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Humara kaam hai aapki aankho se aansu churana..” — legendary Pakistani comedian Umar Sharif had said this during Zee Cine Awards in 2004, one of his last performances in India. A comic star whose jokes made people laugh beyond borders passed away Saturday in Germany after battling a long illness.

Dr Mohammad Faisal, Pakistan’s ambassador to Germany, was among the first ones to share the news of Sharif’s death.

Shortly after the news broke, Prime Minister Imran Khan also put out a tweet, expressing his condolences for the renowned artiste.

Jaspal Bhatti of Pakistan

In Johnny Lever’s words, artistes such as Sharif are “born once in thousand years”. But it wasn’t just his jokes that made him a household name — not only in Pakistan but beyond borders. He was the LoL merchant whose jokes were traded across India and Pakistan, especially with the rise of the internet. He was the smile merchant who made a troubled nation laugh.

Sharif started off with some of the iconic plays like Bakra Qiston Pe and Budha Ghar Par Hain in 1989. If the former showcased his grip on situational comedy, the latter left people stumped as he excelled in ‘physical’ comedy as well. In one sequence of Budha Ghar Par Hain, Sharif entered the stage wearing close to five shirts swerving his body on the tunes of pacy drum-beats. Much like Disco Dancer’s Mithun Chakraborty, with a shiny bandana across his forehead and sunglasses, Sharif continued dancing while removing his shirts one by one. And as he was left with just a shirt, he seamlessly transformed into a street vendor selling clothes, leaving the audience in splits.

Sharif was a master of cultural comedy. His performances often mirrored the society he was part of. Joking about the fact that Pakistani men are allowed to marry more than once, he famously said that women in Pakistan don’t die as soon as men because “maut ka farishta does not recognise them without makeup”. This was during an Indian award function, and Sharif was just a Pakistani making Indians laugh at, unsurprisingly, yet another comical diss at husband-wife dynamics.

Recalling the Pakistani comedian known for his impeccable comic timing and theatrics, Johnny Lever recounts how cancelling an event in the US seemed like an obvious thing for Sharif as his poor health would not have allowed him to be the “God of Asian Comedy” he was called. “Wo thode hi na baith ke show kar sakte the (He couldn’t have possibly performed while sitting),” Lever told ARY News.

Fans get a break from laughter

Fans and public figures across the world took to social media to express their condolences and reminisce their memories of watching the iconic comedian perform.

German Ambassador to Pakistan Bernhard Schlagheck shared a clip of ARY News as the channel broadcast the news of Sharif’s death and acknowledged the “tragic loss” to the country.

Pakistani cricketers Mohammed Hafeez, Kainat Imtiaz, and former cricketer Shoaib Akhtar expressed their gratitude towards the late comedian for “making them laugh”.

 

Indian comedian Kapil Sharma also offered his condolences on the “legend’s” demise.

 

While some users equated Sharif’s death to their own family member, others reminisced his “dua” for the Pakistan cricket team!

 

For many growing up in the late 80s and 90s, Umar Sharif resonated with laughter and joy. To put his fame and success in perspective, especially for the younger lot, his comedy play Bakra Qiston Pe has over four lakh views on YouTube, and still remains a “favourite” among many.

 

Born in Karachi in 1955, Sharif ventured into stand-up comedy at the age of 14, and went on to win Pakistan’s National Award for Best Director and Actor in 1992 for the film Mr 420.

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