‘Aisa kuch kar ke chalo yaan ke bahut yaad raho.’
Art, poetry, stories, music, nine siblings, many plants and two matriarchs – this was the oyster for Anwar’s growing understanding and perspective on life to come. Ache bhai, his father passed away much too soon leaving him and his family in actual doldrums. Their ship could have very well stayed put had it not been for the extraordinary women that this house was blessed with.
Anwar saw Surayya walking into PTV, Sara ruling the airwaves at Radio Pakistan, Zehra winning over mushairas and Sughra lost in the woven intricacies of bridal trousseaus, while he dabbled and experimented with the financial world and eventually, for its brighter future, left it. To this day his banker friends count that as a blessing.
Many journalistic hiccups, a few achievements and a daring ‘I can do this’ attitude saw him at the threshold of where Suraya (Bajia) was already making a mark (Pakistan Television) and he became a part of the golden classic Zia Mohiuddin Show. A member of the backstage team, contributing to scripting, he tasted his first flavour of commenting on current affairs with a pep and an opinion.
A long play Mehman (PTV’s first long play) gave him his first window into acting along with writing – acting being something that is closest to his heart, his first love and he still enjoys cameos as and when possible though he is not terribly good at it. He will refuse to accept it and I will probably not get the painting that he promised me but, nevertheless, if there is one thing that AM is not excellent at it is acting. There! Painting gone.
The next few years brought him into the magical realm of music – EMI. His home was rich in culture and talk. Everyone read, worked and argued. Pashi, his mother, knew Hafiz by heart and quoted Persian classic poetry most frequently, giving you a strange look if you failed to emote the ecstasy of understanding the finest of pedagogical lilts or twists. She played the harmonium and discussed ragas along with her homespun recipes of khichri and chutney and ensured that everyone was better learned and fed simultaneously.
His career in music fitted right into this melodious environment. He searched and plugged new talent. He made playlists for cassettes and long play records, met and became a lifelong friend with the one and only Arshad Mahmud and discovered eminent legends like Nusrat Fateh Ali among many others. His Silver Jubilee later, further consolidated this work by bringing it on national television. Present day stalwarts like Humera Channa, Benjamin Sisiters, etc have much to thank that show and Anwar for. He probably has the best collection of music from spools to iPods today and if you are blessed enough and you get to hear it with him, then he will narrate the history and background of each lyrical masterpiece like a fairy tale, and, within an hour, you will have a close kinship with Hemant Kumar, sing Asha by heart and pick on R D Burman whenever he steals a note from his father. You will also hear Elvis and Beatles and Leonard Cohen and lots of indigenous African and Mexican music. However, do remember that you cannot criticize Madam Noor Jehan and Asha Ji at any cost. 7HETHER MUSIC OR JOURNALISM THE INTELLECT was homegrown and plenty (this family could lend some and then some more) and his own family was his best critic. Loose comment or shallow reasoning had no acceptance and with shining stars like Ahmed (Maqsood Hamidi) as the older brother, he knew better than arguing over Shikwa or Jawab-e-Shikwa so he, instead, wrote his own shikwa.
His shikwa (complaint from the world) Fifty Fifty – sketches and skits as comments and satire, became an instant hit. The political and social twist found in this narrative made icons out of its lead performers. Names like Jahangir, Ismail Tara, Zeba Shahnaz, Bushra Ansari and Moin Akhtar reached the top tier in terms of credibility and fame. Bushra and Moin would continue with Anwar for a series of successful shows, one after the other and the gap left by sach gup got filled in remarkably. He followed it up with many long plays and serials, including his masterpiece Angan Tehra, Sitara aur Mehrunisa, etc. Loose Talk became a long, continuing comment on social and political conflicts of Pakistani society.
Anwar often remembers the days from his mother’s kitchen and ensures the little tweaks of Pashi in his culinary creations. Flambé and style follow him in the kitchen too and you see him doing all the dough flips and cutlet mesh that he creatively comes up with. Immo generally locks herself in her room to maintain her sanity and the studios are looking for comprehensive INSURANCE TO GO AHEAD WITH @7HEN !NWAR Cooks’ because the food is to die for after all.
A not so hidden facet of his multi-dimensional intelligence and personality is his flair for and collection of art. The creativity is just not sated with writing, speaking, cooking – it needs one more outlet and, lo and behold, came the canvas and the colours.
His paintings have a vibrancy and liveliness that surprises you. They come out and engage you. The eyes are huge, the noses regal and the mouth set. The necks long and arrogant, the birds plump and gorgeous and the moon burning. He uses the most amazing and aesthetically put together shades of blues and ochre and emerald and vanilla – the palette is exquisite to say the least and hardly ever repeated. Each work is differently wired and yet undeniably Anwar. He dabbled with theatre too and Paune
Chauda August started the love affair with twists to the freedom history to explain the present. His Siachin, however, had the
audience teary-eyed and heartbroken. But this is what he does – he does a DaureJunoon for every Mirza and Sons. His mirth for each of his woes. His humour for his broken heart.
Anwar would narrate this story slightly differently. His narration would require you to control laughter and smirks and ensure that you do not have tea/juice dribbling out of the sides of your mouth. It is impossible for him not to laugh at himself or provide you the opportunity to do so. There is a strange satisfaction that he seeks by making people laugh.
It puzzles me at times but then he pulls a smart one and we laugh.