Punjabi cinema's iconic villain Zahir Shah passes away at 70

Published: June 14, 2017


LAHORE: Renowned Punjabi film actor Zahir Shah was declared dead after being rushed to a hospital on Tuesday night. The 70-year-old was laid to rest in a graveyard near Iqbal Town in Lahore.

Leaving behind a legacy of 600 films, Zahir became popular during the golden era of Punjabi cinema. Having started his career with film-maker Altaf Hussain’s Yaari Dosti and following it up with a string of hits including Jaanbaaz, Qatil, Remaand, Shehnai, Zulm Da Toofan, he is arguably one of the most iconic villains of Punjabi film industry.

Much like his contemporaries, Zahir was left with little choice but to leave the industry after Lollywood’s downfall. He had quit acting but still visited film studios in the hope of a new dawn.

Zahir’s passing brought veterans of Punjabi cinema together, all of whom praised and remembered the late star for his contributions to the industry. “It was because of his talent and hard work that I chose Zahir for so many of my films,” Altaf told The Express Tribune. “He managed to carve his own niche and became a star whose acting style was copied by many others.”

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Altaf’s sentiments were echoed by actor Ashi Khan. “Zahir Shah was a teacher to all of us, especially actors who played villains more often. He was the purest villain of Punjabi cinema. It’s tragic how he had to face so much hardship after the downfall of the industry.”

Renowned stage and film actor Sheeba Butt recalled Zahir’s easy-going nature, saying he was a very “cool” person. “It cannot be denied that Zahir Shah was a very, very humble man. Outside of work, he was a very cool person to hang out with, one who never had any issue or any fights with his friends or colleagues,” she said of the late artist.

According to Sheeba, theatre was the next best option for Zahir, following the crisis in Lollywood. Being a senior actor, the Kalia star was even given a lot of respect and work in Lahore’s theatre circuit but even that could not make him feel at home. “Zahir left theatre soon,” explained Sheeba. “He always thought he was made for films and couldn’t do justice to any other medium.”

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