• 02 Dec - 08 Dec, 2017
  • Rabia Mushtaq
  • Interview

"Main ek bohat shareef bacha tha,” discloses the 73-year-old veteran actor, who as a kid would play cricket with his friends in Martin Quarters, an old neighbourhood of Karachi. “We did not have the money to buy a ball, so after contemplating on how to collect some, I would advise them to set up a stage using a bed and perform drama in the area’s courtyard. We would sell tickets worth two annas and once enough money was collected to buy a ball, we would finish the drama and get back to playing cricket.” Qazi Abdul Wajid Ansari, popularly known as Qazi Wajid, is the man who went on to become one of the greatest actors of Pakistan. MAG was honoured to have met Qazi sahib for an interview, which turned into a pleasant trip down memory lane.


“I was not mischievous, but was a very serious kid,” Qazi sahib goes on about his childhood tales. “As far as education was concerned, I was an ordinary student and did not pay enough attention on my studies, which is why I call it a dark phase of my life but I managed to at least read and write properly, for I entered into this profession at an early age and have spent all my life in it.”

Born in 1944 in Gwalior, India, Qazi sahib’s family, including five of his siblings – three brothers and two sisters – migrated to Pakistan after partition and settled in Karachi, where his father was allotted a quarter at Martin Road. He tells me how his stint at acting did not go too well with his father. “I had to face hurdles when coming into this profession. My father was very strict and did not want me to take up acting but when people gradually appreciated my work, he felt that I was good at it and surrendered eventually,” he says, adding that one has to get themselves acknowledged and then decide what is right and wrong. “No one ever criticised me for my character, for I do not have a single scandal with anyone in the industry. I have worked in extremely respectable ways and worship my work,” says the versatile actor, who feels that there are many ways to go astray for it seems attractive, but one often destructs their life in the process.

There isn’t a single Pakistani who isn’t aware of the gem that he is. Qazi sahib is someone who has had the privilege of working during the golden days of both, radio and television in the country. “I joined Radio Pakistan in 1956 as a child artiste and have been associated with the medium ever since. Radio is an academy for me and it was an honour to have worked with its bigwigs,” Qazi sahib says, as he takes us back in time. “The medium has had a very important role to play in my life and upbringing, for it educated and groomed me. All I can do is thank God for it.” For those who are unaware of his work in the audio medium, Qazi sahib has presented several programmes such as Qazi Jee with Shaukat Thanvi, Hamid Mian Kay Haan, and classic radio dramas like Khuda Ki Basti via Radio Pakistan. He also went on to act in a film named Bedari, which was the remake of an Indian film Jagriti. “The film was based on kids and I was also one of the cast members, but to make my character stand out, I decided to speak with a stammer,” he makes it known, and continues to talk about his theatre and television days. “Then I did theatre with Ibrahim Nafees sahib and from there on, I was picked by Khwaja Moinuddin for dramas, for he was the one who wrote Taleem-e-Balghaan and Mirza Ghalib Bunder Road Per among many other popular classics, which eventually became my identity,” says the receiver of Pakistan’s highest civilian award – Pride of Performance – adding that he had recently performed Taleem-e-Balghaan’s theatre show in Australia.

Qazi sahib’s first interaction with TV and camera was in Karachi’s expo centre during an exhibition. After which his relationship with television became eternal, for he holds a record of acting in the most number of plays in Karachi, while in Lahore it is Qavi Khan who leads the list. Other than working for PTV, Qazi sahib has worked for numerous private productions; however, he laments the lack of plays produced by PTV, for he deems it to be an academy that has a lot to offer. “PTV does not produce enough dramas now. The drama serials aired on PTV back in the days are our identity, not just in Pakistan, but around the world, because classics like Khuda Ki Basti, Kiran Kahani, Tanhaiyan, Ankahi, Dhoop Kinaray, Hawwa Ki Beti cannot be made again,” he says while expressing his concern over the current influx of dramas on numerous channels in the country. “The excess of drama has ruined the art. Previously, one used to eagerly wait for plays to hit the screens. Now, as soon as you switch on TV there is a drama serial on air on every other channel. Even though it has good content and cast, but its impact is not lasting enough, following the competition among channels,” he remarks.

Qazi sahib reminisces about his television days and shares how sheer hard work led him towards success in the business. “I would stay awake the night before recording and wouldn’t sleep until I was done memorising around 60 pages of dialogues by heart. Mehnat kabhi rayegan nahi jati. I still work hard, even though the way to work has simplified with time, and one does not need to learn all their dialogues,” he states, and continues to tell that it wasn’t so easy back in the days, “We had to perform the entire scene in one go with a single camera. Now different cameras are used for different scenes so it is convenient for actors to get their shots done separately. Whereas, the way we worked was rigorous yet much better.” As an actor of the olden times, Qazi sahib realises the importance of convenience, for he and his likes have been through a lot of hurdles and regrets the lack of honesty with work among the younger generation of actors who want instant fame and success but do not want to work hard to achieve it.

Talking about his favourite character throughout his career, Qazi sahib was more inclined towards the villainous roles he has done, for such characters have a bigger margin to perform. “I have never performed a hero’s character. Despite having a good face and an offer, I never did one because it wasn’t my cup of tea. I felt satisfied doing smaller roles because I would tweak it accordingly, and they would eventually become popular,” he shares and divulges about one of his favourite characters till date, “My role in Hawwa Ki Beti is among my favourites. It was the role of an antagonist, who sells his daughter.”

Qazi sahib is not fond of watching dramas, be it his own. Instead, he prefers watching cricket on TV. The institution that he is, it is assumable that a person like him should be teaching the craft to those studying the art of acting. I ask him if he ever plans to do so? “I do not know and still do not consider myself learned enough. However, people like Zia Mohyeddin and Talat (Hussain) are educated people, they know their craft very well, and hence they are disseminating their knowledge among the younger generation. Besides, people nowadays mind if you try to correct them or teach them how to act properly. There are kids who also ask for guidance in terms of acting. But it all depends on how you are as a senior, which makes all the difference.”

Qazi sahib plans to write an autobiography, however, the arduous process of it is what makes him reluctant. “I want to write an autobiography and a lot of people have requested me to write one. It is a lot of work and requires patience. Writing a book cannot be done in one go, I’ll have to recollect memories and jot down matter, so it’s a long journey but I definitely wish to do it soon, for this is a way for me to give back to what I have earned in all these years.”

For those who want to act, Qazi sahib advises them to first complete their education and then try their luck in the business. While for his fans and followers, Qazi sahib shares words of wisdom: “Keep the doors of love open, so that people can pass through with ease. If one is considerate towards others, life always works out for them. Always think that you are wrong and others are right, that is when you’ll be compassionate towards others,” he stresses on the importance of love and compassion and how the two elements can assist one to succeed in life. •