Bollywood's talented charmer here next month

Bollywood's talented charmer here next month

There are few things multi-talented multi- hyphenate Ali Zafar cannot do.

He can write, sing, dance, compose, paint and, of course, act.

With his indie spirit and willingness to take on edgy subject matter, the Pakistani singer and actor has made his mark in Bollywood.

He will be here for his first solo concert next month - one of many South Asian acts performing here in the lead up to Deepavali, the festival of lights, on Oct 22 this year.

This packed events calendar, however, means that ticket sales have taken a hit. Some event organisers say tickets are not selling as well as in the past, when such shows were limited.

A key event cancellation saw popular Indian singer Benny Dayal's concert being called off. It was to have been held at the Esplanade Concert Hall on Aug 15.

Event organisers Arte Compass & Zee TV, joint presenters of the show Desi Dhamaal With Benny Dayal, said the concert featuring singers Dhamaal and Dayal - who has many current chart-topping numbers such as Badtameez Dil - had to be cancelled "due to unforeseen circumstances".

All other shows are going ahead as planned though.

There is interest in Zafar's show for sure, given his range and his acting and musical abilities.

When the 34-year-old speaks to Life! on the telephone late on Monday night, it is just hours after a Bollywood Showstoppers Concert he has done in London's prestigious 02 Arena.

If there are any signs of fatigue, given his gruelling schedule, his voice gives no indication throughout the 20-minute interview. He sounds lively, energetic and deeply passionate about both his music and his cinema.

"I am very excited about performing in Singapore. It is my first solo there and I promise all my fans a very entertaining night," he says right at the start of this interview.

The hero with the charming looks promises an unforgettable evening performing many of his recent songs from films such as Mere Brother Ki Dulhan (My Brother's Bride, 2011) and Total Siyappa (Total Chaos, 2014).

Expect to hear more soulful Sufi songs too from the talented composer and writer.

Music is how it all started for him and even though the work he is now doing in films keeps him busy, he remains deeply committed to working on his songwriting and composing.

"I never go anywhere without my guitar. Even when I am on set, you will find me trying out something or playing something between takes."

Zafar's career took off in 2003 with the unprecedented success of his single Channo. His first album Huqa Pani, released in 2004, sold over six million copies and turned him into one of Pakistan's biggest pop sensations.

He says, he is inspired by "all types of music. Sufi, soul, folk, jazz, blues. My influences have been diverse. At my concert, I will be presenting different types of music".

Expect soundtrack sensations such as Madhubala, as well as numbers performed on Pakistan's immensely popular television show, Coke Studio. His songs, as can be seen through his albums including Masty (2006) and Jhoom (2011), show his interest in different genres of music and his interest in keeping the rich folk traditions alive.

To him, music is a whole lot more than entertainment.

"I was not a born musician. I was 16 and studying in college when one day I went to visit the music society. I used to watch my father and his friends get together and sing old songs and ghazals. I think that must have been my biggest influence."

Adding to his immense appeal is the film work he has been doing.

In Bollywood, where most stars have playback voices, he is the rare actor who can sing for himself.

In his most recent cinematic outing, Total Siyappa, you get to see the many sides of this talented actor, singer and composer.

He says he "has been fortunate getting a break in Bollywood. It has allowed me to try different types of roles. Bollywood is the biggest industry in the world and it takes talent to another level. As an actor, it also gives me a lot of room to play around with".

While he had been acting in Pakistani dramas, his Bollywood break came in 2010 with the critically acclaimed satire Tere Bin Laden (Without You, Laden). It was a courageous indie choice for someone making the jump from music to movies. In the brilliantly funny film, he played the role of an ambitious young reporter who makes a fake Osama bin Laden video which leads to a comical sequence of events.

This led to other roles in films such as Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, London, Paris, New York (2012) and Chashme Baddoor (2013).

While some of these mainstream roles have been light and a little fluffy, he says it is something that will change with the upcoming film Kill Dil (Kill Heart), a romantic action film being produced by India's big banner Yash Raj Films.

Without giving too much of the film away, Zafar says: "I will have a whole new look."

Amid all the acclaim the father of a four-year-old son has received for both his music and acting, the most memorable came from one of his idols.

Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan had tweeted about the soulful quality of his music and commended his song Yar Daddi from Coke Studio.

Zafar says: "I have always been and will always be a big fan of Mr Bachchan. He is a legend. Reading that felt really nice. It felt nicer than winning any award."

This article was published on Aug 7 in The Straits Times.

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