Anwar Maqsood, a member of one of Pakistan’s most talented families, is not a man to take on one on one. His razor sharp wit is a weapon he wields deftly and with serious effect. His biting satire can be seen on the state-run television channel – which is a surprise at times even to him – and on the private channel in Pakistan in the guise of teleplays, serials and stage shows.
He is one of the country’s most popular comperes and writers and has even begun acting with more frequency.
However, what most people do not know is that Anwar Maqsood – the writer, actor, poet, compere – is basically a painter. He has been painting for over three decades now and is one of the more serious names in the world of Pakistani art today. “That’s how I make my living,” he says. He is the quintessential renaissance man.
Raised in a family that not only dabbled in the arts but made it a point to excel at them, Anwar Maqsood grew up in an environment where creativity – in whatever form or shape it decided to manifest itself – was encouraged and talent was appreciated. Two of his older sisters, Fatima Surraiya Bajia and Zehra Nigah are well-established names in Urdu literature. Another sister is, as he himself puts it, the Sadequain of ghararas’, the pioneer of shaadi-wear in the country. Yet another sister is a journalist and works for the BBC.
Here he talks about his art, his family, the state of the nation, and population control!
“When I was young, we used to live in P.I.B Colony and Shakir Ali’s house was next to ours. He was a good friend of my brother-in-law’s so he would come to our house often. He would come and paint at our house and I would watch him paint. He would often ask me why I, too, did not paint? Those days I didn’t even have enough money for bus fare, where would I have got the money to buy paints? So he used to provide me with paints.
“I had my first one-man show in 1958 in Karachi. All my paintings were sold out in less than half an hour. There were 50 pictures on display and 40 out of the 50 were bought by Jamshed Marker. Painting is how I make my living.
“Why do most of us dabble in the arts? Well, I suppose because we have all always been beset with worries! So it was always the talent that came in handy. If we didn’t have worries, perhaps we wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing.
“We came from Hyderabad – 10 brothers and sisters. I didn’t go to school for a few years because we didn’t have the money for the tuition. So everyone was busy doing something or the other. The relationship I shared with my brothers and sisters was not a conventional one, in that we were friends rather than siblings. We would criticize each other’s work, saying yes, this is good’ or no, this doesn’t work’. There was a lot of encouragement at home in that sense.
“My relationship with my son Bilal is like it would be with a childhood friend. It’s not a father-son relationship. I still play cricket with him in the rain, we go on the floor together, we joke around a lot; for instance, if Bilal hears a good joke, he tells me first, and vice-versa. Bilal only has one problem: he is anti-smoking, anti-drinking, and anti-paan. That is the only bone of contention between us. And it’s the same sort of relationship I share with my daughter as well.