Remembering Zia Mohyeddin

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The renowned thespian will forever be alive through his art and body of work

By Ghazala Tikki Zaman and Tabassum Vally

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Published: Thu 23 Mar 2023, 11:46 AM

‘Parting is such sweet sorrow.’ — William Shakespeare

In the early years of 1970’s, a young, handsome and dashing man, immaculately dressed with an enthralling persona, took the stage by storm.

He was none other than the gifted, and vibrant Zia Mohyeddin. His famous ‘Zia Mohyeddin show’, captivated his audience. His stage show was the first-of-its-kind in Pakistan and it provided an hour of literary delight to its audience. With his characteristic charm, he interviewed his guests, and delighted people with his sense of humor. His image since almost forty years ago still stays fresh in our minds. His bow tie, cravat and immaculate suits and a deep haunting voice would stir his audience who would wait anxiously for his ‘Tehka lagao’, which meant let’s sway with the beat.

Zia Mohyeddin was born in Faisalabad in a family where art and culture prevailed. His father wrote the script for Pakistan’s first movie and he had a keen ear for music. Zia Mohyeddin inherited his father’s passion for art and literature.

In the 1950s, he joined the Royal Academy of Art in England, where he enjoyed learning theatre. It can easily be said that he chose his career in the field that was closest to his heart.

Zia Mohyeddin had an unmatched flair for reciting poetry and narrating scripts from drama and essays. He had a magical gift of voice that fell like music on any ear. His deep voice, and a refined command over both Urdu and English made him a master orator.

Zia Mohyeddin’s performances were appreciated across borders and it is no surprise that he was offered a role in the ever famous ‘Lawrence of Arabia’. His performance in the movie is a memorable reminder of his talent and his command over the English language. He also performed in the movie ‘Immaculate conception’ and his role was flawlessly executed.

With the increase in cultural awareness and literacy development across the UAE Zia Mohyeddin made several visits to Dubai where he often performed at literary events before large audiences. His events were always sold out and many were disappointed if they didn’t get a ticket to his event. Packed auditoriums beamed with laughter at his narration of humorous pieces from renowned poets and authors. When he chose to read heart wrenching stories, teary eyes were often seen. Such was the gift of Zia Mohyeddin who knew how to move his audiences’ soul.

On 29th November 2017, Zia Mohyeddin was awarded a lifetime achievement award by the Pakistani community living in the UAE. The award was given to him by the Ambassador of Pakistani in the UAE as an appreciation for his enthralling performances in the UAE. The event was organized by Ayesha Imtiaz and her team as part of ‘Sounds of the Soil’, a series of creative collaborations which sought to bring classical entertainment to the UAE.

In 2005, he became the head of National Academy of Performing Arts (NAPA). His contributions and effort for reviving drama, art and literature in Pakistan is unmatched. He had grown frail over the years and though he found it difficult to work long hours, his mantra in life was ‘work, work and work’.

He was always seen at NAPA imparting his knowledge of acting to the young generation. We sincerely hope that those who were taught by him will continue his legacy.

In the year 2003 Zia Mohyeddin was awarded with a ‘Sitar e Imtiaz’ for his dedication, and his outstanding performances over almost four decades. He was also awarded ‘Hilal-e-Imtiaz’ in 2012. Both are two of the highest civilian awards in Pakistan.

Today, though he is not amongst us, we can almost hear him recall the famous lines of Shakespeare, whom he often narrated.

‘In that sleep of death what dreams may come. Rest in peace, much missed Zia Mohyeddin.

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