Mourning the loss of Pakistan’s Johny Walker – Ismail Tara

Tara possessed the magical ability to turn all frowns, upside down with his wit and vitality

Adnan Lodhi/Asfa Sultan November 25, 2022


Born in Karachi on November 16, 1949, Ismail Tara possessed the magical ability to turn all frowns, upside down with his wit and vitality. Since starting his career in 1980, he contributed massively to the local entertainment industry with popular stage plays, television dramas and films. But he was largely famous for his comedy.

Rising to fame with Fifty Fifty, a TV show that Tara not only acted in but also ended up writing the script for, he went on to perform in the hit 1993 film Haathi Mere Saathi, alongside Reema Khan, John Rambo, Sahiba Afzal and veteran Shafqat Cheema. His impeccable comic timing, lustrous onscreen presence and larger-than-life persona earned him the title of the ‘Pakistani Johny Walker’. His role in the film even landed him his first Nigar Award.

Tara then bagged the prestigious award four more times for his comic performances in Aakhri Mujra (1994), Munda Bigra Jaye (1995), Chief Sahib (1996) and Deewarein (1998). His last appearance on the silver screen was as recent as 2015 in the Nadeem Baig directorial Jawani Phir Nahi Aani. While the veteran actor has more stage plays and films under his belt, it is said that television was his favourite medium. His last series, Woh Pagal Si, aired earlier this year in July.

Tributes pour in for the star

Several have been mourning Tara’s passing since news of his demise surfaced on Thursday evening. He was not only an exceptional actor with excellent work ethic, but also a jolly, fun-loving individual, admired by plenty in private. "It is a tragic news for me and I have no words to express my sorrow over the death of Ismail Tara,” veteran actor Bushra Ansari told The Express Tribune. “It is a painful time for me as our colleagues in the industry have started leaving one by one. But every one has to die some day,” she lamented.

“Ismail Tara was a great artist and man. I had the fortune of working with him and the pleasure of being in his company. I think that this was not the time for us to say good bye to him; I think he left too soon. But it was God’s will, and we can only send him our prayers,” she concluded.

Playwright Asghar Nadeem Syed reminisced how Ismail Tara has only ever brought joy to everyone’s lives, including his. “But by leaving so suddenly, he has, for the first time, left me in sorrow,” delved Syed. “Whenever I have spoken to him, he’d be smiling. I never saw him sad. His time in the industry is not a brief period. I have been a witness to his four decades in the industry and I believe that it is not easy for anyone to stay in a profession like ours for so long and not let it dim their own light.”

Syed recalled how Tara would “supervise” himself, even under trying times. “It was a misfortune that Majid Jahangir could not move forward with Tara but Tara continued to contribute maximally to the stage, film and TV,” he concluded.

Veteran actor Rashid Mahmood also chipped in. "Ismail Tara was among those few entertainment professionals who remained associated with their careers till their last breath. He was a pillar of this showbiz fraternity and was among those whom people from across the borders idealised. His death is a big loss for our industry and he will be missed forever.”

Stage actor Shiba Butt remembered Tara as the shining star his name made him out to be. "Ismail Tara was the only star shinning in the industry at a time when there was only PTV. But he was also a bright star of film and theatre, attracting families and folks of all kinds back in the day. His name was an instant crowd puller and he was an ideal artist. No doubt his death is a black and sad day for us.”

Grief on the internet

A dark cloud of grief has loomed over the internet since news of Tara’s demise surfaced. Celebrities have been lamenting the loss of laughter and void left with the actor’s passing. “My dearest friend, actor and a legendary comedian Ismail Tara has passed away in Karachi. May Allah grant him the highest place in Jannah,” tweeted veteran actor Jawed Sheikh.

Adnan Siddiqui remembered Tara as a “veteran in every sense of the word.” He tweeted, “Ismail Tara sahab redefined comedy with his trendsetter Fifty Fifty. The nation will remember you for making them smile through the 80s and beyond. May Allah grant you higher place in Jannah.”

Actor Ali Rehman Khan chimed in, “He [Tara] redefined comedy. Embodied each character with honesty, integrity and heart. Brought smiles to millions around the country and made us yearn for more. His passing is tragic and heartbreaking. He will be missed dearly but will live on in our hearts forever.”

Saba Qamar also fell short of words to express her grief. “Sad to know about demise of our legend star Ismail Tara. My deepest condolences to his family,” she shared on the micro-blogging site.

Actor Nabeel Zafar shared a post with the late star’s photo on Instagram. He captioned it, “Indeed, we belong to God and to God we shall return. May Allah grant [Ismail Tara] a higher place in Jannah.”

Yasir Hussain followed suit. Under a photo of Tara he wrote, “RIP Ismail Tara sahab. Jab bhi film TV ya stage pe koi camedy Kary ga us mai aap ki jhalak zaroor aye gi (Whenever somebody does any comedy on film, television or the stage, they will serve as a reflection of you).”

Senior actor Simi Raheal, wrote in an Insta Story, “Another gem gone!”

Singer Adnan Sami also tweeted, “Ismail Tara sahab… Can’t believe he’s passed away. He was a comedic genius. We are ever grateful to him for making our lives joyful through his humour. My heartfelt condolences… May Allah SWT bless him in Jannat-ul-Firdaus.”

Vasay Chaudhry wrote, “RIP, Tara sahab. So, so many memories of being a fan of his wit, comic timing in 50/50 and then working with him in rubber band, Main Hoon Shahid Afridi, and Jawani Phir Nahi Aani.

Chaudhry Fawad Hussain also tweeted, “Our generation grew up watching Ismail Tara – a big drama like Fifty Fifty is to his credit. Ismail Tara's death is the end of an era. God bless you.”

Asad Siddiqui, Shahroze Sabzwari, Sana Shahnawaz, Sana Javed, Hira Mani, Ghana Ali, Azaan Sami Khan, Adeel Hussain offered a prayer for the deceased and shared their condolences on their Instagram Stories.

Tara’s death

Ismail Tara passed away in Karachi on Thursday evening after suffering from kidney problems, Express News reported. He was 73. According to details, he was being treated at a private hospital in the port city. The famous actor was placed on the ventilator Thursday morning.

His funeral prayer was offered at Karachi in which a large number of his fans and peoples from the industry participated.

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