Atif Aslam Unplugged

The 32-year-old star is just what he looks like – sincere and charming. And he has a great sense of humor. The talented Pakistani singer, who is currently riding the Bollywood charts, is a heartthrob of many. ATIF ASLAM got candid with CHAYANIKA NIGAM during a concert in Delhi and spoke about his childhood, family, success, fans and upcoming projects…

It is very rare that someone comes along with just the right amount of personality, the right amount of talent, charisma, style, courage and most importantly, the passion to excel at something. When all these rare qualities come together in any individual, he creates history! For any artist, the connection with his audience is the ultimate aim of his art form. If the success of any artist is measured by his ability to captivate his audience, Atif Aslam stands head and shoulders above everyone else in the industry today. Last month in Gurgaon, he came, he sang and he conquered.

On 12th March, 1983, Atif Aslam was born in Wazirabad, Pakistan. He began his education in Kindergarten at Kimberley Hall School, Larkana. In 1991 he moved to Rawalpindi where he continued his studies in St. Paul’s Cambridge School, Satellite Town, Rawalpindi. Atif returned to Lahore in 1995 where he continued his studies in Divisional Public School in Lahore. He did his FSC in Punjab College and graduated from PAF Inter College Lahore with a Bachelor’s degree.

He belonged to a middle class family and was a bright student. Throughout his school and college life, Atif was more enthusiastic about cricket than anything else. He aspired to be a cricketer some day and music was probably the last thing on his mind.

He first performed at a fancy dress show when he was in the 1st class. He dressed as the captain of Pakistan Cricket Team “Imran Khan”. He was the youngest boy among his classmates in Kimberly Hall and completed his 10th grade at the age of 14. An average person completes his 10th grade in 15-16 years.

In his teenage years, Atif’s favourite book was his Dad’s cheque book, his favorite TV shows were Mr Bean and the Voltron series and his favorite movie was T2. He loved to make sketches and is still very good at it. His first performance in any competition was for an Independence Day function at his college in the year 1998. His friends encouraged him to participate. Later, he won the competition.

Atif has three brothers and is the youngest. His eldest brother is Shahzad who is a photographer, then comes Shahbaz who designs Atif’s clothes and then Sheraz, who runs Atif’s fan page and website.

On 17th July, 2004, the first album of Atif Aslam was released. The album was titled “Jalpari”. At the outset, the album sold on the success of his single “Aadat,” but as the weeks progressed; it was made clear to everyone that Atif wasn’t merely a one-hit wonder. The album featured various smash hit tracks such as “Bheegi Yaadein”, “Ehsaas”, “Mahi Ve”, “Ankhon Sey” along with the title track “Jalpari”. Atif came up with his own sound. His unique vocal capabilities and powerful renditions elevated him to stardom within weeks. The album became the youth anthem of Pakistan.

Atif soon realized that it was time to take his music on to a global platform. He started his career as a playback singer in Bollywood with the song “Wo Lamhey” for the movie “Zeher”. The song “Wo Lamhey” was a commercial version of the song “Bheegi Yaadein” from Atif’s first album. The movie came out in 2005 and Atif’s voice became an instant hit with the Indian audience. The music listeners of India are exposed to hundreds of voices and thousands of songs each year but among all those voices, Atif Aslam’s voice stood out and made a connection! The remix version of “Wo Lamhey” (also sung by Atif), was an even a bigger hit than the original. With just one track, Atif had conquered the highly competitive Indian playback singing industry. The artist soon went to India and performed live several times. He was received by screaming fans and admirers who had fallen in love with the voice of this Pakistani boy. Atif Aslam was the first Pakistani singer to be nominated for the most prestigious Indian “Filmfare” awards two years in a row.

In 2009, Atif Aslam made his presence felt in the show “Coke Studio” produced by Rohail Hyatt. Coke Studio showcases live performances of artists from diverse genres as they come together to present a unique blend of fusion music. Atif Aslam was a big hit with Coke Studio fans as he gave 5 electrifying performances, experimenting with different musical genres. The show was able to garner maximum eyeballs from national and international viewers due to the presence of the superstar. Here he opens up about himself and future plans:

It’s the third time this year you are performing in Delhi-NCR. How does it feel to be back again? 

Well! I love my audience in India. Each one of them means a lot. I would love to perform again and again for such a lovely audience here. The electrifying response is the reason why I am here yet again.

 You took a break of almost two years. Any specific reason behind it?

As you know I got married in 2013. I wanted to take a break after my marriage and I took a break. It was my personal choice. Now I have a baby boy—Abdul Ahad, who has recently turned one.  Now, the break is over and I am back in action. And the concert in Gurgaon was the first platform for a comeback. Many more are on the list. After my break I have done three songs—Jeena Jeena, Zindagi Aa Raha Hoon Main and Tu Chahiye…

Do you think your good looks are an added bonus in your career?

Hahaha… I don’t think I am good looking at all! But yeah.. unfortunately it has become a package. There are lot more people talented than me but they are being ignored for some reason or the other. As I was a “package” for the audience, I got noticed and people started loving me. I don’t know whether my looks or my music attracted them but at the end of the day I am getting what I wanted from all of you. Thanks so very much for all the love you have always showered on me. I’m blessed.

Tell me something about your childhood days. How have you grown up?

I was born in a middle class family. My school days were very memorable and I cherish them. The distance between my house and the school was very far so my Walida (mother) used to drop me at the school and later come to pick me up. Every day I used to buy a toy for myself. Be it for Rs 10 or Rs 1000. I used to purchase a toy daily. I was interested in cars so maximum time I bought car toys. But the very next day Walida used to scold me as I broke them within 24 hours.

Any school memories you would like to share?

I was a bright student and on the other hand was the naughtiest child too. Whenever the teachers took classes and I found it boring, I started making different-different noises from the side of my mouth. Luckily, teachers could not recognize me as the culprit and used to punish other students. I loved to irritate the teachers. But now when I think about all these stupid things I did in my childhood, it always brings a smile to my face.

Did you get pocket-money when you were in school?

Yes. My parents used to give me pocket-money every week which I was supposed to spend on the junk-food and travel charges. As I grew up I used to go for higher studies on my own. I used to take lifts from my friends only, to save on my travel expenses. I save the money and used to spend it only on music.

You wanted to be a fast-bowler but you ended up being a Singer?

True that! Music happened to me. I wanted to be a fast-bowler. I aspired to be a cricketer someday and music was probably the last thing on my mind. Parents wanted me to become a doctor. Instead I did computer engineering and I was terrible at it. My parents came to know about my singing from my friends.

As you were a charming chocolate boy in your teenage years, girls must have hit-on you?

Ooops! A controversial question… Speaking the truth, yes…many girls approached me. I had many break-ups in my school-college days, but none of them was a serious relationship. It was just infatuation. I was so friendly with everyone that every time a girl had a break-up with her boyfriend, she approached me to share her sorrows. And eventually she turned into my girlfriend.

Are you still in touch with any of your school or college friends?

Uuummmm… Not with school friends, but yes I am in touch with a few of my college friends. Though we don’t talk quite often but sometimes we meet.

How did your album, Jalpari, became a youth anthem for Pakistan?

I took part in singing competitions in college and won them. Investing my pocket money in a recording session, I recorded my first song. That’s how the single Aadat happened, recorded with a band, Jal. Then after a controversy with the band my first album, Jalpari, was released and the album became a hit.

Apart from music what makes Atif happy?

My wife-Sarah and my kid. Whenever I think about them it gives me happiness.

Your sudden marriage with Sarah Bharwana had broken many hearts and disappointed your female fans?

I don’t think I have broken any of my fans’ heart. My love for them remains the same. But you are right that my marriage was a sudden decision. Actually, six-seven years ago I met an astrologer who predicted that when I will turn 28, I would be married. After turning 28, I recalled his prediction and decided to marry Sarah with whom I had a eight-years relationship. And now, we have a baby boy too.

How is Atif as a husband and a father?

Just like a normal guy, a normal father and a husband. I love to pamper my family. I love to go and shop with Sarah. I love to buy pampers (diapers) and baby care products for my kid.

How has the journey been, 10 years ago and now?

I have learnt from this journey. I have evolved. 17-year-old Atif was very innocent, immature and was not well-aware about the ways of the world. But now, he knows how to handle people and fans. Most importantly, I have grown as a musician.

What would be your reaction if Sarah wants to act in Bollywood?

I don’t think she is a huge fan of movies. Even if any director approaches her, I am sure she won’t consider it. Actually she is very homely and a family oriented person. She is disconnected to the world and is happy in her own small world. But yes, she might wanna work someday but not acting.

There is news that you have signed a Bollywood movie. Is it true?

Haven’t signed any movie YET. There are four-five films coming up. I have been listening to the scripts.  But personally I need a script related to music else it should have an ‘out of the box’ story-line. Only then, I would be a part of it.

Which Bollywood actress do you want to work with?

Deepika Padukone is always top of the line. She is one of my favorite actresses. She is doing so well for herself. But when it comes to working with someone, I would rather prefer a fresh face, basically a newcomer.

Recently you have debuted for Salman Khan, the actor for whom every singer wants to do a play-back voice. How do you feel?

I am glad that I was a part of this particular project as this was Salman’s first persona production. When the song, Tu Chahiye, came to me, I was unaware about the plot of the story. Also, the lyrics were amazing. Salman Khan is a person who helps so many people, so if I could be a part of that then I can be a part of what he is doing. It’s my honour.

 What about your future projects? Are you releasing any private album?

Me and my team are working on an upcoming private album. It will be too early to say anything about it as the album is in its pre-mature stage. But currently I am only focusing on playback singing.

 Tell me something about your musical projects in Pakistan?

I have sung many songs in an upcoming movie called Ho Mann Jahaa, directed by Asif Raza. The music will be out in somewhere around September and it will be released by September end or in November first week.

Have you ever become a victim of Indo-Pak relations?

Not at all. I never had any evil-intentions against any one, any religion or community or artist is of any nation. Music connects everyone. The purity of music is across borders. And I want to add one more thing, that I feel very much safe and loved in India.

Why have you shifted to Dubai?

Life is more chilled out and relaxed now. It is lot more easier. I have to travel all over the world and when I was in Pakistan every flight from there goes via Dubai.. so shifting to Dubai has saved so much of my time.

How does it feel when you fans suffix “Aadeez” with their names on the social networking sites?

This is what you call “cult following”.  I actually do not have words about these people. They are not only my fans but they are family to me. I treat all my fans nicely—be it on the forums, during the concerts or anywhere I meet them. I personally reply to my fans on Instagram. So Aadeez are a family and I love you all. Thank you for supporting my music. I am nothing without you guys.  I have always loved you for what you have done for me. I can never forget your love and support throughout my journey. I will continue loving you till eternity. Just want to say—“Do something good for others, give them reasons to smile, love them, forgetting the reasons why you want to love them. Shower happiness and positivity in the world.”

Where are you off to next?

I have a concert in O2 Arena, London, then perform in Dubai in September.

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