Farooq Qaiser

Man of Many Talents

By Javed Ansari | June 2021

One remembers Farooq Qaiser as a puppeteer playing Uncle Sargam in the Lahore TV comedy puppet show ‘Kaliyan’. I had a chance to see him working up close when I visited the Lahore TV studios in 1975. I had gone to Lahore to interview Shoaib Hashmi. We did a part of the interview at Shoaib Hashmi’s residence in Lahore’s Model Town. Since the interview could not be completed while we were at Shoaib’s house, he asked me to accompany him in his car to Lahore Studios and carry on with the questions on the way. This was because he was running late for a TV show that he was directing at the Lahore Studios.

This is how I was introduced to Farooq Qaiser and had the opportunity to watch from very close quarters how he devised the various nuances he brought into the Uncle Sargam character. I found him to be a very down to earth person who seemed to be in the learning mode all the time. This became more evident during the shoot. Shoaib Hashmi had written the script (in the car ride from his place to the TV studios, with him driving the VW as well). But before every take, Farooq would go over the lines with Shoaib Sahib and get his complete directions as to how the characters were to perform.

In fact, so diligent was Farooq’s attitude that it seemed he was just a studio hand looking after the nitty gritty of the show for the director rather than the creative person who was behind the show’s central idea.

My second brush with Farooq Qaiser came when he visited a Karachi ad agency sometime in the early 80s to do ‘Kaliyan’ for a TVC. I was working for that ad agency then. I found Farooq to be his old self on that occasion as well. It used to be fun talking to him as he would switch to his Uncle Sargam persona occasionally and converse like the character.

Farooq Qaiser was a creative person to the core. He did scores of shows after ‘Kaliyan’ but none of his characters achieved the same élan as Uncle Sargam. In fact, the character became a part of Pakistan’s contemporary cultural mores. However, it is a pity that a competent person like Qaiser was divided into too many pieces and could not concentrate his skills in one direction. He was a man of many talents. He was a TV director, journalist, puppeteer, writer, columnist, cartoonist, teacher and creator of Uncle Sargam . But what do we remember him for? Only Uncle Sargam.