April 22 was the day laughter died. Moin Akhtar, one of the most beloved comics and actors ever to grace the stage and television screens of Pakistan, passed away at the age of 60. It is nearly impossible to do justice to his versatility. Be it through satire or mimicry, slapstick or song, Moin Akhtar had a comedic range that will surely never be matched in Pakistan. He was awarded both the Sitara-i-Imtiaz and the Pride of Performance by the government, but the true measure of his genius will be shown by the emptiness we all feel at the news of his passing.
Moin Akhtar made his debut at the young age of 16, wowing audiences with his stand-up comedy on a variety show on state-owned television. For the next 40 years, he never stopped making us laugh. It is impossible to list the sheer number of memorable performances he delighted us with but among the highlights were TV shows Bandar Road se Keamari, Eid Train and of course Rosie, where he did the Pakistani version of Dustin Hoffman’s Tootsie. Apart from his acting, which encompassed television, movie and theatre, Akhtar was renowned for his impersonations. From Waheed Murad to Dilip Kumar, he had a knack for mimicking the celebrities of our time, although he played it strictly for laughs with nary a hint of malice. It is a testament to his genius that no matter what character he played, whether in drag or playing off stereotypes, he remained gracious and charming, never resorting to vulgarity or cheap laughs.
Despite being the consummate showman, Moin Akhtar never hogged the limelight. In fact, one his greatest assets was that he brought out the best in those around him. Few will forget his partnership with Anwar Maqsood and Bushra Ansari on the sketch comedy show Studio 2½, and his later interview show Loose Talk with Maqsood. His work with Umer Sharif on stage shows like Buddha Ghar Pe Hai and Bakra Qiston Pay was so legendary that it has become a staple fare to watch even now.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 23rd, 2011.