The unrivaled television hero of Pakistan, Shakeel

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Shakeel was a perfect example of what a hero ought to be, whether it was on the radio, stage, screen, or finally television.

Imran Khan, the former captain of the Pakistan cricket team, visited our school at the end of 1991 to raise money for his Shaukat Khanum Hospital. The early finance for the hospital Imran had imagined for cancer patients depended heavily on schools and colleges. He was scheduled to go for Australia in a few weeks and the World Cup down under was just around the horizon. He was the center of attention for the teaching staff, which was predominately female, as well as for cricket-crazy males like us.

All of the professors, who typically wore the lightest makeup to class, were done out in semi-bridal makeup. Only one teacher, however, remained unaffected and unaltered. In addition to introducing Imran to the audience, Mrs. Shakeel, head of the arts division, maintained her composure the entire time. It was eventually discovered that she was far more famous at home, where she had been enchanting crowds long before Imran had played his first Test as a youngster. When Imran arrived, Shakeel, a renowned actor who had captivated generations with his work and demeanor, was acting in Fatima Surayya Bajiya’s Uroosa and Haseena Moin’s Kohar.

In addition to being an actor, Shakeel was a perfect example of what a hero ought to be. He was always well-groomed and had a good understanding of almost everything that made a man seem dapper. He was a product of the time when youthful, fresh-faced heroes who specialized in love roles were called “chocolate heroes” and were popular.

He moved to Pakistan in the early 1950s after being born Yousuf Kamal in Bhopal, India, nine years before Partition. He began acting in theatrical performances to satiate his hunger for creativity in 1965 while working at a Karachi advertising firm. The director of the movie Honehar SM Yusuf noticed him there and gave him the part of Waheed Murad’s younger brother.

Shakeel was chosen as his stage name by poet Fayyaz Hashmi and musician SM Yusuf, who also made him known to the public. Yusuf and Kamal would not have worked together without the assistance of the performers Syed Kamal and Yousuf Khan, the director’s SM Yusuf and Iqbal Yusuf, and others. Despite being praised for his striking similarity to Hollywood actor Tony Curtis, Shakeel fared better at the movie office than Honehar. Shakeel received several offers by 1970, so he kept taking pictures. However, after a few years, he decided that films weren’t his thing.

Shakeel switched to television after several failures and saw performers with unusual appearances prevail. Shakeel retained his name when he chose to go on television, unlike Talat Hussain who changed it from his film identity Farooq Jalal.

Early in the 1970s, Haseena Moin’s extended play Happy Eid Mubarak helped Shakeel gain recognition. He and Neelofer Aleem’s collaboration was well-liked and contributed to the success of Shehzori, one of Moin’s first PTV hits. Soon after, although in his mid-30s at the time, he portrayed the eponymous Uncle Urfi and had no trouble portraying a middle-aged man. Shakeel never turned back after that.

Shakeel, like Moin, became essential in the plays by seasoned playwright Fatima Surayya Bajjiya, with Afshan, Ana, and Uroosa serving as notable instances. In the 1984 classic Aangan Terha, Shakeel was expertly cast as Mehboob Ahmed by Bajjiya’s younger brother Anwar Maqsood. He played the part expertly of a retired civil worker who had formerly worked in the Meteorological division. In one of Saleem Nasir’s greatest performances to date, he used to torment his on-screen wife Jahan Ara (played by Bushra Ansari), and enjoy one-liners from his dancer-turned-servant Akbar.

Shakeel kept audiences spellbound for more than fifty years. Be it as Taimur Ahmed in the 1982 Ankahi, King Abu Abdullah from 1983’s Shaheen, Taufiq in the 1991 magnum-opus Uroosa, Babar sahab in Chand Girhan (1992), Ehsaan of Tum Se Mil Kar (1999) or later dramas like Meri Zaat Zara Bay-nishaan (2009) and Mujhe Mere Khuda Pe Yaqeen Hai (2013), Shakeel was a man who made the viewer believe the character he was. In Jamil Dehlvi’s film Jinnah from the late 1990s; he even played Liaquat Ali Khan, the country of Pakistan’s first prime minister.

In 1992, he also received the Presidential Pride of Performance Award for his achievements in the performing industry.

When Shakeel first came here as a student in the school broadcast program, he got his start in radio. He did various radio shows because of his superb English but struggled to keep up. Although he thought theatre would be more fitting, he chose TV. The curtain was drawn on his life on another Eid day, much as when he made his television debut in the early 1970s.

Shakeel led a heroic life and, like the heroes in his tragedies, died in front of his loved ones.

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