Obaidullah Baig: Pakistan loses its ‘Kasauti’ champion

Published: June 22, 2012
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Baig’s friends say he was an unmatched genius.

Baig’s friends say he was an unmatched genius.

KARACHI: 

You could be talking about a character from ancient mythology; a river that no longer exists, a rare breed of animal in the Amazon or an invention that changed the world – for Obaidullah Baig, it was simply a matter of 20 questions.

At a time when the search engine was not born, Baig was Pakistan’s Google personified. But alas, the spectacular documentary film-maker and true genius passed away in Karachi on Friday. He was 75. He leaves with us a suitcase of fond memories of unparalleled and thought-provoking programmes, something that TV personalities can only hope to give back to Pakistani television.

A Pakistani sensation

The year was 1967; the man that brought him to the forefront was Aslam Azhar, and the brilliant question-answer show was christened “Kasauti”. All of Pakistan became obsessed with its mastermind, Obaidullah Baig.

“Today, we complain about the lack of intellectually relevant programming. But I am afraid it was only possible with an unmatched genius like Baig,” Ghazi Salahuddin, a renowned scholar and journalist told The Express Tribune.

In the first transmission of “Kasauti”, popular Urdu poet Iftikhar Arif and Quresh Pur were on the team with Baig. Salahuddin, who replaced Arif in the 90s, said he felt honoured to have worked with Baig, whom he considers a dear friend.

“I used to tell him: mein ne Iftikhar ki jagah sirf is liye lee hai, keh aapko nazar na lag jaye (I replaced Iftikhar simply to keep you safe from the evil eye),” jokes Salahuddin.

The Baig-Salahuddin tagteam brought a new flavour to the show, as both members of the team were quite well-versed in a variety of subjects, particularly history, current affairs and literature. “Ours was a very different type of guessing team,” recalls Salahuddin. “With Arif and him (Baig), a lot of the knowledge overlapped. But since I was more into news and current affairs, we had our areas of focus and we enjoyed that diversity.”

It may come as a surprise that Baig had no formal education after his intermediate education. Later in his life, he ventured into documentary film-making and has to his credit the privilege of making the most number of documentaries on wildlife for Pakistani television.

“He was an amazing film-maker with a brilliant vision. The documentaries he made for PTV in the 70s were the best work of that era,” says Salahuddin fondly.

His former teammate, Arif, however, prefers to refer to Baig as Habib — the name used by his mother.

“Whenever we were on the set, I used to call out to him: Bhai Habib, Bhai Habib and people would laugh and wonder why I am calling him Bhabi, Bhabi!” recalls the poet.

Arif, who is counted as one of the most celebrated poets of the country, believes that Baig played a pivotal role in his life.

“He was more like an elder brother to me than a friend,” says Arif. “His words and the time I spent with him will always remain to be a source of inspiration for me.”

When Arif and Baig started “Kasauti”, they never expected it to be such a sensation in both East and West Pakistan. But despite all the magic the duo created, Arif says that it was all because of Baig and his brilliant memory.

“He needed no search engine; he needed no cues and no teleprompter. He was an encyclopedia in himself. I have yet to see a man so well-read in all disciplines,” says Arif.

Apart from his documentary work and “Kasauti”, Baig also ventured into writing a number of books under different pen names. When writing about history, he was Tughral Turkman; in hunting adventures he was Jim Junior and for novels he wrote as Habibullah Baig.

From popular novels like Aur Insaan Zinda Hai to his countless TV programmes on Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, what Baig gave to us is priceless. It may take a lifetime for Pakistan to produce another gem like him.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2012.

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Reader Comments (36)

  • hina
    Jun 22, 2012 - 9:07PM

    RIP

    i remember i used to watch his programme during my chilhood…it really increased my knowledge

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  • Afsos
    Jun 22, 2012 - 9:13PM

    May Allah Rest Your Soul in Peace! Ameen.

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  • Chengez K
    Jun 22, 2012 - 9:16PM

    True follower of Quad-i-Azam

    Unity,Faith, Discipline

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  • manzar
    Jun 22, 2012 - 9:28PM

    May his soul rest in peace…people like him are rare today…

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  • Sanaa
    Jun 22, 2012 - 9:29PM

    It may take a lifetime for Pakistan to produce another gem like him.
    RIP Sir! u were an inspiration!

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  • Fahad Raza
    Jun 22, 2012 - 9:30PM

    We lost a genuine intellectual today. Inna Lilahe Wa ina Elehi Raajeooon

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  • Jun 22, 2012 - 9:37PM

    I had hoped his obituary would be much more detailed. Such basic obutaries, i think, were not liked by Mr. Baig. But ALLAH knows better.

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  • Adnan
    Jun 22, 2012 - 9:37PM

    What a star! This man brought knowledge and entertainment to the homes of countless millions in Pakistan. His self-effacing personality, lightning fast mind and razor sharp wit- all combined to make him a true Pakistani TV celebrity in the best sense of the word.

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  • Rizwan Tariq
    Jun 22, 2012 - 9:44PM

    Pakistan has lost an intellectual. He was a genius, elegant and educational personality. RIP

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  • Zainti
    Jun 22, 2012 - 9:46PM

    it is sad to know that a personality as stunning as his will never appear in the media again…
    may he find his place in Heaven.

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  • FAIYAZ
    Jun 22, 2012 - 9:53PM

    Good recap of Ubaid’s achievements through the lens of his two colleagues and friends. His towering personality, intellect, infectious mannerism and most importantly his love of inquiry (and the process) which he brought to millions of Pakistanis (including myself) has been etched for ever. May Allah bless his soul and afford Pakistan another Ubaid ullah Baig…soon.

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  • Ayesha Vellani
    Jun 22, 2012 - 10:11PM

    I worked closely with Baig Sb while at IUCN in 1997 and will always remember the the long, long drives in the field made shorter and much more bearable by endless rounds of live “kasauti”! I’ve never met anyone like OB since and probably won’t meet anyone like him again. May the Almighty give his family, especially Fatima, the strength to bear his absence. Aameen.

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  • M.S.Shaikh
    Jun 22, 2012 - 10:17PM

    Another asset lost. He was a reason for my proud patriotism. Now I have to do with PM RPA!

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  • Jun 22, 2012 - 10:24PM

    He was an exceptional man, humble to the core and genuine intellectual. Beside documentaries on wild life he wrote two brilliant novels, AUR INSAN ZINDA HAI and RAJPUT.

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  • muhammad tariq zafar
    Jun 22, 2012 - 10:37PM

    GREAT MAN.ALLAH MA GIVE HIM PLACE IN JANNAT.

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  • aafat
    Jun 22, 2012 - 10:43PM

    WHAT a loss, what a loss.
    Pakistan at its best – that, in my opinion, encapsulates Obaidullah Baig.
    Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raaji’uun.

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  • Syme
    Jun 22, 2012 - 10:46PM

    RIP

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  • Mohammad Ali Siddiqui
    Jun 22, 2012 - 11:10PM

    Pakistan has lost a very learned person.

    I use to watch his TV program “Kasuati” and have increased my information and knowledge.

    May Al-Mighty Allah rest his soul in peace. Ameen

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  • Atiq ur Rahman
    Jun 22, 2012 - 11:35PM

    It was a real loss not only to our country but to our s
    ociety as well

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  • Jun 22, 2012 - 11:53PM

    RIP Sir. You will be missed.

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  • Saman Aref
    Jun 22, 2012 - 11:54PM

    Mr Obaidullah Baig was my khaloo,known as ob Baba. Im so proud to have been related to him. Never have i seen or heard him complain about anything or anyone in life. All he did was distribute his immense love and integrity. His memories will always be cherished in our hearts. May his soul find the best place in jannat. Amin

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  • Saman Aref
    Jun 22, 2012 - 11:59PM

    Mr Obaidullah Baig was my known as ob Baba was my khaloo.i am so proud to be related to him. Never have i seen or heard him complain about anything or anyone. All he did was spread his treasure of love among everyone.his memories will always be cherished and he will always stay in our hearts. May his soul rest in peace and he is granted a special place in jannat. Amin

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  • Saeed
    Jun 23, 2012 - 12:28AM

    Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raaji’uun.
    May Allah rest his sould in peace…. we love you Obaid Sahib.

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  • Asad Shairani
    Jun 23, 2012 - 1:31AM

    Dhoondo ge agar mulkon mulkon, milne ke nahi nayaab hein hum.

    They don’t make them like him anymore. May he rest in peace.

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  • Pakistani
    Jun 23, 2012 - 1:31AM

    RIP Sir….

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  • Pakistanee
    Jun 23, 2012 - 2:24AM

    May his soul rest in peace and may Allah subhanaut-taala grant him jannah. We have lost an immense treasure of knowledge, a legendary figure and the nicest and most humble person.

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  • Adeel
    Jun 23, 2012 - 2:46AM

    He was an inspiration for my generation. TV was new and we used to be glued to the box. Kasauti and the amazing knowledge of this man, never failed to amaze me. Underscored talent, man who never boasted about it; so rare these days. May he RIP.

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  • Shahrukh kazmi
    Jun 23, 2012 - 3:24AM

    Sir you were a legend and though you are not with us any more, we Pakistani’s respect you like anything, i miss Kasauti, i miss loose talk, i miss Sub set hai, i miss old times.
    Rest in Peace sir

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  • Nadeem Shah
    Jun 23, 2012 - 6:00AM

    I have vague but fond memories of watching the Kasuati duo as a child, watching those black and white programmes growing up in the 70s, what a pleasure it was, today there are hundreds of shows but nothing to watch.

    These legends of Pakistan had so much to share, where are people of this caliber anymore? Will our education system produce such diamonds again? Will the corrupt media allow such people to come on without sifarish…. the current crop of faces on desi channels are like a circus,.

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  • Qadir Qureshi
    Jun 23, 2012 - 6:39AM

    A true intellectual. Obaidullah Baig sahab was an encyclopedia, a Wikipedia with wealth of knowledge & literal collection. He spread knowledge through his brilliance & persona. just look at the valuable piece of work he has left behind for generations to get benefit out of it.

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  • Qadir
    Jun 23, 2012 - 6:41AM

    Very well said Adeel

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  • Abdul Jabbar
    Jun 23, 2012 - 7:20AM

    Sad news for people who know him since kasauti days, He was a living enclypedia,
    May Allah place him in Jannat. Ameen.

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  • Rana
    Jun 23, 2012 - 9:31AM

    Praise worthy human being! Allah All Mighty may shower his blessings upon him.

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  • Fasih ul Haque
    Jun 23, 2012 - 11:19AM

    Indeed a great loss for Pakistan. I used to saw Kasuti and always impressed by his knowledge. May Allah rest his soul in Jannah.

    Sad to see that our media showed all day news about corrupt politicians but not a single program on such a great intellectual of Pakistan.

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  • a rehman
    Jun 23, 2012 - 1:00PM

    A great intellect and genius. There is a need to produce such good programs, like Kasuti, now a days.

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  • Muhammad Saleem Siddiqie
    Jul 6, 2012 - 12:02PM

    Its really a great loss for our nation. He was a man who can be listened for hours when he was talking on any topic of hisory including islamic history and pakistan movement due to his simple and unique style of discussing

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