Umer Sharif will be remembered for his incredible wit and humour
After a protracted illness, the comedy king, Umer Sharif, aged 66, passed away to his eternal abode on October 2. The legendary artist had been suffering from several ailments, including heart and kidney diseases, for over a year. Sharif had a heart attack in early August this year. In September, a video surfaced on social media, in which he addressed the prime minister requesting his help in acquiring a US visa.
Upon PM’s orders, Pakistani officials arranged for an air ambulance to fly the artist to the states.
On September 28, Sharif left for the US, but due to his deteriorating health, had to be hospitalised in Munich, Germany, in a stopover. He was diagnosed with pneumonia by the German doctors and was expected to travel to Washington for his prescheduled treatment as soon as he could fly. But nature had different plans.
The news of his demise was confirmed by the Pakistani ambassador to Germany, Muhammad Faisal, on Twitter. Following the announcement, fellow artists and celebrities took to social media to offer condolences to his family and express their grief.
As per Sharif’s wish, he was buried at the Abdullah Shah Ghazi graveyard in Karachi on October 6. The Sindh government made all the arrangements for the funeral and buried him with Pakistan’s flag.
Born in April, 1955, in Karachi, Umer Sharif was one of the most celebrated comedians and actors of the subcontinent. A born entertainer, he was good at mimicry from an early age.
He started his career in 1974 as a stage performer under the alias, Umer Zareef (the witty one), which he later changed to Umer Sharif. In the early 1980s, his popularity was due to his many stage performances. His roles in the stage plays, Bakra Qiston pe (1989), and Buddha Ghar pe hai earned him much praise.
The king of comedy, as he was often called, won thousands of hearts with his wit and humour. He had established the Umer Sharif Welfare Trust in 2006, intending to create a healthcare centre that would serve the community free of charge.
His debut film Hisaab, directed by Muhammad Jawed Faazil, was released in 1986. He acted in 24 films during his decades’ long career. Sharif received wide acclaim for two of his projects, Charlie and Mr 420 and was even awarded the best actor and director’s honours for Mr 420 in 1992.
The legendary artist was immensely popular and highly acknowledged for his contributions to the industry. He received awards for, best stage actor (1984), best stage director (1988), Chicago Award (1992), Karachi’s Trend Changer Award (1993), Lahore Press Club Award for Excellent Performance (1996), 10 Nigar Awards (Sharif was the first person to receive four Nigar Awards in a single year), three Graduate Awards, four Qaumi Awards, Cassette Melody Awards, Best Award for Hat Trick in Audio Cassettes, an International Emirates Award in Dubai, National Defence College Pakistan Shield, Two Bolan Awards, Musafir Award, Waheed Murad Award, Jang Award, Khabrain Award, Sadaaqat Award and an award from Allama Iqbal Medical College. He was also a recipient of the Tamgha-i-Imtiaz.
In 2009, Umer Sharif began hosting an extremely popular late-night comedy talk show, The Sharif Show, on Geo TV. On this show, he interviewed several actors, entertainers, musicians and politicians.
He was not only famous in Pakistan but also widely recognised in India. He appeared as a judge on an Indian standup comedy show called, The Great Indian Laughter Challenge, alongside cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Siddhu and comedian/ actor Shekhar Suman in 2011-12. Widely known Indian comedian Kapil Sharma also expressed his grief on Sharif’s demise through a tweet.
The king of comedy, as he was often called, won thousands of hearts with his wit and humour. He had established the Umer Sharif Welfare Trust in 2006, intending to create a healthcare centre that would serve the community free of charge. To materialise this goal, Maa Hospital in Orangi Town, Karachi, was built in 2011. It is a charitable healthcare centre that provides modern healthcare services to people in need, especially the entertainment community.
Born and raised in Karachi, Sharif moved to Lahore to pursue better opportunities in theatre acting during the ‘90s. It is believed that the move was a result of the MQM rule in Karachi. Sharif realized, however, that his heart belonged in Karachi, and returned.
Married thrice, the comedian was distressed over property disputes in the family, but primarily and a daughter’s passing in 2020.
A good way of honouring his memory would be to archive his work so that the future generations can relive his humour.
The writer is a public policy and governance scholar at Forman Christian College, Lahore, and is interested in human development and economic policy. She can be reached at [email protected]