Veteran TV and film actor Abid Ali may not be among us, but his body of work will stay with us as long as Urdu TV dramas are watched anywhere in the world.
He was born in Quetta but his zeal for perfection and quest of being the best saw him move to Lahore and become a talent to reckon with. In the latter part of his career, he emerged as one of the most charismatic actors of his generation matching the best of the very best.
The News Tribe traces the different aspects of the veteran actor’s career, be it in films, TV or as a voice-over artist.
Abid Ali as a TV actor
He came, he saw and he conquered, that would be the best way to describe Abid Ali’s entry into showbiz. As an aspiring Radio Artist who left Quetta for Lahore in the early 1970s, Abid Ali used his voice to make a name for himself.
It was an added advantage that he was tall as well as broad and handsome, making him a leading man in no time. His first play was Jhok Sayal in 1973 and after working in a few TV serials and series, he was chosen as Dilawar, the man with a mission to find his brother’s killer in Amjad Islam Amjad’s Waaris.
From there on, there was no looking back as Abid Ali acted his heart out in whatever drama that came his way. Till the late 1990s, he was a regular at Lahore Television working in hit plays including Samandar, Aan, Hazaron Raaste, Suraj Kay Us Paar, Pyaas, Khwahish and Ghulam Gardish.
In the early 2000s, he moved to Karachi and thus began his career as a character actor where he worked in mega-hits like Mehndi, Moorat, Bunty I Love You, Rukhsati, Dayar-e-Dil, Pinjra, Daldal, Tajdeed-e-Wafa, Aangan and Mera Rab Waaris, which is currently on air.
Be it the angry young man in the early part of his career, the character actor in later dramas or the authoritative patriarch in some of his latest plays, Abid Ali was always the one who made others look good.
Every actor who had worked with him on TV considered him as a soothing figure on the set, one who could give them tips to improve their performance, horn their skills and appreciate if they did a good job.
Abid Ali as a film actor
At a time when TV actors chose to play leading men in films, Abid Ali decided to fill the void of character acting by taking on important roles, be it that of the leading man’s father or the leading lady’s; in fact he even played the antagonist in a few films as well, which was different from his usually good guy roles on TV.
When he was 31, he played father to Nadeem who was 11 years his senior; he went onto play character roles in films featuring Sultan Rahi, Ismail Shah, Umar Sharif, Shaan Shahid, Saima, Neeli, Reema, Afzal Khan Rambo, Ghulam Mohiuddin, Jawed Shiekh, Saud, Faysal Qureshi and lately Ali Rehman Khan and Hareem Farooq. Heer Maan Ja was his first Pakistani film in ten years; his last film featuring him in a prominent role was Anupam Kher’s Mr. Bhatti On Chutti whereas international filmgoers found his work in Sabiha Sumar’s Khamosh Pani impressive where he was part of an ensemble cast that also included Arshad Mehmood, Salman Shahid, Adnan Shah Tipu, and Kirron Kher.
He had worked in over 200 films in the last four decades and worked with the best actors, directors, and writers of Pakistan.
Abid Ali as a voice-over artist
It was his majestic voice that helped him stay at the top for so long; when Moustapha Akkad’s The Message was dubbed in Urdu a few years back, Abid Ali’s voice was chosen as that of Anthony Quinn who portrayed Hazrat Hamza in the Hollywood classic.
He was found to be the actor most likely to sound like the Hollywood legend and certified him as one of the leading voice over artists in the country.
His association with Radio Pakistan as well as the film industry trained him to preserve his voice and use it according to the situation.
The Message’s Urdu version is available on YouTube and the way he has matched the expressions of Anthony Quinn is accurate and unimaginable. He also gave Voice Overs in many TV commercials and people could relate to his voice, something that helped the product in many ways.
Abid Ali as a pioneer producer/director
And then there was Abid Ali, the visionary who not only pioneered Private Productions in Pakistan but raised the bar high with his own productions.
When Private Production kick-started on Pakistan’s first private channel Network Television Marketing (NTM) it was Abid Ali who produced and directed the first play Doorian.
The drama made Noman Ijaz, Nida Mumtaz and Najmuzzaman household names in no time and re-launched Seemi Raheel who made her comeback after a decade’s hiatus.
At that time Abid Ali was working on PTV as well and although the state-owned channel was doing well, his next two plays Dasht (which he co-directed with F H Qureshi) and Doosra Aasmaan (which he executive produced) were aired on NTM.
Dasht was the first play featuring a star cast from all over Pakistan and Doosra Aasman was the first Pakistani drama to be shot abroad, also with a star cast.
It was through Dasht that Noman Ejaz and Atiqa Odho became household names, Asad and Fazila Qazi became stars and landscapes were shot for TV like it was for a feature film.
Doosra Aasmaan also paired the veteran actor with Seemi Pasha while had the best actors from Pakistan including Ayub Khoso, Rasheed Naaz, Mahnoor Baloch and Aslam Latar.
When private TV houses opened their entertainment channels, Abid Ali turned back to the direction and produced many TV dramas that are still popular such as Maasi Aur Malika and Hawa Pe Raqs to name a few.
Abid Ali as A father figure
Every actor, be it young or old, had worked with the legendary Abid Ali and described it as a learning experience. Unlike other actors of his generation, he was a secure individual who imparted knowledge and experience to anyone he came across.
In fact, when he went to Islamabad to shoot his scenes in what turned out to be his last film Heer Maan Ja, Abid Ali was welcomed like royalty, not because of his stature but because he had worked once with Hareem Farooq and Ali Rehman Khan before, just once.
Every other youngster who had shared the screen with him was teary-eyed on his death, which hit this scribe as well as he was my neighbour when he first shifted to Karachi at the turn of the century.
Not only was he a charismatic figure in real life but also in person; his voice still rings in my ears when he either met me on the stairs or dropped his keys at my place so we could feed his birds in his absence. He will certainly be missed for a long time for he touched so many souls with his acting and his charismatic persona.