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Shoaib Hashmi is the person who put color on black-and-white TV.

Shoaib Hashmi is the only person who comes to mind when you think of someone who can act, host, write, teach, and entertain all at the same time. Shoaib spent most of his life teaching economics at Government College Lahore. He was the right guy at the right time for a PTV that was growing its reach after the Fall of Dhaka.

People thought he was the first person to put humor on state-owned TV. He had a good eye for talent, a finger on the nation’s pulse, a background in progressivism, and a magic pen.

Shoaib was born in 1938, and he saved PTV all through the 1970s. Shoaib got his Master’s degree from the London School of Economics and took a course at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Then he went back to Pakistan and started working. He taught economics at Government College in the morning and then made people laugh on TV in the evening. Akkar Bakkar, an Indian version of Sesame Street, was his first show on TV. People still remember the show because of the skits and Big Bird, also known as Bee Battakh, who was very tall.

Farooq Qaisar, known for his role in Uncle Sargam, was brought to the front by Bee Battakh. Qaisar went to school at the National College of Arts, which was run by Shoaib’s wife, Salima Hashmi. The shows that came after Akkar Bakkar were Taal Matol and Sach Gupp, which were more about making political points than entertaining people. Veterans Salman Shahid, Samina Ahmed, Naveed Shahzad, Irfan Khoosat, and Arshad Mahmood were shown on TV for the first time by Taal Matol and Sach Gupp.

Hasnat Ahmed and Ahmed Shafi used to talk English even though they didn’t know much about it. From their skit, “gentleman lady” became a well-known term for a woman. “Suno Such Gupp Karo Gup Shup” was Arshad Mahmood’s big hit after he had proven himself as an actor. Shoaib was the one who first told people about the famous Nayyara Noor. He did this on one of his TV shows.

Taking the stage
After things got better under Bhutto, Shoaib had to deal with the anger of General Ziaul Haq. He knew there wasn’t much difference between a real joke and a phakkar pun, but the people in charge didn’t. In the late 1970s, when Shoaib’s TV show Balila came out, it was very bad for the martial law government and had to be taken off the air. A Fiat car named Balila was shown to be left in a driveway while everyone else was working. After a few episodes were shown and the martial law government “decoded” them, the show was taken off the air.

As if that wasn’t enough, he was one of 80 smart and forward-thinking teachers from different government schools who were sent to remote parts of the country at the time. Shoaib spent a couple of years in Pind Dadan Khan.

The fact that his wife Salima was Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s daughter was also a reason why he was punished and then put in jail. Faiz stayed in exile until 1982 because he was known for criticizing army rules. Shoaib was a great replacement for the great writer. Shoaib Hashmi was there to lead the cause, whether it was for the rights of women or for workers.

He got both the Tamgha-i-Imtiaz and the highly sought-after President’s Award for Pride of Performance.

Shoaib can’t move because he had a stroke more than ten years ago. He spent years in bed, and when he died on May 15, 2023, he left behind his wife Salima and two children.

Shoaib Hashmi was a brilliant writer who will be known as the person who gave viewers color when TV was only in black and white.