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In a league of his own

June 11, 2011

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Jamil Fakhri’s Inspector Jaffar Husain, an ostensibly devious man with a deep conflict of conscience within him, was a treat to watch.

Jamil Fakhri, an actor of immense talent and versatility, died on Thursday night in Lahore. The last few years had been particularly tough on the veteran actor. As a parent, he had his worst fears come true when the tragic death of his son Ali Ayaz Fakhri, who had disappeared in the US, was confirmed.

The last recorded images of Fakhri, with pain etched on his face as he mourned the loss of his son, are tough to watch. Though no longer with us, he continues to be in the hearts and minds of his fans for his performances, particularly the portrayal of Inspector Jaffar Hussain in Andhera Ujala. The series went on air in the early 1980s on PTV and is a cult classic. Fakhri’s pair with comedian Irfan Khoosat (as Hawaldar Karamdad) is still remembered by admirers of PTV’s yesteryear glory.

If Irfan Khoosat’s Hawaldar Karamdad was a simpleton, blabbermouth of a character, Inspector Jaffar Husain was an ostensibly devious man but with a deep conflict of conscience within him. Not only did he do justice to the sharp script penned by Younus Jawed, but the mannerisms that Fakhri adopted (pulling his pants up every time he left the police station or reprimanding his sub-ordinates haughtily, were a treat to watch.

There’s an episode in Andhera Ujala in which Jaffar Husain suffers a personal loss and his perspective on life undergoes a sea-change. It’s a brilliant portrayal of an official trying to come to terms with the duplicity that exists in his department as well as with the conflict within his personality.

Fakhri took part in many television plays and played all kinds of characters. His effort in Aik Haqeeqat Aik Fasana, cameo appearances in the iconic comedy series Alif Noon, meaningful roles in Waris and Pyas are some of the finest examples of acting on Pakistani television.

One director with whom Jamil Fakhri worked quite a bit is Ayub Khawar. Talking about the late actor he said, “Fakhri was an extremely jovial person. He’d arrive on the set and turn into a laugh factory. He was full of life. And once he’s on the set and camera started shooting him, he would become a different person altogether. He gave many variations to his characters. I still remember a play that he did for me titled Jalianwala Bagh which we produced on the occasion of 50-year celebrations of Pakistan’s inception. He was too good in it. Then his performance in Hisaar in which he did the part of a book-binder, whom his own affluent family members look down upon was brilliant.”

Jamil Fakhri also branched out into films. When his friend Irfan Khoosat made Direct Hawaldar, he was with him. The film did a roaring business. A couple of other memorable movies were Dahleez and Mehrban. He was an actor who was original in his approach to acting, or as many of his colleagues would say, he was in a league of his own.

Jamil Fakhri had also worked in a number of theatre plays, both commercial and parallel, and earned critical and commercial acclaim. He was a through and through Lahorite, someone who took pride in being from the old walled city.