Zaheen Tahira is a name that rings through the households of Pakistani drama fans. Whether seen in deep, meaningful television or silly, comedic dramas, she had always made her presence felt on TV screens. With her passing on July 9, 2019, she has left a void in the entertainment industry.
Born in 1946, Zaheen Tahira came to Pakistan as a child with her family from Lucknow during the partition. Zaheen Tahira began her career with radio programs, working with Radio Pakistan in Karachi. She continued with this job for five years. Zaheen Tahira earned a reputation as not only a radio personality, but also as a talented singer. A multitalented individual, she sang in Urdu, Pashto and Punjabi. She once stated that her passion was singing and she always envisioned pursuing a career in singing. However, fate had something else in store for her. At that time, television was a budding medium which had already taken off in Lahore and as soon as this medium began in Karachi, Zaheen Tahira made her move to television. This is the reason she is noted as one of Pakistan’s oldest stars – she is one of Pakistan’s most senior television stars.
When “Khuda Ki Basti,” released in 1969, Zaheen Tahira shot to the forefront, making her mark as an actress. Based on the novel by Shaukat Siddiqui, Khuda Ki Basti focused on a poor family and their struggles through trying financial times, the country still reeling from the effects of partition. In an earnest, but heart-wrenching story, Zaheen Tahira made a strong impact as a struggling mother of 3 sons, trying to keep her family afloat. Khuda Ki Basti put her on the map and put an active, impactful acting career into gear.
Her talents continued to flourish beyond acting. While she acted in shows including Dastak, Aroosa, Khala Khairan, Dil Diya Dehleez and many others over the span of decades, she always seemed to be on the lookout for a new avenue to explore. This led her to trying her hand at production and direction. Zaheen Tahira was awarded with the Tamgha-E-Imtiaz, a medal awarded to individuals for their contribution to society, in 2013 for her extensive work in the Pakistani entertainment industry. That same year, Hum TV awarded her with their Lifetime Achievement award, honoring her talents and years of hard work.
Zaheen Tahira was last seen on television in a few shows, including Babban Khala Ki Betiyan on ARY, playing the title character of Babban Khala, a woman who, along with her husband (played by Qavi Khan), has been blessed with six daughters. A statement on Pakistani society and its attitude toward females and the necessity of marriage, Zaheen Tahira enacted the role of a loving, yet stressed mother with perfection. She also appeared in a smaller role in Dil Kya Kare, which aired on Geo. Ironically, the last episode, which included her in the very last scene, aired the night before her passing. The currently running Barfi Laddoo has Zaheen Tahira playing the cute, forgetful “Daadi.”
While Zaheen Tahira’s family mourns her death, the entire nation mourns her death as well. Zaheen Tahira is such an actress that every Pakistani knows of her existence. Even those who do not watch Pakistani television know Zaheen Tahira by face in some capacity and it is for this very reason that her loss is felt to such a deep extent. While her loss is surreal to viewers, she put in years of dedication to building the industry and nurturing it with her talent in different capacities. She will always be remembered and revered as one of the greats.