Islamabad, Pakistan – Zia Mohyeddin, one of Pakistan’s greatest figures in art and culture, has passed away. He was 91 years old.
The legendary actor, orator, writer and television host died on Monday morning in a Karachi hospital where he was on life support.
In a career spanning more than six decades in various disciplines, theater has remained Mohyeddin’s lifelong passion. As the founder and later president emeritus of Pakistan’s premier National Academy of Performing Arts (NAPA), he mentored some of the country’s greatest acting talents.
Prominent Zia Mohyeddin – Iconic talent of Pakistan, international star is no more with us. I had the privilege of working with him. Truly an inspiration in hosting. He was a great presenter, actor, director, producer and voice artist.
May ALLAH bless his soul and grant sabr to Azri Bhabi. Amen pic.twitter.com/cxe7ZHvb4o
— Faisal Javed Khan (@FaisalJavedKhan) February 13, 2023
Born in 1931 in the city of Faisalabad in Pakistan’s eastern province of Punjab, Mohyeddin studied theater at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA), one of the world’s leading acting schools.
Among the few Pakistanis to appear in theater and films outside the country, Mohyeddin gave some of his most memorable performances in the Hollywood epics Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Here Comes the Pale Horse (1964) and Bombay Talkie (1970).
He also starred in British director Jamil Dehlavi’s Immaculate Conception (1994) and the critically acclaimed mini-series The Jewel in the Crown (1984).
He wrote two books: the memoir The Carrot is a Carrot (2008) and the collection of essays The God of My Idolatry published in 2016.
Mohyeddin was the recipient of two of Pakistan’s highest civilian awards: Sitara-i-Imtiaz in 2003 and Hilal-i-Imtiaz in 2012.
In a condolence message, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said, “Zia Mohyeddin introduced a new style of hosting in Pakistan and his acting at the international level brought laurels to the country. As president of NAPA, he played a major role in training the next generation of actors.
“It is sad that a man with such beautiful qualities has left us.”
RIP Zia Mohiuddin – truly a legend for life. https://t.co/IXYHngOYyL
— Syed Ali Dayan Hasan (@AliDayan) February 13, 2023
Popular Pakistani actor Fawad Khan, a NAPA graduate who was associated with Mohyeddin for more than a decade, told Al Jazeera that after the actor’s death, he felt like he had lost his own father.
“I don’t have enough words to express my words and sadness about his death. He helped me at every stage. His life was all about the theater, the all-consuming passion he had for it. That kept him alive,” Khan said.
The actor said Mohyeddin was known for his wit and one-liners, but the seriousness he brought to work at NAPA will be his lasting legacy.
“A few years ago, he was rehearsing with us on stage when he suddenly fainted during a recitation. We were all worried, but luckily, he soon recovered. That incident never seemed to scare him,” he said.
Cultural commentator and renowned theater critic Amina Baig said watching Mohyeddin perform for decades was “extraordinarily soothing”.
“He may not have known you and you may never have spoken to him, but he had a shared love of theater and knew, within NAPA, that the arts were passed down and therefore preserved. He, of course, lives on through his work, his students and successors, and hopefully, a continuously thriving theater industry in Pakistan,” a Karachi-based critic told Al Jazeera.