The much- and multi-talented artiste Moin Akhter died on April 22, 2011. The word ‘legend’ is sometimes used rather loosely by us South Asians. Not every one who has been called a ‘legend’ really was. But Moeen Akhtar, clearly was one. Pakistan is poorer today because he is no longer with us.
His was a voice, a presence, a wit that I grew up with. I have memories of him from every stage of my life. Testimony to his versatility is the fact that even as I try, I cannot today put my finger on the one memory of Moin Akhter than stands out above others. There are as many Moeen Akhtar’s as there are memories. And all the memories are good memories.
Moeen sahib was an ‘artiste’ in the true sense of the word. He excelled in all he did, and he did much: stand-up comedian, actor, talk-show host, stage-show MC, singer, impersonator, mentor to other performers, all-round and all-round good-guy. In many respects, however, his greatest talent was his knack for bringing out the best in all those around him. He was larger than life, yet he was understated – partly because he made what he did seem so easy and so natural that we often did not fully appreciate his genius, and partly because even when joking about them he was forever making those he was joking with or joking about look good.
I heard of his death while traveling in California and my reaction – like of so many other Pakistanis was of deep and heartfelt shock. I have had the pleasure of meeting him many times – even being the butt of his barbs on occasion – but it was not until now, and especially as I began assembling this post, that the full magnitude of his versatility and talent hit me. I knew of it all the time, but like so many others I had internalized it so much that the magnitude of his abilities was taken for granted.
We at ATP have written about him before. And there is much that I want to, and should, be saying today. But I cannot. Because I do not think I could do justice to his talent. I hope our readers will. Maybe the best way to remember him today is to remember him with a smile. His was a talent that always spoke for itself. So let us let that talent speak for itself once again as we think of him today – in prayer, in fondness, and, yes, with a smile.
The early – maybe the earliest – Moeen Akhtar. On the Zia Mohiuddin Show:
Moin Akhtar the actor. No laughing Matter:
The much-talented and the multi-talented Moin Akhter, with friends:
Moeen Akhter the Singer. His tribute cassette to Ahmed Rushdie is worth listening to:
Moeen Akhter the Compere. A master of timing it just right:
Some final words. Some serious thoughts on Pakistan’s today and tomorrow. Rendered in sincerity and without bitterness. Worth listening to.