PESHAWAR: Admired for on-screen lifestyle and performance, artistes in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have become accustomed to joblessness.
At the twilight of their career, most of the people in showbiz in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa struggle in making both ends meet.
Arshad Hussain is one among many such unfortunate people in the entertainment industry. He has performed in numerous plays but is faced with the dilemma of being forgotten when he is in dire need of support of the people, particularly art lovers and those at the helm of affairs.
Hailing from the Mardan district, Arshad Hussain belongs to the Pashtun Yousafzai tribe. He joined the entertainment industry in 1992 from Pakistan Television Peshawar Centre and made a name for himself in a short span of time. “I qualified the Public Service Commission examination and was recommended for a lecturer post in a college. But I did not take the post to concentrate on art. I devoted myself to acting as I could not stay away from this field,” he claimed.
The actor played leading roles in numerous Pashto and Urdu language plays during his over 26 years long career and won several regional and national awards for best performance in dramas.
Apart from this, the actor also worked in other types of performing arts, including stage and TV host, filmmaker, theatre director, feature film acting, recorded documentaries, producer, broad-castor, event creator and manager.
Arshad Hussain said he was abducted in 2008 from Rashakai in Nowshera by an extremist group and remained in their captivity for nine days. “The abductors demanded ransom for my release and pressurised me to quit entertainment industry. I did not give up and continued my profession after I was set free,” he added.
The actor said his family passed through mental stress, depression, post trauma syndrome and also financial crisis after the episode. “But even in those darkest moments, I continued performing art. My family, particularly father support and my passion for art gave me the strength to remain associated with art and work for the promotion of the same,” he added. He said like other artistes, he also considered shifting abroad but his father persuaded him to stay and continue his work.
Arshad Hussain is working for the rights of the artistes and promotion of art and culture. He has established an organisation Takhleeq Development Foundation (TDF) for the purpose. “My family experienced ups and downs in the past few years. I battled with cancer, which treatment cost me Rs2.1 million in 2015, my son Wadan Khan escaped unhurt in the militants attack on the Army Public School (APS) in 2014 and we are facing severe financial crisis,” he added.
He said he was rendered jobless in 2017 and was facing hardships in managing a domestic budget. “I did not have my own house and living in a rented flat in Mardan. The entertainment industry is hit hard over the past decade due to a host of reasons and the work opportunities are next to nil. The artistes are finding it hard to make both ends meet,” he narrated.
Arshad Hussain complained of ignorance and being avoided by the fans, friends, individuals and organisations working for art and welfare of artistes. “Nobody bothered to inquire after my health or come forward to help or support me except KP former chief secretary Muhammad Azam Khan,” he added.
Arshad Hussain said artistes were living in anonymity and were forgotten when they go off-screen for some time. He said that there was no mechanism to arrange medical and life insurance facilities for the artistes. “The role of the state, society, respective institutions and associations is vital here. Our heroes and legends shouldn’t be left to die in misery after serving the nation for decades,” he added.
“There is a strange phenomenon. The government departments and other organisations working for art and artistes only arrange condolence references for the artistes after their deaths and pay tributes to them but do not bother to acknowledge them in their life,” he lamented.
Arshad Hussain is still searching for the light at the end of the tunnel for art and artistes. The artiste appealed to the government, art lovers and organisations working for artistes to extend his financial support and at the same time called for steps to revive and promote the entertainment industry to create financial activities for people associated with the profession.