NAPA Academy: Enduring Legacy of Zia Mohyeddin and Pervez Musharraf

Veteran Pakistani performing artist Zia Mohyeddin (1931-2023) passed away this week. May his soul rest in peace. Amen. Among the most enduring legacies he has left behind is the National Academy of Performing Arts (NAPA) he helped establish in Karachi in 2005 with the support and funding provided by former President Pervez Musharraf (1943-2023). Zia Mohyeddin not only inspired generations of young Pakistanis aspiring to become performing artists, he also helped build NAPA as an institution where they are formally trained in film, television, dance, theater, music and other performing arts.  

Zia Mohyeddin (1931-2023)

Popular Pakistani actor Fawad Khan, a NAPA graduate who was inspired by Mohyeddin, told Al Jazeera the thespian’s death felt like he had lost his own father. “I don’t have enough words to express my words and sorrow at his passing. He helped me at every stage. His life was all about theatre, the all-encompassing passion he had for it. It kept him alive,” Khan said.

National Academy of Performing Arts, Karachi, Pakistan

Zia Mohyeddin was President Emeritus of NAPA at the time of his death. In 2005, he was handpicked by late President Pervez Musharraf to establish and lead a national institution for arts and music. He was trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. He performed in several Broadway and West End theater productions. He made his West End debut in A Passage to India as Dr. Aziz. His acting credits include roles in Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Behold the Pale Horse (1964), Bombay Talkie (1970) and The Jewel in the Crown (1984).  

In 2015, President Pervez Musharraf attended NAPA's 10th anniversary celebration of its founding. Zia Mohyeddin thanked Musharraf for founding NAPA and for selecting him to run it, according to a report in Business Recorder newspaper. "To be a part of NAPA's 10th founding anniversary is a very gratifying experience," he said. "I never imagined myself being around long enough to be a part of the celebrations, and see the seed that we planted grow into a healthy plant and about to become a tree."

Urdu monologues delivered by Zia Mohyeddin became the main draw at popular events in Pakistan and around the world., a popular web library of Urdu poetry, has hailed them for "taking the art of recitation to unprecedented heights".  His performance at the 2011 NED Alumni Association Convention in New Jersey was the the biggest highlight of the event. My friend and fellow NED alumnus Ali Hasan Cemendtaur reported it in the Pakistan Link as follows: 

"It doesn't happen often that a thespian keeps redefining himself to remain in demand as he progresses through years.  Actors should learn from Zia Mohyeddin how to be successful at such a transformation.  Turning 80 in a couple of years, this theater and film actor of yesteryear now uses his deep theatrical voice to recite fine Urdu literature and enthrall crowds.  At the NED Convention 2011, Zia Mohyeddin did something new: besides reading masterpieces of known writers, Mohyeddin read a piece he himself authored". 

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Comment by Riaz Haq on August 27, 2023 at 7:41am

Action Consultancy Sets South Asian Rising Stars Initiative for India, Pakistan Talent

As South Asians increasingly make their mark on the world film and TV stage, an initiative to find emerging talent from the region and propel them globally is being launched.

South Asian Rising Stars is an initiative from U.A.E.-based Action Consultancy, a celebrity talent agency managing a large roster of South Asian talent from the film and television industry for international projects. The program aims to “recognize and elevate exceptional individuals from the South Asian film and television sphere onto the global stage.”

The initiative will have two separate chapters for India and Pakistan. Each chapter of the inaugural talent spotlight edition will shortlist six individuals (a mix of actors, directors and producers) who have regional work in films or television to their credit and are in need of that final push towards their first international breakthrough. All actors, directors and producers with at least one project to their credit in their home country can apply.

Hamid Hussain, CEO of Action Consultancy who has co-founded the program along with Muhammad Yaqoob, said: “South Asia has a huge talent pool that has been underutilized and underrepresented in international film and TV projects. Over the years I have realized there are two reasons behind this, first being no proper representation and guidance available for South Asian talent from the film and television industry internationally and second being the lack of awareness about this talent pool in the international market and concerns amongst international producers regarding obtaining visas due to which there seems to be a bias towards talent holding American, British, Canadian or similar nationalities.”

The initiative will also be used as a tool to create awareness about this talent pool with international casting directors, producers and filmmakers and also to address their concerns over visas. Each shortlisted rising star from both the chapters will get an opportunity to interact with international industry experts. They will receive bespoke support programs for each individual’s professional development for the next one year after selection. This will include giving them agency representation for international projects, connecting them with key international decision makers and mentoring them on increasing their international profile and progressing their career aims.

The shortlisted South Asian Rising Stars will be revealed at an event on the sidelines of the Cannes Film Festival 2024.

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 27, 2023 at 7:42am

Pakistani films gain global recognition, but at what cost?
Mohammad Salman in Karachi

08/25/2023August 25, 2023
Despite restrictions at home, Pakistani filmmakers are finally getting plaudits abroad. Domestically, however, the industry has been blighted by censorship.

Strict censorship policies and conservative sections of society are some of the hindrances that don't allow Pakistani filmmakers to express themselves with creative freedom. But change is taking place, albeit almost unnoticed.

In 2012, filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy's Saving Face won the Academy Award in the best documentary category, making her the first Pakistani to win an Oscar for her country.

Four years later, she earned her second Oscar for "A Girl in The River: The Price of Forgiveness." These days, she is busy directing the next Star Wars film to be released in 2025, the first woman and person of color to do so.

Asim Abbasi, a young filmmaker with a critically acclaimed film "Cake" and a web series "Churails" to his credit, has recently been brought in to direct one of the episodes of The Famous Five.

A long time coming
These achievements have led a group of local critics and analysts to harbor the notion that Pakistani cinema has finally gained global recognition. Is this a true reflection of the country's moviemaking industry which, at home, seems to be struggling to make ends meet?

Obaid-Chinoy told DW that for "so many years, filmmakers haven't had the opportunity to work outside of the parameters of Pakistan for many reasons. But a critical mass of filmmakers now want to practice their craft beyond the borders and are throwing their hat in the ring, whether it's in the UK or the US."

"It's not just directors. It's also actors and actresses [Fawad Khan, Mehwish Hayat and Ahad Raza Mir]. And that shows that the younger generation is interested in practicing their craft anywhere where they can," she added.

"Unfortunately, in Pakistan, it's very hard to make films. There's no funding, there's very little government patronage, and there is censorship. Filmmakers want to tell stories that are beautiful and important. They're saying if they can't tell them in Pakistan, they've got to tell them outside the country. We've all seen what's happened with 'Zindagi Tamasha' and 'Joyland.' I think filmmakers deserve respect. Their craft deserves respect. I'm delighted to see so many of my colleagues are going to be directing films across the world."

Breakthrough surprise
On the newfound acknowledgment internationally, film distributor and exhibitor Nadeem Mandviwalla said it is a "huge encouragement for our filmmakers."

"We used to think that we couldn't make it abroad, even after the roaring business that "The Legend of Maula Jatt" has done at the box office all over the world. It is definitely encouraging," he said.

However, Mandviwalla added that many factors are involved in translating this into something positive.

"The main factor is that we need to do everything to make more movies. The increase in economic growth will help. Out of the 10 directors making films, one of them often takes everyone by a pleasant surprise," he said.

Obaid-Chinoy had a similar view on the subject.


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