Nusrat Ara Begum passed away. Evidently the name did not ring any bell. Let me rephrase that. Bil Batori passed away. I see now you’re with me. A faint recognition was all I needed. Bil Batoripassed away in a hospital due to respiratory complications that led to her heart finally failing. She died on the 14th of October, 2017 but that is not true. Bil Batori died the day her creator pulled the plug on her character. This was back in 1996, a good twenty-one years ago. What you saw on Pakistani media from time to time was a living carcass roaming the streets of Lahore fighting for relevancy. This living carcass was Nusrat Ara Begum. Is she relevant now?
Ainak Wala Jin was aired on Pakistan Television Network (PTV) in 1993 and made history. The script and screenplay werepenned down by A Hameed, a literary giant with loads of experience writing fiction. The story begins with a genie rendezvousing in the human realm to find a cure for hisdwindling eyesight. This genie whose name is Nastoor befriends a young boy by the name of Imran. The boy is an avid fan of fantasy and finds Nastoor’s mission epically profound.
Together the genie and Imran embark on a journey to find power glasses for the genie and are met with many fantastical creatures. The audience is acquainted with the famed Zakoota Jin, Bil Batori and Hamoon Jadoogar during this course. Ainak Waka Jinbecame especially popular with children who would find Nastoor’s antics weaved into a comedy of errors utterly hilarious. The cast of the show found fame and fortune knocking on their doors; soon they would be immortalized as the characters that they played.
Strategically, the show changed the landscape of Pakistan. A Zakoota Jin themed play-land opened many branches in Lahore and got busy instantly with hordes of children rushing in. Bil Batori’s limerick ‘Bil Batori, Nasa Chori, Adhi meethi, AdhiKori’ became everyday jingles. Nastoor’s arched eyebrows and spectacles became hot favorites when roadside vendors decided to merchandise them as funny outfits. All was well until all of them were hit with The Luke Skywalker syndrome. This is fitting for actors who make major breaks with outstanding roles but end up not being able to score other roles for the audience’s lack of experience in knowing them in any other capacity. Perhaps sometimes fame kills the actor but not the celebrity. The cast of Ainak Wala Jin, where are they now:
1. Shehzad Qaiser (Nastoor/Ainak Wala Jin)
Qaiser would find himself conned by PTV’s representative. He claims to have invested in the show’s sequel that would be aired on PTV as ‘Nastoor’s Return’. The promo is available on YouTube.
Soon, after investing his last penny on the show’s production, Qaiser went to PTV’s HQ in Karachi who refused to have had anything to do with it. Consequentially, Qaiser’s show was not aired. He went on and pitched his show for free to other TV networks but they refused to air it.
Qaiser’s children were forced to leave school due to lack of finances and the family moved to a dingy flat. Ainak Wala Jin was aired on PTV as reruns a couple of times but Qaiser iterates the cast was not paid any syndication money.
Qaiser’s whereabouts are unclear.
2. Munna Lahori (Zakoota Jin)
Munna Lahori, who is now 62 years old, lives in the outskirts of Lahore in a small house with no basic utilities. The actor suffers from partial paralysis and has little money to pay for medical attention.
He is no longer able to move his arm and faces speech impediment. Lahori still performs at Alhamra Arts Council in the play ‘Jin and Jadugar’ but is not paid much. His family have pledged the government to provide them with basic essentials to carry on with their lives.
3. Ajlal Asim Bukhari (Imran)
Bukhari graduated from London Film Academy and lives with his wife and daughter in London. He runs an NGO by the name of Save My Star in Pakistan that aims to provide financial assistance to local artists. He is also part of the Ajoka Theater and makes appearances in Lahore from time to time.
4. Haseeb Pasha (Hamoon Jadoogar)
Haseeb Pasha lives in Lahore and works to promote the performing arts in Pakistan. Though he was not awarded with many roles after Ainak Wala Jin, he did manage to gain traction in the industry. Pasha is invited to many theatrical performances at Alhamra Arts Council as chief guest where he graces the stage as his legendary character.
5. Bil Batori (Nusrat Ara Begum)
Nusrat Ara passed away recently due to poor health. She had been poverty stricken for many years and found solace in the form of meals at Data Darbar. According to sources, she had developed a skin disease owing to constant ingestion of rice related foods. She had appealed to the government to provide for financial assistance but was only awarded with fifty-thousand rupees.
The cast of Ainak Wala Jin suffered a terrible fate at the hands of producers and us, the general public. Most of them waged a war for relevancy but were brutally martyred in the process. Nusrat Ara’s passing away has made headlines, this posthumous pertinence is common to many deceased artists here in Pakistan. I believe it is imperative to foster the surviving members of the show and cater for their needs. It is also important to find patrons of the performing arts and dig them out of their graves to support such talent.