At work at a recording studio - Photos by the writer
At work at a recording studio - Photos by the writer

It started with a commercial in the late ’80s on PTV: an animated mosquito fails to bite a person who has Mospel (a brand of mosquito repellant) applied on his body. The tagline of the TVC (television commercial) was extraordinary, and the voice delivering it, out of this world. “Machhar aap se door, rehnay par majboor [Mosquitoes have no choice but to stay away from you].”

Many like me, back then, fell in love with Pervez Bashir’s voice the moment he uttered in his silky tones: “Abbott ka Mospel jism per mal lene say machhar aap ko kaat nahi sakta [Mosquitoes won’t bite you if you apply Abbott’s Mospel on your body].”

PB to his friends, colleagues and the entire industry, Pervez Bashir tragically passed away on March 18 after complications related to multiple subdural hematomas. Young people used to mimic PB’s style, the older among them tried to pronounce and enunciate words as he did, and the senior lot all but believed him. In the early days of audio cassettes, a big number of listeners became interested in Western music only because PB hosted radio shows that played English songs.

Born in 1949 in Karachi, PB studied at the Marie Colaco School, St Patrick’s School and DJ Science College before enrolling at the Dawood University of Engineering and Technology. The eldest of three brothers and two sisters, PB joined Radio Pakistan in 1967, after becoming a metallurgical engineer. He remained associated with his alma mater as a lecturer for over a decade, but his first love remained the airwaves and broadcast television.

Many tried to imitate him but none could match the quality, command and versatility of voice artist Pervez Bashir, who passed away March 18

After a brief stint as an English newscaster — remember the tasveeri khabarnama [pictorial news bulletin] screened in English in cinemas? — he quickly became the preferred voice for radio and television advertisments. He left his contemporaries behind with his excellent narration in both English and Urdu.

Pervez Bashir (PB) during his younger days
Pervez Bashir (PB) during his younger days

PB was heard advising the use of Molty Ortho for back pain, promoting Mitchell’s jams, jellies and marmalades, presenting English Biscuits as “biscuits of another kind”, or simply voicing the Peek Freans’ Pied Piper TVCs. Together with his deep and clear voice, he had an excellent command over words. PB’s booming voice affected viewers so much that it was impossible to say ‘Philips’ without mentioning “technology with style.”

Famous commercials of Gogo paan masala, Tulsi, K&N’s chicken and hara hara Pakola ice-cream soda were often repeated in PB’s distinct vocal style, while documentary filmmakers also preferred PB for their projects.

One of the veterans in the field of advertising, Saeed Shiraz, says he knew PB since his school days. “We started our careers together and PB was always on board whenever I had a project. Our best work was done in Uganda, when we went there for a documentary. We were the only crew from Pakistan and he was a big help. When the film Jinnah needed to get dubbed, I was assigned the task. Naturally, I took PB on board and he did a commendable job. PB was the voice of Nehru, Jinnah’s nemesis,” recalls Shiraz.

PB in his latter days
PB in his latter days

With changing times, PB also adapted and grew. In the days of audio cassettes, PB did Sartaj Geetmala, quite similar to the legendary Ameen Sayani’s Binaca Geetmala. With Pulse Global rental videos, PB was involved in the dubbing of hits such as Batman and Demolition Man, to name just a few. He also ran a very successful pre- and post-production studio, the first being Focus International in the ’80s, and BTV in the ’90s and onwards.

This was before the advent of digital media, where all production was completed on sophisticated and world-class equipment. With the advent of private television channels, PB co-hosted a show, Weekend Brunch, on Indus TV but remained a regular with FM channels. When English movies were dubbed for various TV channels in Urdu, the services of PB were utilised for films such as Braveheart, Dr Zhivago and The Message.

An ally of PB for over 40 years, filmmaker Basit Mirza calls him a thorough gentleman, someone with a high IQ, and an excellent voice with a superb command over language. Basit Mirza and PB also produced Ilzam, a 17-episode serial on NTM, starring Noman Ijaz and Laila Wasti, back in 1997.

Fauzia Khuhro, who voiced dozens of ads and documentaries with PB for over 20 years, is all praise for PB’s professionalism and the way he played with his voice.

Filmmaker Saeed Rizvi, the man behind numerous TVCs in the days when PB ruled the airwaves, broke down while recalling his memorable days with PB during a telephonic conversation with this writer.

The artist with his trademark camera in hand
The artist with his trademark camera in hand

With his production company BTV, PB also produced a lot of content for the military’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR). “He was the first civilian to enter the premises of the Pakistan nuclear plant KANUPP and, when PTV failed to capture the launch of the Shaheen Missile, PB was roped in to do the needful,” recalls his sister Lilly Khan, who used to appear with her brother on the Medora of London Music Show on radio. PB was truly an all-rounder; writing, dubbing and direction came to him naturally.

Most people in Pakistan may never have met or seen PB but his was a voice that most would have been instinctively familiar with, having heard it for over half a century on radio and television. He will always be remembered as a giant in the world of voice-overs.

He embodied one of the famous lines he once narrated: Nisf sadee se aala mayaar ki zamanat — a guarantee of sound quality for half a century.

Published in Dawn, ICON, April 11th, 2021

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