It Seems Artists Are Born to Die In Penury And Humiliation In Pakistan

It Seems Artists Are Born to Die In Penury And Humiliation In Pakistan
“Don’t send me Happy New Year messages. This year like its predecessor won’t be happy from any angle but loaded with posts of heavy news.” I wrote this last month in one of my columns. And so, I bear the first bad tidings of 2023 – renowned TV comedian Majid Jahangir passed away hours ago in Lahore.

For the past several years, Majid was in a miserable physical state – so abominable that it left him no option but to carry banners/placards on the streets of Lahore for alms. About six years ago, I was driving through a busy road in Lahore. The traffic congestion brought my driver to a standstill, and I got an opportunity to talk to a fine artist.

I did not want to embarrass him by asking what pushed him into impoverishment or why he was facing penury in old age. A man in his situation should not be questioned. He should talk himself. So, I said to him that people were proud of him for bringing mirth and smiles into their lives. His reaction was thought-provoking.

“I deeply regret my endeavours of making people laugh. Instead of becoming an actor, I should have been selling sonth ka paani (dry ginger spicy water). It would have saved me from this humiliation that you too are witnessing today. Those who are making people laugh today should look at me and learn from my plight. Do something else and you will never regret. But this profession (acting) will do you no good in the downswing! You will cry in the end and people will forget you. They might laugh at you!”

Majid was right. But he could have been disproved by those who run this country. It is not difficult to invest a couple of billions in a real estate project exclusively for the welfare of needy artists. For example, a commercial plaza. Its rent will be enough to provide bread and butter to the artists who are now forced to live in wretched circumstances. But corruption is an incurable issue in our system. If such a scheme is launched, the biggest beneficiary will be the bureaucracy. Artists will continue to die in a state of helplessness like Mastana, Babbu Baral, Amanullah and Tariq Teddy.

He rose to eminence through the PTV classic skit show Fifty Fifty – not as a soloist but as a duo with Ismail Tara. The latter was always the leading character that Majid supported brilliantly. It was not easy to earn recognition in a supporting role with Tara.

Majid’s health continued to deteriorate. He was partially paralysed. Weeks before his death, he fell from bed and injured his spine.

Now he was on his death bed. A man on his death bed never lies. He accused two well-known anchors, Waseem Badami and Iqrarul Hassan, of stealing his money – which was in millions. It was raised by them in the name of his welfare, he alleged.

Before dying, Majid gave interviews to many Youtubers in which he said that he will hold Badami and Hassan accountable for his money in the Hereafter. It is a dreadful curse if understood carefully. Why blame the state institutions for corruption when private journalism is equally dishonest?

Now, all the politicians and bureaucrats in the realm of art will write tweets in which they will acknowledge Majid as a great artist whose services will never be forgotten. They all will admit that his death was untimely and it has left a void in the world of comedy that will remain wide open forever.

Such messages are ready-made products. Merely the names and dates are changed. The name yesterday was Ismail Tara. And today it is Majid Jahangir. Tomorrow it will be another.

Nobody will do anything good for the artists. They will be left in the clutches of illness, poverty and death.

Majid was not an ordinary artist. He was another name for creativity. He was also a recipient of the Pride of Performance award.

But what for? To die in oblivion and humiliation?

Mohammad Shehzad is based in Islamabad. He has been writing for national and foreign publications since 1992. He is the author of The State of Islamic Radicalism in Pakistan (Routledge Taylor & Francis) and Love and Fear: Poems Beyond Time ( He learns tabla and classical vocal music. He is a passionate cook and shares his recipes at Email: