As I walked into the crowded, narrow lanes of Pakistan Chowk in Karachi, I desperately looked around for Ali Zafar who was shooting the video of Jee Dhoondta Hai there early last week.
Amid the hustle and bustle, I spotted the production crew but not the man in question, and upon asking I was escorted to a guy dressed in a rust-brown shalwar kameez. On approaching him, I realised that it was Ali Zafar like never seen before.
I told him how different he looked to which he said in his usual thoughtful, charming manner, “Everything is different at this point in my life. I have undergone several changes during my career in music and I have learned a lot about life, etc. Jhoom is about that discovery. The songs express how I feel now, and it is obviously different from what I used to feel in the past.”
Q. But don’t you think you will alienate younger fans with slow tracks, as they are used to the hip-hop genre?
AZ: I feel that sometimes artistes get stuck in the aura that they have established. They think that nothing else will be accepted by their fans. I don’t think like that; if one’s work is sincere and inspiring it will be accepted and appreciated.
Q. So what’s inspiring you these days?
AZ: Life, parents, playing sports, weather, sea, mountains, people, love, even a cup of tea can be inspiring. If only one starts to think, see and hear with an open and clear mind will s/he realise that inspiration is all around us.
Q. Tell us about Jee Dhoondta Hai?
AZ: Personally, it’s one of my favourite songs from the album Jhoom. It’s about matters of the heart and the searching and longing for carefree nights and days. The Mirza Ghalib poem has been rendered by many great singers from both Pakistan and India, and I have made a humble attempt to do justice to it. I hope people like it.
I am a big fan of Ghalib and whenever I read his poetry I spent a lot of time reflecting on it. I especially like the idea of sitting, lost in the thoughts of one’s beloved. It has been a labour of love from the time I started to compose Jee Dhoondta Hai. I’ve kept a different melody for every verse so that it has a different expression based on its lyrics. While working on the arrangement and recording, I made sure that it had a very fluid, easy-flowing and seamless feel to it.
Ghazals are something that our new generation is not very familiar with so I’ve kept the instrumentation and audio production very modern. I’ve used drums and guitars, so that when the younger crowd hears it, they think about it and appreciate the lyrics.
Q. What is the concept of the video for Jee Dhoondta Hai?
AZ: The concept is interesting. We all are born pure and it is the choices we make in life — willingly or unwillingly — that determine our destiny. However, love has the power to conquer all and can change lives forever.
The concept of the video revolves around me as a man who works as a scout for a brothel. The hunt for new faces leads him to a girl (Aisha Linnea earlier seen in Slackistan, a local, independent film that has made a mark internationally), whom he is strangely attracted to.
The video takes you on the journey of how an ignorant man discovers love and then faces the disgusting truth of life, realisation, his fight with guilt, and finally the point where he decides to tread the right path because of an innocent girl. The video showcases all this in a very engaging manner.
Q. Did you enjoy acting the part?
AZ: Yes. Abdullah Haris is a young, upcoming director who is also working with Shoaib Mansoor and is a part of his team. He envisioned the role and while playing the part I borrowed from my observation of different people around me. I then applied those characteristics to my role.
No doubt, Ali Zafar’s inspiration stems from the desire to create something timeless, and I believe in Jee Dhoondta Hai just as much as he believes in it.