Ask anyone and they might tell you that one of the hardest jobs ever is to bring a smile on someone’s face- let alone, make them laugh their heart out. But thankfully, we have such talented individuals within our entertainment industry who are committed to bringing joy to others. One such name is
Truly one of the finest comedians Pakistan has ever produced. He gained his popularity by his initial performance in the program “Ustaadon k Ustaad” and quickly made a name for himself when he tickled the funny bone of the masses with his impeccable comical timing and sheer talent which shone through live shows, stage comedies, dramas and more.
Hanif Raja is a pioneer when it comes to presenting comedy which is culturally aware and family focused. He has been in the industry for the past 30 years and has made his mark with utmost hard work, touching people’s hearts with feel-good emotions. His fame stretches not only within Pakistan but beyond borders due to his genuinity. Social Diary had the pleasure of speaking to this maestro of great laughs and perpetual warmth. Read on to know how his incredible journey began, what he saw on the way and how he has embraced social media as the reality of today:
SD: Let’s start from the very beginning-as a child, when did you know you were meant for presenting comedy as a form of art?
Hanif: While becoming a part of the entertainment industry wasn’t always the plan, I always knew I wanted to go into the Fine Arts department. I was fascinated by painting and would often find myself drawing. However I really enjoyed sketching and after my Matric examinations, I was committed to the craft for 6months. These would appear in digests at the time. However I was also very committed to school dramas and would act in them a lot. In the 7th grade, I had created and directed my own team for a drama performance which was cheered on and appreciated by the whole school. I would also do skits with kids in the neighborhood which we would perform for family members. These again were appreciated and soon enough we were being invited to perform at family gatherings.
SD: How did this progress into the professional medium?
Hanif: I was asked to perform a skit at a family gathering; however this was my first solo performance as my friends had moved onto new paths. While I was nervous, once I took the center stage, I realized I was meant for one-man shows. This was in 1987. As I continued to gain popularity, I performed for a wedding event which was attended by the highly appreciated artist and comical genius ‘Fareed Khan’. He applauded my skit and asked me to do commercial shows. I was a young lad who was clueless and it was this man who took me under his wing. He would take me to corporate shows on his car when I didn’t even own a bike. I realized I was meant to take this professionally. And I took my performance seriously, looking at my craft keenly and critically, revising and doing my homework to polish myself. I was preparing to take the stage for the masses.
SD: And what paved the way for you to take on dramas and shows on TV?
Hanif: My journey had been progressing steadily. From having done stage shows in the presence of major comical maestros including Moin Akhter, Ismail Tara, Umer Sharif and others, to having received standing ovations from the major TV industry players, I knew life will bring on major moments of awe and I was steadfast in bringing originality to my craft. In 1996 I got my candid camera show. A slot at prime time was given to me and I took on something new- I did celebrity pranks and this was entirely genuine and I had major names like Junaid Jamshed, Ali Haider and Sajjad Ali be a part of it. It was a major hit in no time. And soon enough India was presenting similar versions with the names ‘Chupa Rustam’ and ‘MTV Bakra’.
SD: Through it all, how was your family’s support or stance on your professional comical stride?
Hanif: Considering how our cultural norm always suggest a student should graduate as a doctor, pilot or engineer, things weren’t easy at home in the beginning. My mother had already passed away when I was eight years old. However my father, a religious man, was taken aback when I began pursuing comedy as a career. He was afraid of how it might impact my life. But soon enough, he saw my content and skills and the appreciation I was getting. It was my true calling.
SD: Among all forms of comedy platforms you’ve taken- which is closest to you and why?
Hanif: While I am very appreciative of my time on air, through my candid show which ran for 9 years, the shows I am doing now including my digital work and Raja Online, I absolutely enjoy the spontaneous environment and interacting with live audience during my on-stage, one-man shows.
SD: Looking at the content of our existing drama industry, do you feel we have left a minuscule window to explore comedy?
Hanif: Unfortunately people’s taste has been heavily altered by the Indian drama industry. Our earlier dramas of the PTV and NTM era were family oriented and culturally significant. Now there has been a major shift in which social media has also played a role. The dramas don’t take comedy as a leading genre anymore. I tried watching the current dramas with my family and frankly, I couldn’t sit through a single episode.
SD: So what can be done to bring forth a positive change?
Hanif: For one thing, I have realized what I was considering as my nemesis was my window to incredible opportunities. I came to know that a guy from Karachi was copying my pranks and skits and uploading them on YouTube. I was angered at first but then quickly realized maybe social media is the key to upholding my position. Soon enough, I created my YouTube channel and Facebook page by the name ‘Hanif Raja’ and the response I got from an old uploaded video was 1 Million views. That was enough to make me committed to a new channel of expression. I created new segments including a popular show ‘Iftar Drive’ which gained a huge fan following.
SD: What lies next? How will you continue to treat the masses to your incredible talent?
Hanif: There is plenty happening. I have some amazing content coming up which I promise will bring happiness to the masses. Just stay tuned to my social media channels. I know it’s pretty easy to just sit and complain. What matters is when you roll up your sleeves to bring forth change. And that can happen when you commit yourself to something. I know my passion but I will remain eager to create and create so to bring positive change- with a hint of a chuckle.