Pakistan’s entertainment industry is far from being dull and boring. There are a plethora of shows, actors and characters to digest on a daily basis, and sometimes it’s hard to digest it all. In the madness of it all, we often forget the past and the shows that made a real impact on the social fabric of the country. One such show, rather, one such personality is Begum Nawazish Ali.
Begum Nawazish Ali wasn’t always, well, Begum. She was actually, Ali Saleem.
Ali Saleem shot to fame and glory when he would impersonate Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto on a political satire show, ‘Hum Sab Umeed Se Hai’ (remember THAT). His depiction of BB was beyond perfect. If you were to close your eyes and listen, you would feel as though Benazir was talking to you. With the sad demise of the leader came the end of Ali’s stint as Benazir on the show.
It was after this that Ali, along with a friend, developed the character of Begum Nawazish. They made her from scratch and rumor has it that the name was ‘inspired’ by a neighbor Ali’s friend had in Karachi.
The show was taken up by Aaj TV and thus ‘Late Night with Begum Nawazish Ali’ was born. She was fierce, unapologetic, sassy and unafraid. Begum Nawazish would ask all sorts of questions, and she most definitely ventured on the side of ‘taboo’. She, herself was the embodiment of the word. Just imagine, a man, dressed as a woman was on national TV talking openly about things like sex as well as openly bad mouthing the then military regime under Musharraf.
In one sweep, Begum Nawazish Ali had managed to piss off a lot of people in Pakistan, but while she also made enemies, she also built herself an immense fan following.
It was at this time that, internationally, Pakistan was being seen as an incredibly dangerous country (like it was at its peak). The National Geographic had a show called ‘Don’t Tell My Mother I’m In..’ and the host would travel to dangerous countries to show the world that stuff ain’t that bad. Of course, the show featured Begum Nawazish, both in character and out of character. This exposure brought international attention to Begum, making her famous, almost everyone, but particularly in India.
Once the Musharraf regime was finally able to push the show off-air, Begum Nawazish tried her luck in India on the widely popular and equally scandalous reality show, Bigg Boss. She featured on the 4th season of the show and made into the Top 14.
It was after this that we never saw the ever fabulous Begum come on screen. She would make appearances on talk shows but that too was extremely sparse. Ali Saleem however, did make a come back for a while. In 2016 he hosted ‘The Late, Late Show With Ali Saleem’. Sadly for Ali, this really did not take off.
People were possibly very invested in the persona he had as Begum Nawazish Ali and were quick to reject his new venture.
Ali Saleem also been embroiled in a messy family legal issue concerning property and has also served time in prison because of assault charges filed by his mother.
Ali Saleem, and of course, Begum Nawazish Ali made shockwaves on Pakistani TV. Never had we seen a cross-dressing man, sit in front of a camera and conduct one of the country’s spiciest and fierce interviews. She was unapologetic and was probably what the country needed back then. It’s hard to imagine that Begum was allowed to be on television as long as she was. She captured hearts and minds and there truly hasn’t been one like her ever since.
Do you remember the show, and if you do, do you miss the show? Let us know in the comments!