Obituary

Never Say Goodbye!

Shakeel was a multitalented performer who gave almost 60 years of his life to performing arts and played an important role in promoting Pakistani TV drama worldwide.

August 2023

All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women are merely players, says William Shakespeare. This wise saying is more pertinent to a versatile thespian like Shakeel, as his world was indeed confined to the performance arts being the top actor, both in an individual sense and professional means. A multitalented actor who gave almost 60 years of his life to this work, Shakeel played an important role in promoting Pakistani TV drama and advancing performing arts in a culturally-diverse country like Pakistan.

Shakeel’s real name was Yusuf Kamal. He was born on May 29, 1938, in Bhopal, India, but his native land was Lucknow. Many years after the making of Pakistan, his parents decided to move from India to Pakistan and settled in Karachi in 1952.

Shakeel got his primary education from a French missionary school which helped him refine his acting skills, and soon he started climbing the ladder of popularity and success in life with confidence. Shakeel started participating in extracurricular activities during his student days in the 1950s and participated in Radio Pakistan’s special broadcasts, particularly for students and young audiences. He honed his performing skills under the guidance of his teacher, Nasrullah Khan, who was an Urdu teacher as well as a seasoned dramatist. He recognized the talented artiste lurking within Shakeel and gave him an opportunity to showcase his talents to the whole world through Radio Pakistan.

Radio was the medium that inspired the artiste in Shakeel, and with that confidence, when he reached college in the 1960s, he began to show his acting chops in theatre, apart from radio, and performed in both street and traditional theater. During one of his theater plays, S. M. Yusuf, a film director and a well-known name in the film world, saw Shakeel and offered him to act in his films. In his initial journey as a well-rounded actor, Shakeel also worked in theatre plays written by Fatima Surayya Bajia. Based on Japanese folk tales, the plays were dramatized and staged, and she acted in them too, which received immense acclaim.

In 1966, Shakeel started his film career with S. M. Yusuf’s film ‘Honahar,’ and on his advice, he changed his professional name to Shakeel. In this film, he became the younger brother of Waheed Murad. After that, Shakeel worked in many other films, but luck was not on his side for the most part. Then, he took a break from the film world and started his TV career. Some of his popular films include Jeedar, Chahat, Insan Aur Gadha, and Jinnah, produced by Jameel Dehlvi. In Jinnah, Shakeel played the role of Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan, the first Prime Minister of Pakistan. This film was released in 1998.

TV producer Zaman Ali Khan introduced Shakeel on PTV, and his first play was ‘Naya Rasta,’ which aired in 1971. TV was the medium that gave him fame, and Shakeel devoted the rest of his life to this medium. Among his famous TV plays and serials were Shehzori, Zair-Zabar-Paish, Uroosa, Chand Girhan, Uncle Urfi, Ankahi, Parchhaiyan, Angan Tedha, Meri Zaat Zara-e-Bay-Nishan, Udari and many others.

Shakeel had been suffering from various diseases for years, so he had reduced his work in showbiz. Exuding a never-say-goodbye attitude, he was a very satisfied person from head to toe and led a wonderful professional life till his last breath. Better to say the history of Pakistan Television would be incomplete without Shakeel, and with his tragic demise, the promising era of TV acting has finally come to an end.