Radio legend Munni Baji dies
KARACHI, May 14: Perveen Akhtar, popularly known as Munni Baji, who ruled the hearts of children for many years, died of heart failure here on Tuesday. She was 78. “She was like a mother to all of us – her siblings.
And her departure today is a huge loss for us,” Maqsood Bhai, the youngest of Munni Baji’s four siblings and a stage artiste, told Dawn. He said Munni Baji had not married and had dedicated her life to raising her two brothers and as many sisters.
She was buried in the Milk Plant graveyard. A number of media personalities attended her burial rituals.
Munni Baji was a gifted artiste who had the best child-type voice ever heard in the business.
She remained associated with the Radio Pakistan for almost 45 years and retired in 1993, but worked on contract till 1998. She never showed interest in PTV despite repeated offers from it, and received many honours including the Nigar Award for her services.
Born in Simla in 1929, she got a job with the All India Radio, Delhi, in the early 1940s for which she would give credit to great poet Behzad Lucknavi, a family friend, who helped her go through the business.
She was just 50 inches tall.
According to many of her admirers, she did not know then that she was going to become a legend in the Radio history of Pakistan. Before partition, she lost her father and assumed the role of a father and mother for her siblings.
She migrated to Pakistan with her family in 1947. Munni Baji lived in Lahore and spent two years in Lahore as a drama artiste with the help of Zia Jullundri, another Radio personality.
She further migrated to Karachi in 1955 and shifted to Ratan Talao with her family just behind the Radio Pakistan building.
Radio Pakistan’s founding director, Z.A. Bokhari, was a friend of her grandfather’s and gave her a job. She temporarily left Radio to run a canteen at government offices handed over to her by her grandfather but returned to Radio in 1958.
Her voice helped her get offers of child roles in radio plays and she did many serials, including Qaid-i-Havas and Zanjeer Bolti Hai.
She also did children programme Naunehal for more than 30 years whose name was later changed to Bachchon ki Duniya. Bachchon ki Duniya is still remembered by people who enjoyed listening to the radio in the ’70s and ’80s.
She did just one TV programme, Baron kay liyay, for a private company before she called it a day in 1993 due to her deteriorating health. Yet she kept doing sporadic stints with Radio till 1998 on a contract basis.
“She was not only a great artiste but a whole era that inspired many generations,” artiste Talat Hussain, who proudly called himself one of her protÃ©gÃ©s, told Dawn.
“We have not lost an artiste but a legend who would remain unforgettable; for me, as for many others, she was a role model,” he said.
Qazi Wajid, one of the few artistes with whom Munni Baji would love to perform, said he had lost a great friend and big supporter. “She was very caring and compassionate like an older sister could be. She was like a shelter for her juniors. Her death is a great loss for all of us,” he said.