BOL remembers the veteran actor who touched the hearts and minds of his audience with his powerful performances
Every now and then comes an actor who mesmerizes both the audience and his contemporaries with his brilliant performance, and then leaves the stage for others to emulate him. Veteran TV and film actor Abid Ali was one such personality who graced both TV and films during his career and set a bar so high that not many would be able to match his performances for a long time.
Born in Quetta in 1952, Abid Ali began his career with Radio Pakistan when he was a teenager, and in four years, made a name for himself as one of the rising stars from Quetta. He moved to Lahore in 1973 and made his TV debut with Zanjeer but it was Jhok Sial that made him a household name. After that, there was no stopping him for he juggled between Radio, TV, and stage until he found success through a drama serial Waris, written by Amjad Islam Amjad.
Playing Dilawar Khan in Waris, Abid Ali gave a career-defining performance as a young man in search of his elder brother’s murderer, whom he only knows by name, and not by face. The way he carried the whole drama serial on his shoulders saw him become the leading actor of his generation, and after that sky was the limit for his talents.
Success through drama serials like Waris and Samundar made him a popular actor and also helped him develop his skills as an actor. Not only was he tall, dark, and handsome, he had a distinct voice that set him apart from his colleagues. He used it to his advantage initially in his career, and became one of the most sought-after actors in the country, delivering one hit after another.
From his first TV hit play Jhok Sayal in 1973 to his final film Heer Maan Ja in 2019, Abid Ali stayed busy doing quality projects on every platform and although he hardly played the leading man in films, he remained the first choice of TV directors whenever they had a difficult role in hand. After Dilawar Khan in Waris and Ahmed Kamal in Samundar, he went on to play diverse characters like the landlord who juggles between two wives in Pyas, the truck driver in Khwahish, the patriarch in Dooriyan, the village elder in Dasht, and the mysterious guy who becomes rich after migrating to the gulf states in Doosra Aasmaan.
If that wasn’t enough, he was the first one to take the first step towards private production with Dooriyan which aired on Pakistan’s first private channel Shalimar Television Network and was followed by mega-budget serials like Dasht and Doosra Aasmaan in successive years. He was not only the producer of the projects but also directed some episodes of Dasht, which is even remembered today because of its ensemble cast and plot. On the other hand, Doosra Aasmaan was the first Pakistani drama featuring a mega-cast to be shot abroad, and set the trend of shooting TV plays abroad.
Abid Ali didn’t restrict himself to local TV projects and worked in over 200 films, including two international projects like Sabiha Sumar’s Khamosh Pani and Karan Razdan’s Mr Bhatti on Chutthi. His hit Pakistani films include Khaak Aur Khoon, Gumnam, Insaniyat Kay Dushman, Kalay Chor, Mr. 420, Hawaein, Moosa Khan, and his final film Heer Maan Ja which was released just a month before his death.
After over two decades in the industry, Abid Ali moved to character roles in the new millennium and played the father or grandfather whatever the script offered. Even then, he played Saba Qamar’s husband in Bunty I Love You, the patriarch in Mehndi, Dayar-e-Dil, and Aangan besides diverse characters in Naagin, Pinjra, Daldal, Tajdeed e Wafa, Mera Rab Waris, and Ramz-e-Ishq. Despite growing weak in his final days, he didn’t let his health affect his work and continued to work diligently.
He belonged to that rare generation of actors who had a distinct voice, and through his stints with Radio Pakistan, and later with PTV, he understood the importance of using his vocal talent. Many of the TV commercials that are currently on air feature his vocals, since no one was able to replace the freshness of his vocals and delivery of words.
His expertise with vocals was one of the reasons why no one was surprised when he was selected to dub the dialogues of Anthony Quinn in Urdu for The Message. Opting for Abid Ali proved to be integral to the success of the dubbed version that aired on local TV.
Abid Ali can be counted among those actors who not only worked on his characters but also made others look good. Every actor, actress, or director who had worked with him during his career remembers him for his touching their souls. His untimely death three years ago devastated the TV, Radio, and the film industry, and none of them have been able to recover from that shock.