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Haseena Moin: A Woman, An Icon, A Myth

The most famous and internationally known playwright and dramatist of Pakistan Haseena Moin went to her eternal journey last month leaving behind a legacy of numerous beautiful stories and their characters. Remembering her is actually cherishing the life and work for which she is loved by millions of people around the world.

Generally was known as Heseena Apa among fans, friends and fraternity, she became a household name in Pakistan when her plays started to come on PTV in early 70s and were hits one after another.

Haseena was born in Kanpur, India on November 20, 1941. Her family migrated to Pakistan in 1947 after the partition. She graduated from the Government College for Women in 1960 and earned Master of

Arts in History from Karachi University in 1963. Her thirst for writing was noticeable from the final years of her schooling, as she got selected to write weekly column by the title BHAI JAN for a local journal.

Her fame started to bloom when she regularly wrote plays for Radio Pakistan Karachi’s popular segment “Studio Number 9. It was in 1969 that Iftikhar Arif, Head of the Script Dept. at PTV-Karachi Centre, offered her the chance to write a play for the EID. Then it was Eid Ka Jorra with Neelofer Aleem and Talat Hussain in the lead.

After that there was no turning back and Haseena ruled the drama industry for next three decades.

An icon and a legend, Haseena wrote different types of drama from comedies to tragedies and from romance to social issues. Her plays and characters were though from the usual life but left lasting effects because of their special traits. She was a true feminist and always ahead of times though never propagated it making her heroines giving subliminal messages of women empowerment without emphasizing it as the object of play. They were not really powerful and ambitious figures of society but ordinary girls from middle or upper-middle class urban families yet had the courage to lead their life on their own terms and freedom to make decision within a strong and bonded family support system.

Her plays and characters in 1970s had more of comic touch in them but carried a strong message of mental freedom and liberty that was quite prevailing in the society during that time. She wrote memorable plays like Shehzori, Uncle Urfi, Kiran Kahani (PTV’s first original drama script), Zeir Zabar Pesh, Parchaieyen (first coloured television serial of Pakistan), Dhund and Bandish in that decade. Her leading ladies Tara of Shehzori, Beena of Uncle Urfi, and Najia of Parchaiyan were women responsible of their deeds whether right or wrong.

The 1980s enticed Moin towards mature plots and developing characters that were not only more relevant but also had a complete and full circle story around them. They had a captivating persona that attracted growing girls of that era to tread on their lines. Sana Murad of Ankahi, Zara and Saniya of Tanhaiyan and Zoya Ali Khan of Dhoop Kinare, were women who never compromised on their vulnerability and womanhood when it comes to go through life.

The start of 90s took Haseena to more serious real time issues and she wrote plays like Aahat which raised the concept of family planning, Kasak on the misconception that childbirth and infertility only belongs to women and Padosi, on single mother raising a child. She also wrote some romantic plays like Kohr, Jane Anjane, Pal Do Pal and a historic paly on the life of sub-continental musician Tansen.

The advent of new century derived her to work on different horizons. She penned down first three drama serials of Scotland based Elysee Productions for PTV; Des Pardes. Ansoo, and The Castle: Aik Umeed, all starring Pakistan cast including veteran Talat Hussain in every play.

In last decade, her drama serial Meri Behan Maya, on Geo TV in late 2012 was well-received and Annie Jafry was appreciated for her performance as Maya. In 2012, a sequel to one of her most popular drama serials,

Tanhaiyaan was re-produced and aired on PTV and ARY Digital simultaneously.

Her comic characters other than the lead also became famous in their own way. Hasnat Bahi and Ghazi Apa of Uncle Urfi; Mamoo, Moby and Timmy of Ankahi; Qabacha, Buqrat and Aapa Begum from Tanhaiyan are still in the memories of people.

She had reduced her contribution for television from late 90s especially after the mushroom growth of private channels which were asking to write a run of the mill women abusing stories to get ratings.

Her plays were popular across the border as well. A loosely based remake of her most famous paly Dhoop Kinare (1987) by the name of Kuch Toh Log Kahenge was aired in India during 2011–2013 with special tribute to Haseena Moin. She wrote a play for Star Plus India called Tanha, starring Pakistani actors like Marina Khan and Sajid Hasan while also wrote a play for Doordarshan named Kash-m-kash, Arshad Mahmood composed and Tina Sani sang the title song of the play.

Indian writer Seema Grewal was a class XII student in Amritser when ‘Dhoop Kinare’ was first telecast on PTV in 1987, reminisces, “The show was so popular that during Punjabi classes, nine out of 10 students used to refer to the characters from the show as examples during sentence-making. Even our teachers would find it amusing,”

Moin loved to write films as well though they are not much in numbers. She worked Yahan Se Wahan Tak (1978), Nazdekiyan (1986), and Kahin Pyar Na Ho Jaye (1998). She also wrote dialogues for Raj Kapoor’s last venture Henna (1991) on the special request of Kapoor.

The last film she wrote was released in

December 2019 was Sacch produced and directed by Zulfiqar Sheikh and Tasmina Sheikh. She was very much there in its press conference and told media about how she stayed at Sheikhs’ place in Scotland and completed the dialogues in the chilled weather and seclusion at the house. The film was shot too in Scotland.

Being a journalist I had that opportunity to meet her so often in literary events and theatres. The last time I talked to her was a phone call when I was writing a feature on Pakistani dramas being dubbed in Arabic for Saudia Arab audience. Three of her television plays were selected for the project and the memorable Dhoop Kinare has already been aired.

Besides showing her excitement over this initiative she was quite dejected by the attitude of new lot working in the field of arts and on authority levels, which somehow was not enough to give respect and gratitude to founders of the industry.

In late life she was a regular part of Arts Council Karachi and attended literary, educational and women welfare seminars in Pakistan and abroad.

All showbiz fraternity has expressed their grief and condolence to this iconic lady of Pakistan drama industry. From older to new generation of stars left heartfelt notes on their social media though many of them have never worked with her.

Sajid Hasan, the veteran actor and a close friend of Haseena featured his memories with her in a renowned publication of country. He writes, “It had never occurred to me that she would die. She had that kind of formidable persona. She was a very strong person, and forever young. Haseena was a legend while she lived; now she is a myth – the stuff of stars.”

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