LAHORE: A man of letters, an eminent artist, a playwright, a teacher, a producer, director, columnist — these are just some of the introductions used for the inimitable Shoaib Hashmi who died on Monday in Lahore. Hashmi had been unwell for a few years now, and is survived by his artist wife Salima Hashmi — daughter of Faiz Ahmad Faiz — son Yasser Hashmi and daughter Mira Hashmi..
With a master’s in economics from the Government College, Lahore and an MSc degree from the London School of Economics, Hashmi may have attained fame for his work with PTV but will be remembered most fondly also by the many students he taught over the years at Government College Lahore and other private institutions in Lahore. In pursuit of his love for the arts, Shoaib Hashmi had also studied theatre at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, London.
Some of Shoaib Hashmi’s best work came for state broadcaster Pakistan Television (PTV). This included Akkar Bakkar, Such Gup and Taal Matol. In 1995, he became the recipient of the coveted President’s Award for Pride of Performance and also received a Tamgha-e-Imtiaz in recognition of his artistic contribution to the country.
Shahid Nadeem of Ajoka Theatre remembered Shoaib Hashmi as “truly a renaissance man, a playwright, a performer, a teacher and a very enjoyable company. He was a pioneer in the art and culture scene. His contribution in making Government College Dramatic Club (GCDC) a major influence in the development of modern theatre is remarkable. He also pioneered a new kind of entertaining and biting comedy programmes in the early days of state run TV. He was a much-loved teacher at GCU. His unique sense of humour, a blend of Lahori wit and western sarcasm, will be very hard to match. Lahore will be culturally poorer without Shoaib. He was a source of inspiration for me and Madeeha in our theatre journey and we will dearly miss him.”
In a tweeted message, PCB Chairman Najam Sethi reminisced about his times with Shoaib Hashmi: “,,,,His liberal values rubbed off [on] me at a time when my consciousness was raw in GC. The notion of an older teacher being a friend was new to me. It helped growing up fast. The tikka kebab evenings in his little room at Mozang…The camaraderie during rehearsals of “The Swan” at GCDC and then the Paris trip when his car’s La Biele broke down and jazz in basements and art of Mondrian and Picasso cemented so much learning, love and affection. The leftover qeema matar in his flat at Primrose Hill tasted so good…how can I ever forget the great times spent together! May he rest in peace! Ameen.”
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif offered his condolences to the Hashmi family, as did Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb. Punjab Caretaker Minister for Information and Culture Amir Mir also expressed his condolences, saying that Shoaib Hashmi was not only a great actor but also a great dramatist who had the status of a teacher among his fellow artists.
Journalist and cultural critic Nadeem Farooq Paracha called Hashmi’s death: “A giant gone”, adding in his tweeted message that Hashmi’s “last TV venture was a serial ‘Balila’ in 1979. It was banned by the Zia dictatorship. He was also a professor of economics. I had the honour of meeting him on numerous occasions. RIP.”
Such was the power of his satirical writing that Shoaib Hashmi’s programme ‘Such Gup’ that ran on state run television back in the 1970s was brought to life by the original characters in the show in a session at the Faiz Mela in February this year. It was obvious the actors who had worked with him deeply revered him. At the festival, Naveed Shahzad and Arshad Mahmood had recalled how the Such Gup team worked, and met every day at Shoaib Hashmi’s home. The script couldn’t be WhatsApped in those days and meeting everyday created new ideas that were thrilling.
Irfan Khoosat recalled he would get payment for his recordings he did for Shoaib Hashmi’s programme the very next week. “There was a week when I did not record anything, so I was not expecting a cheque. When the artists were asked to receive their cheques, others went to get it. I did not. Shoaib Sahab noticed this and told me to go get my cheque. I said I had no recording last week. He said so many people get paid for doing nothing in this country. You do good work. Go, take it.”
Shoaib Hashmi leaves behind a rich legacy of literature and performance art as well as being one of Lahore’s finest voices in support of progressive causes. The city has lost one of its rarest gems as the country loses an irreplaceable artist and teacher.