Friday, May 19, 2023

Adel Imam and the debacle of his 83rd birthday

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly based on typography of movie posters where Adel Imam appeared
Egyptian actor Adel Imam just celebrated his 83rd birthday. And now twitter is ablaze with comments.
To begin with the images that were circulating from his said birthday by other stars were - to put it mildly - not flattering. One of them shows him without his dental fixtures, the other in sad, tired eyes. Oh and his age it is obvious he is still dying his hair jet black. I mean seriously people, I started having grey hair in my late 20s - so reaching 83 with such a hair is simply genetically impossible.
Now, there is no shadow of a doubt of the popularity of Imam. He reigned on the comedy circuit for a very long time - weather he is extremely expressive is to be honest quite debatable, because his charisma was there more than his acting chops (again, I could be biased towards such a giant star but let us be honest, he relied on slapstick more than anything else).
The other major issue with Adel Imam was his - many - movies attacking the "Ikhwan" or the Islamic uptight religious party in Egypt. Yes, whereas Egypt was portraying itself in its movies and its stars as very open, tolerant, permissive, the shadow of the Muslim Brotherhood was slowly creeping over the Egyptian society. And Imam was on the forefront of warnings about this - Touyour Al Zalam (birds of darkness) comes to mind - or his fight against labels such as Al Irhab wal Kabab (Kebab and terrorism).
Do note, I am not in any way an expert in Egyptian cinema and much less so in Adel Imam's archive. But I guess like everyone, I had caught glimpses of him when our neighbor was running a VCR of his iconic play "Madrasat al Mouchaghibin" (school of the dissenters) or when "Chahed ma chafch haga" (a witness who saw nothing) which is another of his iconic roles was running somewhere on TV.
Imam is known as "Al Za3im" (or The Boss) and his legacy is preserved. But his health seems to be declining and rumors about his Alzheimer or dementia have been swirling for ages (Imam did a telephone interference for his birthday in a popular TV program basically berating the TV host who said that Imam taught his girls Arabic to which Imam retorted "so you are saying you are "ibn nas" (high class) and your daughters do not speak Arabic?"). 
Actually Imam himself did a movie called "Zheimer" (the funny story is that "al" in Arabic means "the" so basically when "Alzheimer" was translated to Egyptian it became "zheimer" because they through the "al" was a prefix and ergo disposable), and at this point his family securely guards his mental/physical health - there are very recent images that circulated as of late of the actor in the condolences of the father of an Egyptian movie director where he looked incredibly old and frail (and yes with grey undyed hair) but somehow the latest images want his public to keep the public in the same remembrances of him as he was in heyday. 
I truly wonder why there are so many rumors surrounding Imam's health (both physical and mental) and why his family is preciously guarding him and always communicating the same "Al za3im is fine" news. And if his phone interference in the talk show (of which I spoke earlier) is correct then the man did not exactly lose his wits. But once more, all this shroud of mystery is doing nothing but adding fuel to the fire.
Between keeping his memory alive and intact for his public, and facing the fact that Imam is growing old, all I can say is: let the man be. He is 83. He already made the public laugh. Just cherish his memory and move on.