or whether he deserved their accolades.
From that pivotal moment when he started his act to his last appearance, he walked into our lives and became our dearest friend who deserved nothing but the highest accolades. He endeared himself like no other entertainer to the students in that hall and to the spectators of later years who were lucky to catch his live comedy shows all over the world. He mesmerized viewers who stayed glued to the TV whenever Moin made an appearance in a drama or in a talk show. He was the de facto choice for a host for Imran Khan when he was trying to raise capital for his cancer hospital, or whenever PTV celebrated its anniversary, or when a show was arranged for kings/prime-ministers (King Husain, Z. A. Bhutto) or when celebrities such as Dilip Kumar came to visit.
Like a river constantly in motion, Moin’s talents did not hit a limit. When he was not entertaining us with his comedy routines (Rozi, Loose Talk) or serious dramas like Half-Plate — he was behind the scenes writing, directing and producing. And even that was not enough; he had a great voice and was an accomplished, though part-time, singer.
Moin Akhtar shows were not just for entertainment of the masses only but:
He was the host of the show in which King Husain of Jordan was invited.
He was the host of the show in which the Prime minister of Gambia, Dawoodi-Al-Joza, was invited.
He was the host of the show in which President Zia-ul-Haq was invited.
He was the host of the show in which Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was invited.
He was the host of the show in which President General Yahya Khan was invited.
He was the host of the show in which President Ghulam Ishaq Khan was invited.
In his long-lasting partnership with Anwar Maqsood and Bushra Ansari, he explored numerous critical subjects of Pakistan and reproached politicians, bureaucrats and the likes on their lack of action. He did not spare any topic nor any person from his razor-sharp wit. He made us laugh but also made us think. The beauty of Moin was how he could switch in a second from making us laugh to making us sad by showing us the wrongs in our society and people’s apathy to take any positive action. Several episodes of Loose Talk and the drama Half-Plate are some such examples.
People started watching Moin in 1960s, and they will continue to watch him long after his untimely demise last week. We will be deprived of seeing Moin amongst us, but his presence will continue to live with us. Death is never an end for people like Moin; their contribution is channeled into the vast ocean of younger generations waiting to experience his genius.
May God bless your soul, Moin Akhtar, for making us laugh, think and cry!