KARACHI: Distingui­shed actor, director and the man who popularised poetry recitation in the co­u­ntry elevating it to the level of an unparalleled art form in Urdu literature, Zia Mohyeddin passed away on Monday. He was admitted at a local hospital for the past few days, where he had a minor but successful procedure but later had an unfortunate relapse that caused his death. He was 91. He leaves behind his wife and a dau­ghter, and three sons from two previous marriages.

His funeral was held at the Imam Bar­gah Yasrab, DHA Phase IV after Zohrain prayers on Monday. He was then laid to rest in the DHA Phase VIII graveyard.

Some accounts suggest that Mr Mohyeddin was born on June 20, 1931 in Lyallpur (now Faisalabad) in British India. But those closer to him, including his nephews Ateed and Nav­eed Riaz, believe his date of birth is Dec 20, 1931.

After spending his chil­d­hood in Kasur, he went to Government College, Lahore. His first few jobs were at Radio Pakistan in Lahore and Azad Kashmir Radio (the latter he took up on the advice of poet N.M. Rashid). He flew to Australia in the first half of the 1950s and then travelled to England, where he enrolled in London’s hallowed Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He was the first Pakistani performer to shine on a global stage.

The string of stellar performances that Mr Mohyeddin became known for began with his brilliant interpretation of Dr Aziz in a stage adaptation of E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India. This was followed by his most memorable film appearance in David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia (1962). Thereafter, Pakistan’s first global star was born, and he subsequently worked in a decent number of movies, including The Sailor from Gibraltar, Bombay Talkies and Immaculate Conception.

After a distinguished career, both at home and abroad, he was approached by then-President Pervez Musharraf to help set up an institution for the performing arts in Pakistan. As a result, the National Academy of Performing Arts (Napa) in Karachi came into being with Mr Mohyeddin being its founder, president and driving force.

He served Napa till he breathed his last and inspired at least two generations of young theatre practitioners and musicians, some of whom are now well-known names in the country’s entertainment industry.

Mr Mohyeddin was awarded the Hilal-e-Imtiaz, the second-highest civilian honour in the country, in 2012 for his contribution to the field of art.

Condolences

News of Mr Mohyeddin’s passing prompted an outpouring of tributes and condolences from around the world.

Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif called him an institution, saying his distinct style made him a globally-recognised person who introduced a new facet of hosting on television.

President Arif Alvi called Mr Mohyeddin’s death “a personal loss” for him, calling him a giant in the fields of acting, broadcasting and directing.

Former prime minister Imran Khan said Mohyeddin was a highly cultured person and an institution in the world of entertainment.

The Rekhta Foundation — an archive of Urdu poetry and literature — said that the news of Mohyeddin’s death came as a “huge shock leaving a void that cannot be filled”.

Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman said Mr Mohyeddin was a “true renaissance man for his mastery and connoisseurship on a range of cultural trends that made him inimitable”.

“Most of all, his hypnotic voice took many generations from radio to TV. May he rest in peace,” she tweeted.

PTI Senator Faisal Javed said in a series of tweets that he had the chance to personally work with Mohyeddin in 2003. “He had a great command over the pronunciation of many languages,” Mr Javed recalled.

Published in Dawn, February 14th, 2023

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