Pakistani music star, of Huqa Pani and Masty fame, will debut in Bollywood flick, Tere Bin Laden.
You are the first Pakistani actor to debut as the lead in a Bollywood film. How did the shift from music to acting happen?
(Chuckles) I’m still primarily a musician. I had received three acting offers from Bollywood before this, because my music videos had been quite successful here. But I didn’t want to do run-of-the-mill cinema. (Smiles) When I was offered a lead in an unorthodox script, I took it up.
Many Pakistani singers, like Atif Aslam, Shafqat Amanat Ali and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, are singing for Bollywood. Why haven’t we heard you on playback?
(Smiles) Yaar, if someone’s doing something, it becomes his thing. I’d rather do things no one’s done before. These guys have been doing such a fabulous job, so I thought I’d explore an area no one else has, and ventured into films. After Tere Bin Laden (TBL), maybe I’ll take up playback, so I can create a unique identity as an actor and musician.
You’ve sung two songs in TBL, but haven’t composed anything.
(Chuckles) I wanted to do one thing at a time. And with Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy (SEL) at the music’s helm, I didn’t need to contribute. I’ve sung two songs in the film – I love Amrika and Ullu da pattha. SEL are so sweet, humble, and are always smiling. Shankar’s (Mahadevan) skill is amazing!
It’s been four years since your last album, Masty. Why haven’t you released any music since then?
Pop in India and Pakistan has been put into a corner. Companies have shut down after recession. What’s the point of making music, if it’s not going to be heard? You need to be inspired to write music, and with the turmoil in the country, there wasn’t any inspiration around.
A lot of socially conscious music has come from Pakistan recently. Yeah, people are still voicing their opinions through music, though if you notice, in the last four-five years, there’s not been any breakthrough star from our music industry. There are hardly any album sales. So many news channels have emerged that music has taken a backseat. Record labels have suffered in these conditions, it’s been a fiasco.
Then what made you come up with a new album, Jhoom?
Because I evolved as a musician and as a person in these four years. Jhoom is a sufi album, and it takes my music to another level. It’s different from anything I have ever done before. I think today’s music survives only for a month, and I believe that music should be timeless. I want to be remembered for my music.
How did you take a step in that direction? You’ve always made peppy music.
You know, over the last few years, I’ve been thinking about what more I could do. I found the answers in the Coke Studio Sessions (TV show), where I sang some sufi poetry in a live session. I realized how perfect it was! It was different, mature, and it was an energy that I wanted to recreate in the studio. That’s how Jhoom happened.
I believe strongly in melody. In the olden days, only one voice was strong enough to carry the song. You didn’t need to use too many instruments. I’ve grown up listening to Kishore Kumar, Mohammed Rafi and Hemant Kumar. But Kishore Kumar became Kishore Kumar only after he discovered his own style. In my last two albums, their influence on my music was very obvious. So, in Jhoom, I’ve tried to find my own style.
I was at the Dubai Fashion Week some time ago, and was performing on the ramp. After the show, Fox executives came up to me and told me that they had been gauging me, and said they wanted one of my tracks on Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. We negotiated for two days, and the deal was closed after that! So, it’s unbelievable, but my song Dekha na will feature in the movie.