Veteran actor left for his heavenly abode on 13th November, 2021. PHOTO: Fashion Times
Renowned TV actor Sohail Asghar started his acting career late but due to his exceptional acting skills and exemplary performances, he swiftly succeeded in becoming a household name in no time.
Born on 15th June, 1954 in Multan, Sohail Asghar entered showbiz after completing his education in the mid-70s. However, despite being a practitioner of method acting, he spent the first decade of his career working on Radio Pakistan as an RJ and as a small-time actor. It was through Asghar Nadeem Syed’s TV drama Aasman in 1985 that he gained recognition as an actor. He was neither the protagonist in the play nor the antagonist, but his performance was so flawless that other directors noticed him instantly.
He followed his debut drama with Piyaas and Khwahish in the late 1980s; while both were written by Asghar Nadeem Syed, Piyaas was directed by Nusrat Thakur whereas Rashid Dar called the shots in Khwahish. In both these plays, Sohail Asghar outshone his cast members including Abid Ali, Mahboob Alam, Azmul Haque, Afzal Ahmed, and even film actress Rani Begum (in Khwahish) with his closer to reality performance and ability to deliver the character.
That time PTV was breaking away the shackles that were put in place due to Zia ul Haq’s Martial Law, and Sohail Asghar’s brilliance helped ease the transition in a big way. He played a ‘pimp’ in Piyaas who manages his elder sister (Shakila Qureshi) at a time when the mere mention of the word ‘prostitute’ was forbidden on TV. His catchphrase ‘Sadqe Thevan’ and ‘Hum Aadmi Hain Zara Wakhrey Type Ke’ became quite popular in those days and was quoted by youngsters in schools, college, and even family gatherings.
In Khwahish, Sohail was shown to be part of a circus troupe that goes independent but fails. He was paired opposite Seemi Raheel, who herself was making a comeback on TV after a decade. How he made the role stand out in the presence of veteran actors is why new actors should watch his plays and learn from him. He proved himself to be a man with many faces when he became the terrifying Jahanian Shah in Chand Girhan in 1992 and played the role of a Sindhi landlord who doesn’t see eye to eye with his family. For someone born and bred in Multan, playing a Sindhi character was always going to be a challenge, but Sohail excelled in it and made his fans believe that he was a Sindhi actor playing a character that came naturally to him.
His performance was instrumental in the success of Chand Girhan. Before Chand Girhan, private productions were usually confined to sitcoms, however, after its success, the production houses migrated into dramas. Actors of today should realize that had there been no Jahanian Shah, the private productions might have arrived late in the country, which would have affected the growth of the industry and they might still have been amateurs.
Last but not the least, Sohail Asghar’s performance in the serial Laag as Kaku Lala was also memorable, which made him stand out in an ensemble cast also featuring Zeba Bakhtiar, Rauf Khalid, Nadia Khan, Nayyar Ejaz, and Nirma. The play revolved around the Kashmir struggle and became a huge hit, propelling his graph higher than before.
As a performer, he challenged his own boundaries and went for characters that no one else dared to sign up for, and that’s why he was chosen for Zafar Meraj’s telefilm Murad in 2003 where he played a eunuch, Saima, who adopts a young boy and raises him as his own so that he can lead a successful life. Not only did he win awards for the portrayal of that character but was praised across the border as well where this telefilm was screened on a their local network a few years later.
Not many know but long before actors started delivering their own lines in TV dramas, Sohail Asghar had been there, and done that! His catchphrase in Piyaas was not in the script and he only delivered it after getting the writer’s approval. Similarly, the way he delivered his lines in Chand Girhan has been associated with Sindhi landlords ever since, with people still unable to forget the line ‘Hamaray Hukum Kay Baghair Chirya Par Nahi Maarti’ after nearly three decades. He was not just a master of expressions but also loved to live a character, a trait many actors of today have inherited from him.
After moving to Karachi at the turn of the century, Sohail Asghar kept acting in TV dramas but missed the golden days of PTV when quality was preferred over quantity. Like most of his fellow senior actors, he was also relegated to character acting where he was either the hero’s father or the heroine’s dad, but he rarely disappointed, even in these minor roles. His performance as Niaz in the remake of Khuda Ki Basti as well as other TV dramas in the last 15 years was phenomenal, and despite growing old, he was considered as one of the most versatile actors of his generation till his final breath.
Last year, Sohail Asghar went through gastric surgery after which his life wasn’t the same. He acted in fewer dramas, and stayed home but was always there with a word of advice whenever newcomers asked him for his guidance. On 13th November, he passed away in Karachi after a prolonged illness and was buried on Sunday at Bahria Town Karachi, where he resided with his family. With his death, the year 2021 has taken away another star from the show business, and the entertainment industry has become poorer.