Ismail Shahid, a popular TV artiste, was born in district Charsadda, village Utmanzai, in 1955. “My mother told me once jokingly that probably I did not cry at the time of my birth, instead there was laughter. But I believe I am born with a talent to share smiles with grief-stricken people,” says Shahid.
He shot to fame when he gave an incredible performance in the Pashto comedy serial Dwa Auo Dwa Penza (Two and Two make five). He played the role of Manai and even today a large number of his fans call him by this name. His other plays include Jhoot Ke Aadat Nahien Mujhe, the Pashto Khair Pakhair, Memzarma, and Rangoona.
“Since childhood I and Firdous Jamal, who was my class fellow and also neighbour, used to fight with the dry cane stalks to imitate heroes and villains shown in the movies. During our school and college days, we would always be part of the drama cast,” informs he. Ismail Shahid has performed in more than 800 TV, radio and stage plays and is recipient of 400 awards, gold medals including the Pride of Performance.
“Most people unfortunately consider humour and satire as something like delivering vulgar dialogues or hurling meaningless jokes. There is a hell of difference between mere a clown and an artiste who plays comedy. The former only arouses laughter while the latter compels you to think over your follies and shortcomings. A comedian has to be creative and keen observer. Real wisdom starts from self criticism. We must be critics of our own follies if we want to purge our society of the prevailing evils,” Shahid suggests.
Closing of Nishtar hall he says was an unfortunate incident for the Frontier artistes but proved to be a blessing in disguise as many of them started their own production.
Ismail Shahid has produced over 50 tele films. “As there was no option we launched our own private production and out of some 50 tele films that I have directed, most of them went super hits. I don’t accept any comedy role which is devoid of intellectual humour with a sole purpose of correcting rather than corrupting,” maintains Shahid.
He recently presented a serial aired by AVT Khyber Latoon Da Pakhtun ( Search for Pashtuns) shot in the USA, UK, Malaysia and the Gulf.
Talking about movies he says, “I performed in 10 Pashto films but I could put up with using foul language which was their earnest demand so I quit. I would rate Badar Munir at the top for his earlier performances but in Urdu, Munawar Zarif was the best. From India, I consider Amitabh Bachchan to be a great actor. Pashto cinema is steadily reviving but Urdu cinema will take sometime,” reveals Shahid.
From the television artistes, Shahid considers Moen Akhtar and Bushra Ansari as a memorable comic duo who have done some great work together. However, he feels that nowadays the standard has gone down of both television and stage comedy productions. “In a comedy one has to be capable of creating numerous variations to fit in different roles otherwise monotony will set in,” observes Ismail.
When quizzed about the films that he has liked, he says, “Andaaz, Paakeeza and Pashto movies Zartja, Khochwaan, Insaaf, Orbal and Aishqe Laila have left indelible marks on me.”
Among the many things that make up a quality movie, he gives much importance to music. Without quality music Shahid opines a movie has no claim to success. “If one looks at the strength of the movies of the past, one will surely see music combined with quality poetry reigning supreme. Rafi, Lataji, Mehdi Hassan, Madam Noor Jahan, Ghulam Ali, Khial Mohammad, Gulnar Begum, Kishawar Sultana, Mahjabeen Qazal Bash and Hidyatullah have contributed a great deal to the music legacy of the subcontinent. I personally don’t consider pop as music. Yes, there may be exceptions but unless it is drenched in one’s cultural background, it fails to sooth one’s heart and mind. Alien music may stir up your nerves but can not convey and deliver anything worth remembering. I am a diehard lover of qawwali, especially of the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.”
“When I was young I used to read Pashto folk tales but then my taste matured and I turned to more serious reading. I went through Raman Baba, Khushhal Khan Khattak and Hamza Baba. I like poetry and I also enjoy humorous verses,” Shahid says.
The book that Ismail says has left everlasting impression on him is Da Gharat Chagha of Ajmal Khattak. He also likes Bano Qudsia, Ashfaq Ahmad, Rahmat Sail, Qalandar Momand, and Abaseen Yousafzai. “I am greatly impressed by the impressive and fluent style of Mumtaz Mufti. A for poets, I always pick up Parveen Shakir,” Shahid says.
At the end of our conversation, he remarks about the apathy of the cultural department and other cultural organization towards artistes and art. “I survived a severe heart attack six months ago. I could afford an expensive treatment at a local hospital but not a single person from the cultural department or a member of the so called cultural organizations enquired about my health. Yes, I could afford the expenses myself but what about the other senior ailing and poor artistes who live in penury?” Shahid ends in a sad tone.