“I’m teaching Katrina (Kaif) how to play the guitar. She already knows four chords and can play two songs. She wants to be a rock star by the end of the shoot, she’s a quick learner. She’s promised me that if our film does a business of Rs 60 crore, she will do a music video with me,” laughs Ali Zafar, who’s working with Katrina and Imran Khan in Yashraj’s next production, Mera Brother Ki Dulhan.
The Pakistani pop singer, who turned Bollywood actor with the sleeper hit Tere Bin Laden, is gearing up for the release of a new album, Jhoom, by the year-end. “It’s been four years since Masty and my fans were missing Ali, the singer,” he says, adding that he’s not just written and composed the songs this time, but also mixed and arranged them. He has even strum the guitar and features in the video that was shot in Mumbai.
Real v/s fake
“The songs are more Sufist and make a distinction between what’s real and what’s fake, what’s permanent and what’s temporary,” he informs. “I’ve been part of showbiz since 2004 and I’ve realised how easy it is to lose your soul and innocence to the glamour around you. But I consider myself more of an artiste than a star. On the sets, I’m a ‘mazdoor’ (labourer); on stage, an entertainer.”
After Tere Bin Laden, Ali Zafar is the toast of Bollywood. He admits that he’s now a bigger star in Pakistan even though a last-minute ban prevented him from distributing the film there. “Eventually, people watched it on pirated DVDs,” he sighs, admitting that the government’s decision to allow foreign films to return to theatres has revived the film industry there. “But we still have a long way to go. A couple of hits a year don’t amount to much. Talks with India on cultural exchanges were going well till the 26/11 attacks. Now everything has to start from scratch again.”
Pakistan, he points out, has had its share of bad luck in recent times, including Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, more bomb blasts than anywhere else in the world and natural disasters like the earthquake and the floods. He’s been active in flood relief work and now that it’s time for the affected people to return to their displaced homes, he’d like to give a chunk of his earnings to a charity organisation to assist in their rehabilitation.
Zafar, however, admits that even though he’s been getting a lot of offers in Pakistan, he has yet to come across a script that excites him. Which is why he’s focussed on Bollywood and plans to do two to three films here every year. “You can expect some announcements soon,” he promises, quickly adding that it need not be David Dhawan’s Chashme Buddoor. “David and I have only met once briefly and discussed movies in general. I’m learning to interact with the media here, sometimes they can make me out to be arrogant and wannabe-ish.”
Any more movies with the Shettys? “I think Aarti and Pooja are revitalising themselves. No one expected Tere Bin Laden to be such a big hit,” he chuckles “They are like family and India has been most welcoming. I feel blessed.”
Point to the recent controversy over the inclusion of Pakistani artistes, Begum Nawazish and Veena Malik, in the Bigg Boss House and he says, “Everyone has a right to their opinions and ideologies. But eventually, love can overcome all negativity. It just may take a little longer.”
Pakistani actors who didn’t make it here
Zeba Bakhtiar (Heena, Jai Vikranta and Stuntman)
Salma Agha (Nikaah)
Mohsin Khan (Saathi)
Mikaal Zulficar (Shoot on Sight)
Sana Nawaz (Kaafila)
Somy Ali (Yaar Gaddar, Anth)
Maomar Rana (Dobara)
Ferena Wazier (Saadiyan)