Mastana The King of Stage Drama Left Us

LAHORE/BAHAWALPUR, April 11: Noted stage comedian Murtaza Hasan, widely known as Mastana, died after a protracted illness at Bahawal Victoria Hospital (BVH) on Monday. He was 69.

Mastana, survived by a widow and a son, was a Hepatitis-C patient, and was hospitalised some 20 days ago in critical condition after, according to doctors, his liver stopped functioning.

His son Saad Hasan, brother Javed Akhtar and sister Shaheen were at his bedside in the hospital at the time of his death, artiste’s family sources said.His funeral prayers held at Bahawalpur’s central Janazgah were joined by a large number of people, including the local artistes and media persons. He was laid to rest in a local graveyard.

In Mastana’s death the Pakistani commercial theatre lost one of its luminaries.

Though Mastana had left theatre for about last ten years, the news of his death came as a shock to the artiste fraternity.

The Commercial Theatre Association decided to keep close all theatre activity on Monday night to show reverence for the late artiste.

Mastana belonged to Gujranwala. Before joining the field of theatre, he was an embroiderer.

In 70s he started doing theatre in Gujranwala. He did his first play in Lahore at the Open Air Theatre, Bagh-i-Jinnah, entitled ‘Visa Passport’.

He was a student of late TV actor Fakhari Ahmed.

Mastana’s popular stage plays include Shartiya Mithay, Kotha, (written and directed by Mastana himself), Ashiqo Gham Na Kero, Bashira in Trouble and Shabash Begum.

His on-stage pair with comedian Baboo Baral was an instant hit. Baral is also bedridden and being treated at Jinnah Hospital in Lahore.

Mastana’s commercial theatre career spans over more than 30 years.

According to late artiste’s close friends, he left theatre in 2004-5 after an ugly incident at Naz Theatre where during a crackdown on racy dances a policeman slapped Mastana in public. The incident left the sensitive artiste disheartened.

After the incident, Mastana had a transformation, and he started visiting various shrines, leaving theatre for good.

His stage colleagues included Sheeba Hasan, Bindiya, Irfan Khusat, Khalid Abbas Dar, Baboo Baral, Ashraf Rahi, Amanullah, Waseem Abbas, Suhail Ahmed and Jawad Waseem.

During his illness, his family had appealed to the prime minister and the Punjab chief minister for financial aid but in vain.

Besides stage Mastana also performed in some PTV plays such as Shab Daig and Uncle Kiun.

Ashraf Rahi, a colleague and childhood friend of the late comedian, said Mastana had an individual style and was a trendsetter in commercial theatre.

“We worked together in many plays such as Shartiya Mitthay and Ashiqo Gham na Kero. He lamented that a policeman’s attitude compelled the artiste to leave the theatre industry. “The high-ups of this country have little respect for artistes,” said a dejected Rahi.

Stage and TV personality Bindiya termed Mastana’s death a great loss, “Oh what a fine artiste he was. I have gone blank, what can I say. It’s such a big loss,” said Bindiya.

Khalid Abbas Dar said Mastana was an artiste of great caliber. He was an original artiste, said Dar, adding that being a sensitive soul he never looked back to theatre after Naz Theatre incident.

“He was at present leading a secluded life. He made his son Hafiz-i-Quran and had stopped meeting even his close associates,” said Dar.

Meanwhile, at a sitting held on Monday night in Gawalmandi at lyricist Khwaja Pervaiz’s residence, a large number of theatre artistes offered fateha for their late colleague.

Suhail Ahmed and Jawad Waseem joined his funeral prayers at Bahawalpur.