KARACHI: Distinguished writer and arguably the most influential television playwright of the country Haseena Moin died of a heart attack on Friday morning. She was 79.

Ms Moin was born on Nov 20, 1941 in Kanpur, India. After independence, her family decided to settle in Pakistan. They first shifted to Punjab for a brief period, after which the family made Karachi, Sindh, their home. Ms Moin studied at the Government College for Women and later in 1963 did her master’s in history from the University of Karachi.

Ms Moin wrote a column for a local journal but soon started writing plays for Radio Pakistan. It was in 1969 that she was offered to pen a drama for Karachi Television on the occasion of Eid. With some trepidation, she wrote the play. It was liked by the viewers.

The first drama serial that she wrote for television was Shehzori, which was based on Azim Beg Chughtai’s story. It was a huge success. It also introduced to Pakistani audiences a female character that was intrepid and spoke her mind without any fear of consequences.

In a way, Ms Moin gave the feminist voice to television heroines. The rest, as they say, is history. It also made Neelofar Aleem, the female protagonist of the serial, an overnight star.

Subsequently, Ms Moin wrote drama serials — both adapted and original — most of which have now attained the status of classics. They include Parchhayan, Uncle Urfi, Ankahi, Tanhaiyan and Dhoop Kinare. She also penned the script for the play Aahat, which focused on maternal health.

In the 1990s her popularity as a writer, especially her witty and meaningful dialogues, attracted attention of filmmakers across the border. One of India’s most celebrated directors, Raj Kapoor, requested her to write the script for a movie.

She obliged and wrote the dialogue for his film Henna (1991). It starred Pakistani actress Zeba Bakhtiar and Rishi Kapoor and was a critically acclaimed box office hit.

In her own country, too, she scripted the Javed Sheikh-directed film Kahin Piyar Na Ho Jaey and dialogue for Usman Pirzada’s Nazdikiyan.

There would hardly be any other Pakistani writer who created such a big number of memorable and timeless characters. Generations have passed since those characters were written, but they’re still etched in viewers’ memories.

The prime example is the character of Sana from the play Ankahi (1992). It was the part of a goofy but confident middleclass girl, effortlessly played by Shahnaz Shaikh. Ankahi is one of the most watched plays on the internet, although it can be seen in bits and pieces and not in whole episodes.

Ms Moin’s heroines were never submissive or demure, though they had their flaws. They brimmed with confidence — the kind of confidence that was not presented on screen until the late writer burst onto the showbiz scene.

Even her male characters are unforgettable. Be it the late Salim Nasir in the role of Mamun in Ankahi, Behroz Sabzwari as Qabacha in Tanhaiyan, Jamshed Ansari as Hasnaat in Uncle Urfi or Shakeel as Uncle Urfi, they are well fleshed-out roles, having their distinct traits — zaniness, wisdom wrapped in wit, or endearingly foolish.

One of the recent projects that Ms Moin was working on was a web series on breast cancer. She had been associated with the Arts Council of Pakistan, Karachi, for quite a few years and was serving as its vice-president.

On a public platform, she was last seen at the council in an event celebrating Pakistan Day (March 23). She was the recipient of the President’s Pride of Performance award.

Ms Moin’s funeral prayers were held on Friday at Masjid Farooq-i-Azam in North Nazimabad, Karachi, after Asr. She was laid to rest in the Sakhi Hasan Graveyard. Hundreds of her admirers and colleagues attended the funeral. Some of the prominent personalities were Iftikhar Arif, Kishwar Nahid, Noorul Huda Shah and Ahmed Shah.

Published in Dawn, March 27th, 2021

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