Alaa Wali El-Din: The headmaster of comedy

Soha Hesham , Saturday 18 Feb 2023

An event recalled not only the late comedian Alaa Wali El-Din but also the brilliant screenplays Ahmed Abdallah wrote for him.

Alaa Wali El-Din
Alaa Wali El-Din


With his child-like smile and chubby physique, Alaa Wali El-Din captured the hearts of Egyptians following his very first appearances in minor roles alongside comedy superstar Adel Imam on the silver screen.

His sudden death on 11 February 2003, when he was only 40 years old, shocked the audience and made the handful of films in which he starred even more special. This week Al-Hanager cinema marked his 20th death anniversary with a screening of his unforgettable film Al-Nazer (The Headmaster, 2000), directed by Sherif Arafa.

Wali El-Din was born in 1963, and graduated from the Faculty of Commerce in 1985, but he inherited his father’s passion for acting. Samir Wali El-Din (1938-1978), who also starred alongside Imam in the play Madraset Al-Moshaghbeen (The School of Misfits, 1971) as the office boy Gaber and later as the police sergeant Hussein in the play Shahid Mashafsh Haga (A Witness Who Hasn’t Seen Anything, 1976). In the latter he helped to create one of the Egyptian comedy’s greatest scenes while taking down the questioning of the naive children’s show actor (Imam) by the impatient officer (Omar Al-Hariri).

Alaa contributed nearly 140 roles in his short career, most of them building up to his  eventual fame. In the 1980s he started to perform very small roles in TV series, theatre, radio drama and even televised drama. His TV credits include Zahra wal Maghoul (Zahra and the Unknown, 1984), directed by Nour Al-Demerdash and featuring Laila Elwi and Karima Mokhtar and Ali Al-Zeybaq (1985), directed by Ibrahim Al-Shakankiri and starring Farouk Al-Fishawi and Hoda Sultan.

1992 was one of the lucky stops for Wali El-Din as he starred in Khairy Beshara’s Ice Cream fi Gleam (Ice Cream in Gleam) with singer Amr Diab, Simone, Ashraf Abdel-Baki and Gihan Fadel. In the same year he starred with Imam in Sherif Arafa’s Al-Irhab wal Kabab (Terrorism and Kebab) as Samir Bassiouny, a hapless husband who had gone to the Tahrir government complex Al-Mogamaa to throw himself off the roof. When he sees a huge batallion below he thinks they are there to stop him.

In 1993, Wali El-Din contributed a role to Tarek Al-Tilmisany’s Dehk wi Leab wi Gad wi Hob (Laughter, Joy, Work and Love), starring Omar Sharif, Youssra and Amr Diab. In the same year he participated as a guest in another Imam film, Al-Mansi (The Forgotten), directed by Sherif Arafa, featuring Youssra, Mustafa Metwalli, Karam Mutawei, Ahmed Rateb and Mohamed Henedy. A year later he appeared in Beshara’s Harb Al-Farawla (War of Strawberries) featuring Youssra and Mahmoud Hemeida. He starred again with Beshara in Qishr Al-Bondoq (Nutshell, 1995), but this time his name made it to the official poster, alongside Hussein Fahmi, Mahmoud Yassin, Abla Kamel, Rania Mahmoud Yassin, Mohamed Henedy and Tarek Lotfi.

Wali El-Din starred with Imam again in the 1995 Bekheit wi Adila (Bekheit and Adila) and its 1996 sequel, playing the role of a naïve sergeant who is always surprised by the events around him and can never take action in time The two films were directed by Nader Galal and written by Lenin Al-Ramli. Also in 1995, Wali El-Din appeared alongside Imam in Al-Noum fil Assal (Sweet Oblivion), directed by Arafa.

Wali El-Din was given a bigger role in Mohamed Abdel-Aziz’s Halaq Housh (Best Laid Plans, 1997), starring alongside Laila Elwi and Mohamed Henedy in a drama written by Beshir Al-Deik where three young people plan a bank heist after seeing one in a film.  

Wali El-Din’s starred with Imam yet again in Resala Ela Al-Wali (A Message to the Governor), directed by Nader Galal, in 1998.

Wali El-Din grabbed the audience’s attention with those small roles before appeaering in his own vehicles: Arafa’s 1999 Aboud Ala Al-Hodoud (Aboud on the Border), also starring with Karim Abdel-Aziz, Ghada Adel, Ahmed Helmy and Hassan Hosny, and  the unforgettable Al-Nazer (The School Headmaster), starring Ahmed Helmi, Mohamed Saad, Hassan Hosny, Hisham Selim, Basma and Sami Sarhan. Wali El-Din played the role of Salah as well as Salah’s father and mother.

The plot is a very simple one, telling the story failed student inheriting his despotic father’s position as a school principal about Salah’s father. Cowritten by Arafa, screenwriter Ahmed Abdallah’s screenplay is a perfect achievement combining intense humour with action and creating rich, precise detail.

Later on, Ahmed Abdallah took El Lembi (Mohamed Saad), a secondary character, and turned it into the main character in the phenomenal film El-Lembi (2002). Abdallah was also the one who wrote the screenplay for Aboud Ala Al-Hodoud (Aboud on the Border), as well the Mohamed Henedy vehicles Askar fil Moaskar (Askar in the Camp, 2003) and Foul Al-Sein Al-Azeem (Great Beans of China, 2004). He was the playwright behind Alabanda (1998) which gathered together all the then rising comedy stars of Wali El-Din’s generation: Henedy, Hani Ramzi, Magda Zaki with Sherif Mounir and Ahmed Al-Sakka and the dancer Dina.

Wali El-Din’s last appearance on the silver screen was in the film Ibn Ezz (2001), directed by Arafa, also written by Abdallah, starring Hassan Hosny, Ahmed Mekki and Enaam Salousa.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 16 February, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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