Anwar Maqsood - A man of many faces
Written by English NewsPaper/Dawn/Others   

As I am led into the drawing room of Anwar Maqsood's house I see the walls all around,strung with several paint¬ings of vanous sizes "Are they all yours9" I ask

"No, not all That one is by my son," he points to a large one on the opposite wall "And the one with the potted plant and bottle next to it?" Yes, that is by him.

He calls it Still life '71   East Pakistan had been cut asunder, but with the potted plant and its drooping leaves Anwar sought to say that the remaining part needed to be nurtured with tender care. The bottle of course has entered our national psyche with reference to the 1971 catastrophic expertence. Anwar Maqsood and his siblings have come a long way From living, after migration, on the pavement on Clayton Road, where his father refused to take illegal possession of any of the scores of houses abandoned by the departing Hindus, because "they are not ours", to Defence Housing Authority in Karachi is a long way But they have all, each one, done it with the dint of sustained and unremitting effort.

Anwar says he started painting in 1953 The neighbourliness of Shakir Ali, the brush and palette artist, who would not take long to achieve renown internationally, spurred Anwar's own passion for the genre His first exhibition, on the theme of Birds have cages, a solo at the French embassy in Karachi, which was then the capital of Pakistan, was held the same year .

The price range was around Rs 20 each,  Jamsheed  Markar, whose collection of paintings Anwar thinks is the largest and finest in Pakistan, bought 20 of them.

Yes, this is  the same Jamsheed Markar, who, in tandem with the great Omar Kureishi, used to thrill radio listeners with fluent and perceptive commentary on cricket Test matches, just the two of them No other team has approached the standards set by this duo.

Anwar has held 20 exhibitions so far, and on Hameed Haroon's prompting, The Art of Anwar, 1953-1990 was held in 1990. Over the years, foreign nationals have snapped up about 250 of his works The Saigols, Hameed Haroon and of course Jamsheed Markar have remained his regular patrons. Besides painting, which keeps his kitchen fire burning, Anwar's script writing, acting in his own plays, anchoring, comparing, and acting as general factotums-are but icings on the cake.

The  man's genius is evident in every thing he does.

What is the secret? What places him higher among his peers? Listening to him one feels that his underlying strength may be that he has  remained true to himself That is surely why he has been so consistent. No facades have peeled away and he has never had to make any effort whatsoever to put up a public front. He is now into the fourth decade of working for the entertainment world on TV and the stage, and almost three decades have seen him become a popular interactor on many an issue He claims that though there have been several changes of governments, he has never lent his pen to write for the powers of the day. He believes that there are ways and ways to say things. His way has been to be candid but civilised In other words he is not abrasive "Show biz people should mind their own business My target has always been the TV/stage audience. How does he gauge acceptance, populanty or success of his programmes? "The panwalla, the phoolwalla and the akhbarwalla are my sounding boards. They quote to me my lines, the lines that I thought had the desired punch.

 

"You said 'Paan'?" "Yes, I was an inveterate smok¬er But my son and my daughter made me give it up " As a substitute, I took up gutka. Then paan. Now I am trying to give that up too "
"Did your wife not stop you, or it's just that you don't listen to her?"

"My children do not stop me from everything She does Her cheez say to naheen rokna chahyay nar he says with a glint One could have pursued this line of thought, but one's vicarious pleasure should not always be indulged So one resisted the impulse to be impish Anwar Maqsood loves music. Any land will do, so long as it is pleasant to the ear Lest there be any doubt as to the quality of his taste, he has a ear trained in the family. His mother used to sing Khama Desh at home "Bajya too delved into music and her voice resembled Kananbala's," says Anwar As a youngster in PIB Colony, to satisfy his craving for music, he had bored a hole in the common wall between his and the neighbour's quarter, which allowed him to listen to Aap ki farmaish,  Binaca  Geetmala , Studio Number Nau, etc.

Does writing give him the same pleasure as painting?

"Writing gives me satisfaction, and the pleasure is in direct proportion to spontaneity".

He says he lets his mind flow freely "Pause or revision is anathema to my style. Either of them upsets the whole logic of the original " Whenever I am pause, or am disturbed, I lose the thread For me, the inspiration is the outpouring of my thoughts in one go".

Anwar Maqsood's first TV play was Mehman (1968) "I was the hero with Rukhsana Ameer This had Egyptian history as its background Ishrat Ansan directed it. About TV plays in Pakistan, Anwar holds that for a long time we could not shed the radio influence, and many a TV 'play was a rehash of an old radio play.
Anwar's last serial was the  1992 wildly popular Sitara aur Mehrunnisa. A new 13 episode serial Colony 52 is in the pipeline, recording is almost complete, the story is based on what Anwar may like to romanticise about life in PIB Colony in the early fifties, when many a migrant from India settled there. Old Karachites I know that at that time PIB enjoyed the reputation of having the most highly qualified population in the country. Anwar has sought to depict the ideals of the times, along with the love for the country that people were suffused with Syed Suleman, the film director is in charge of the play. Another project is a series "Mujhe kya bura tha marna" which Zaheer Khan is producing. Yet another is Mush Mody, a story of a grade 20 officer in the Government who is in difficulties. Syed Mohsin Ali is producing it.

Anwar has been involved in writing the scripts of and acting in many successful and popular series, serials and long plays.

Viewers will of course remember his Half Plate, a sensitive long play, with the late Khalida Riyasat as the much tned wife of an indigent writer played by Moin Akhtar. They quarrel unceasingly but when it comes to the crunch she stands by her husband and refuses the monetary help that a much-dreaded authorities who have nominated his works for high awards. Unfortunately, the same honour has not been conferred on Anwar Maqsood the writer.

Anwar Maqsood is a connoisseur of subcontinents music and has an excellent collection. Asked whether he had heard and liked Bachpan ki mohabbat ko dil sey na bhuladey na, he replies, "Yes, it is a beautiful song composed by Naushad. The film's name was Baiju Bawara."

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However, he deftly circumvents the implications of the question because although he has no qualms on stage where others are concerned, he refuses to narrate any of his own experiences related to the words of the song. He promises, instead, to write his memoirs soon...and to make a truthful affair of it. "In the last 50 years," he says, sadly, "besides the World Cup, people have had no good news."

What about Pakistan's recent nuclear tests? Were they not an achievement? There is no definite yes or no. "The Pakistan tests were carried out because of necessity not because we wanted to do it. In this whole episode, what has emerged is that India being such a big country has come out small in the eyes of the other nations. Pakistan, being smaller in size, has emerged greater in its response."

While the benefits of the nuclear tests remain to be seen, it has become clear that life is becoming increasingly insecure. The day before this interview 14 people had been killed in Karachi.

"The meaning of life in Karachi," Anwar Maqsood muses, "is...simply being alive."



And love? "Love," he replies, "is that which teaches a human being to live. There are two kinds of love. One is that which destroys the lover and the beloved. The other is the kind that teaches you to paint, to write, to be creative and to create...which teaches you to live." •

Written by Sikandar Sarwar