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Anwar Maqsood - profile, interview & pictures


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Anwar Maqsood - profile, interview & pictures
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anniekhan
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Senior Proud Pakistani


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Anwar Maqsood - profile, interview & pictures
Anwar Maqsood

Anwar Maqsood Hameedi commonly known as Anwar Maqsood or Anwer Maqsood is a Pakistani playwright, poet, television host, satirist, humorist, infrequent actor and painter. He has worked in the entertainment industry for over over 35 years.



Life and career

Anwar Maqsood studied at the Gulbarga trust School Aurangabad. He has worked as a host for a variety of shows on PTV. His work has included Studio Dhai (Studio 2:30) and then Studio Ponayteen (Studio 2:45) along with Show sha and numerous other shows. His work incorporates humor, satire, and an approach to hard subjects in lighter vein.

Family

He belongs to one of the medium class families in Pakistan. His famous sisters include Fatima Surayya Bajia, Mrs. Kazmi and Zubaida Tariq (cooking expert). His son Bilal Maqsood is a pop singer.

Plays

On PTV

* Fifty Fifty (sketch comedy)
* Show Time (Comedy interactive show)
* Aangan Terha (Mini series)
* Half Plate (Theatrical teleplay)
* Silver Jubilee show

On NTM

* Sitara Aur Mehrunnisa (Drama)
* Nadan Nadia (Comedy sitcom)

On ARY

* Loose talk
* Majoo Mian

Interview

At one time script writing was obscure department of television programming. The writer of even the most popular shows on PTV went unnoticed. Anwar Maqsood struggled to get out of this obscurity in the early seventies and then eighties.

At that time people rarely asked, Who is the writer? when appreciating some thing that caught their attention on the idiot box. Hence most of us do not know that Anwar Maqsood first wrote for Zia Moyeuddin for his groundbreaking the Zia Moyeuddin Show. Later when he began writing skits for Fifty Fifty only then Anwar sahib seemed to be able to deliver the razor sharp, witty retorts, repartee and one-liners.Hence, he appeared in front of the camera armed with a barrage of question for his dubious guests/characters. One thing that was always apparent in Anwar's work was his ability to poke fun at the most serious issues plaguing our society.

Indeed there were times when the audiences were left agape at the hard-hitting truth behind the comical lines that he churned out. One can easily recall the poker-faced interviewers of Fifty Fifty that questioned the corruption rampant in the electricity department or the red tapism the ordinary fellow faced for the simple task of playing the phone bill.Later Anwar was associated with hilarious shows like Shosha and Showtime, not to mention Silver Jubilee a talk show he hosted and penned. On the talk show, he brought extraordinary talents like Razzaq Raju, Benjamin Sisters, Sajjad Ali and Wahab Khan to limelight.

It seemed that the public could not get enough of this guy's titillating wit and inimitable style. The memory of Aangan Tehra is still fresh in the minds of the audiences through which Anwar Sahib proved his capabilities as a scriptwriter for a full-length television drama series. In fact, Aangan Tehra appeared at a time when there was absolutely no or very little concept of sitcoms on TV. This program was a milestone in comic television shows.

The kind of satire that the insuperable writer could play and communicate with (by virtue of one dimensional yet meaningful characters like Chaudry Sahib and His rustic sister, sissy servant Akhbar to the retired government officer Mehboob and his churlish wife) was something that PTV viewers were not habituated to. Aangan Tehra is now an alienable part of local television's glorious history.

The early nineties saw Anwar Maqsood at his naughty best. He came up with Studio Dhai, which not only got him in a spot of trouble but also kept the audiences in stitches. It was another attempt at bringing to light the glaring misconduct of the various government departments of our country and hilariously portrayed the trials and tribulations the common man suffers at the hands of departments that are formulated to actually help society.

That was precisely the show that established the deadly duo of Anwar Maqsood and Moin Akhtar. Moin was spectacular in his multifaceted performances, wearing many a grab, adopting many an accent and taking many an evil individual of society to the cleaners. Moin had also collaborated with the writer on Showtime. However, Studio Dhai was banned from PTV after the airing if its sixth show, for reasons best known to authorities. Still, that didn't dampen Anwar sahib's spirits. A little later he turned up with Studio Poney Teen, which was also a very well received program.

These days Anwar Maqsood has become choosy. He is not found writing scripts prolifically. Besides, his last tele venture, a drama serial, Colony 52, aired a year ago, couldn't attract as much attention as his earlier shows did. But his fans know that the writer has many tricks up his sleeves. You never know when and where he will pull a new rib-tickling rabbit out of his top hat. The Anwar Maqsood I knew in the university of Karachi, where he was my contemporary in the mid-sixties, is a far cry from the Anwar Maqsood of the eighties and the nineties. At that time during free periods, he would find as audience who would be entertained by his rib- tickling mimicry.

And in the same days the ardent lover of Urdu poetry in him would often find a group of students listening in rapt attention as he recited couplet after from both classical and modern poets. One was impressed by his wonderful memory. No one at time thought that he would some day become as entertainer or a writer of TV serials.During his career with a bank, after graduation, Anwar went into oblivion, only to come back as a columnist in Hurriyet. That was just the beginning; he climbed up the ladder of popularity when he started writing for TV and began to host chat

shows. Today, Anwar Maqsood the entertainer dominates Anwar Maqsood the man, so much that when he speaks to you he sounds like the man who mouths those funny and sometimes not-so-funny lines on TV. He is reminiscent of famous actors, who find it difficult to come out of the aura that they have created on the screen. Why haven't you been able to repeat the success of Angan Terha or even studio dhai? It seems you have become a spent force as far as humor is concerned?

Angan Terha was conceived and presented in a different milieu. Those were the days of Zia ul Haq when there were restrictions on the classical dance. I knew quite a few classical dancers who were left with no assignments. Saleem Nasir did quite a fine job enacting the role of a classical dancer who, out of sheer necessity, becomes a cook in a household. His lines sounded quite hilarious in those days. And as far a.. for Studio dhai, from the feedback that I got Studio Poune Teen that followed, was no less successful, he defended himself.

There was more to Angan Terha than Saleem Nasir's lines. There was Shakeel in his first light role. Arshad Mahmood was very good too and Bushra Ansari was just as hilarious as Saleem Nasir. I think Angan Terha has a timeless quality about it. It's well over years since Zia ul Haq departed and yet if you watch the video of Angan Terha today, the lines will titillate you. There was spontaneity, which is missing in your humor today. Obviously spontaneity and freshness do not last long. Take the case of Mushtaq Ahmad Yousufi, his last book doesn't have the same quality as his earlier works, particularly Chragh Taley, I argue. I agree with you that spontaneity doesn't last long.

Yousufi Sahib's first two books had quality in great measure but his last two seems to lack in that. But one must admit that he does a lot of homework. You would appreciate that writing humor, particularly for television, is a ticklish job. It's like tightrope walking. You have to keep clear of the line that divides humor from what we call phakkarpan in Urdu. Also you have to avoid sounding stale, he said. Anwar Maqsood is a rare writer. Fro if can write Angan Terha and Studio Dhai and win laurels, he can win applause for such fine specimens of serious plays and serials as Duar-e-Junoon and Sitara aur Mehrunnisa. Where does his humor go when he picks up his paint brush/ why has he not done cartoons and caricatures?

Cartoons I haven't done, but during my days as a journalist, I did draw caricatures of famous personalities, he recalled.His favorite among his writings for TV is Shosha, which presented Shafi Mohammed, Talat Husain and Javed Sheikh as funsters for the first time. Saleem Nasir had essayed comedy only once before. He too was there and so was Qazi wajid.

Among all those who have performed for him so far, he rates Bushra Ansari the highest. She is truly versatile. She can mimic Noor Jehan, Musarrat Nazeer and Salma Agha or be herself in comedies, and in serious plays she can moisten you eyes with equal ease, said the man who also introduced a brilliant funster in Silver Jubilee, Razzaq Rajo. He was the best in that he had a great sense of timing, something very few comedians have, reminisced Anwar Maqsood.

Why does he do TV when he can earn much more by doing shows? I asked. The audience that I get through TV is infinitely larger. What he didn't mention was that performers like him and Moin Akhter stay in the memory of people by appearing on TV. If they stop doing that their demand for stage shows will begin to wane.Incidentally, last week Anwar Maqsood completed his 30 years association with television in Pakistan. On December 20, 1967, his first play Hero was telecast, which he scripted and also played the title role.

Not many people realize that the trend of singing cover versions was pioneered by a program called Silver Jubilee, which was written by Anwar Maqsood. Some of the finest of our film numbers, which were confined to scratchy 78-RPM records, were given a fresh lease of life in that program. The younger generation of the eighties began to enjoy such melodious numbers as Noor Jehan's Tere mukre de kala kala tilway and Saleem Raza's Jane-baharan, rashke chaman.

Thanks also to Silver Jubilee we got to listen to the Benjamin sisters who came with a bang. They sang in one voice, so to speak. And the re-recorded quite a few oldies too. Their albums were good sellers and as it turned out the pirates sold their cassettes more than EMI did.The came the TV program based on cover versions of composer Khurshid Anwar's old melodies. It was titled Rim Jhim, after his popular tandem Rim Jhim, rim jhim pade phuwar from film koel. The two versions of the duet were rendered by Naheed Niazi, Najma Niazi, Noor Jehan and Muneer Hussain.

Later similar programs, under the same title presented hits composed by three other great music directors – Master Ghulam Haider, Feroz Nizami and Rasheed Attre. All these cover versions were available on cassettes too and they did treasonably well in terms of sales as well. ike so many of us, I look with awe at this man who is Anwar Maqsood. I admire him for his quick wit, his cutting sense of humor, his pun on words, for the precision and timeliness in his paradoxical statements. I admire him for his versatility for his writing, his acting, his comparing, his painting, for his insatiable passion for the finer arts.

I admire him the most for his courage for standing in the face of these difficult times and rising as a rebel to this degenerating social system; for fighting against the wrongs with film belief in the rights, for being termed as blasphemous against today's political pharaohs. Reason enough why I was anxious to meet him, to him to know him, even if superficially, to gain the experience of talking to him...

On that pleasant July morning, I had jotted down in my mind's reservoir all that I had always wanted to ask him. Scribbling down on my memo pad, I phrased it and re phased it, and was all set to corner him with questions have remained unanswered. He is not an easy person to get to know; he has invisible barriers around him. He says what he wants to say. And yes, he is even wittier in person than he is on the screen.

Carelessly dressed in his typical crew-neck black tee with trousers and khussas, A.M. (as he fondly called) holds his packet of Dunhill and a pan in his hand. Ask him, Kya haal hain, and you get, Leave alone hall (present), lets talk of the mustaqbil (future), in return. We settle down over a cup of tea and the conversation begins.

He loves to reminisce about his past he still has strong links with his childhood. From a talented clan of ten brothers and sisters, his family tree boasts of Fatima Surriyya Bajiya, Zahra Nigah (poetess) and Mrs. Kazmi (dress designer). Your environment has a lot do in bringing out your talents. I guess we inherited a lot from my naana. He was a poet, a student of the classic Urdu poet Daagh Dehelvi. Bajiya wrote her first novel at the age of twelve, he says. Very few know that he belongs to Hyderabad Deccan. But they speak articulate Urdu and not the native Hyderabadi version of Urdu, because our elders wouldn't talk to us for days if we said much as aiyyo maan.

Time blossomed the artist in him he got down to painting. With some forty exhibitions to his credit, A.M. claims that only the true connoisseurs of art know that he is a painter. His caliber can be judged by the fact that his painting is booked for sale long before them near completion. Yet, life's realities ask of you to follow a dictated a profession at times to keep apace with inflation and basic human needs. He ended up at a semi Government organization. But he confesses it was not his cup of tea. His carving to revert to the world of creativity drove him to the telly scene twenty-six years ago. Meanwhile his passion for music brought him to EMI where he worked for a solid ten years. His first play was Mehman, way back in 1967.

Since then, there's been no looking back. Shosha, Fifty Fifty, Angan Terha, Silver Jubilee, Studio 2 , Sitara Aur Mehrunnisa, numerous long plays (the most recent one being Half plate and now the match talked- about and looked forward to Stuodio Poney Teen. Aangan Terha was my best play. I was asked to go with it endlessly like Sona Chandi, but I knew that its beauty lay in ending it off in precisely 13 episodes. It was not just the script my team of actors was literally crying when it ended. I ended it by jumping 20 years later and making the central character appear old so that no other playwrights could on writing my play, he reveals.

Can this man see tomorrow? Is he something of a political clairvoyant who can see what is coming up next on the country's historical agenda? For Anwar Maqsood had used the lota as the election symbol of Mehboob Ahmed in Aangan Terha many years ago. And it is today that the lota symbolizes the spineless politicians who join hands with any party for a few bucks, sans integrity and values.You see the lota has no character of its own. Anyone going to the washroom takes it along for his own dirty needs and the lota helplessly goes along. This says a lot, he says with candor.

A question he is often lambasted with does he deliberately write so strongly to raise controversies and make jabs at government officials and departments? Well, I know that a lot of Studio Poney teen shall be snipped off and some of the episodes might never go on air, he says and changes the subject. Evasive he is! I've nearly for gotten my original question when my memo pa screams at me.

I repeat my question, interrupting him. No, I don't do it for publicity. I've had enough of it since the last 26 years. Besides what is wrong is what has to be corrected. I just want to do my bit to correct the system, he says. And which part of this defective whole has to be corrected first? The whole system shall have to undergo a revolutionary change and evolve into something better, he says.

And in the course of talking, a nefarious smile crosses his face. For the umpteenth time, he places back into place his unruly silver-grey locks and narrates all about his underway projects. Yes, I want to work for the theatre. I've penned down a play called Script ease. The name says it all! It's about how the censor people strip off my scripts, page by page, he says. So we have another shocker to look forward to. Also, he is working on a satirical version of Mirza Ghalib's life history, which shall be produced in the USA. A thematic long play penned by him shall be aired from the private channel.

Another allegation on this wizard with words has been that his sense of humor is too hi-fi. Many a times, it is difficult to discern whether he is simply making a statement or is saying something between the lines. For many, laughing on Anwar Maqsood's jokes is like watching a movie in a foreign language you just laugh when you hear laughter around you. Even his face has this constant, deceptive yet meaningful smile that hardly says anything. So is this humor for the literary elitists only? No way! Not at all has he said strongly. In Pakistan, the upper strata are really jaahil. It's the man on the street that is truly educated and they are the ones who understand my humor.

Because it's they who are suffering the burnt of the worst in our wrapped society, he combats the accusation. No wonder then that he judges the response to his program from the reactions of these people. The man hanging on to the bus railing with one hand waves at me and the newspaper waala don't take money from me if they've liked what was shown the night before, he says with clear pride. Anwar Maqsood has always wanted to reach out to the remotest ans the most unknown places, Which is why I spent to give Studio Poney Teen to PTV, even if I get lesser money. For the man in the village also must get to see what I want to say, and NTM is limited to three big cities only, he says. That is why it is Urdu, which is his medium of expression. Suddenly he looks me in the eye and asks me, why don't you write in Urdu too? he has set me thinking.

One thing is for sure whatever his parents and family drilled into him and his clan was the right recipe. It has resulted in gifted, intellectual beings that are also down-to-earth. So what is the difference between parents then and now? That of values. And the most important value is education. Children must educate themselves, must go to the University, no matter how low the standard of education, he feels. Which is why his children Bilal (ex-strings musical band) and Arjumand (learning classical music) are getting their education and are simultaneously pursuing their interests? He talks with evident joy about his wife who has been supportive through all the upheavals.

This man and his jagged edged pen have many a time torn apart politics that camouflage reality. It also reminds one of the risks he has taken and the hard times he has faced to bring out the truth and nothing but the truth. Perhaps he has an integral promise it himself the promise of speaking out against injustice. He does not are whether his work creates a furor he shall keep on doing what he has to. Does he dream and hope for a brighter tomorrow? Sometimes I think nothing can be done to rectify what is so tremendously faulty. But then, I think of that solitary matchstick that breaks the barriers of darkness for a split second. In that, I see hope. Like a flickering light at the end of a dark tunnel.








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