When Noori came up with “Kuttay”, people loved the song more for its controversial lyrics and wild performance by Ali Noor and Ali Hamza, than for the catchy sound. The song was an instant hit. Another controversial song “Bhaag DK Bose” from the Bollywood film Delhi Belly used the same formula and got successful in India and Pakistan alike. And now we have another catchy chorus in the local music scene: “De Babu Rao Thand” by Zuj.
The video of “De Babu Rao Thand” has two versions — an 18-rated version for YouTube users and a less controversial version for the broadcast media. The song sounds like punk rock with a video that features musicians in goth makeup. One of the artists in the video is shown as a local version of fictional characters Wolverine.
“It is my own interpretation of a pre-apocalyptic event. This video is about stretching our imaginations to the next level. It envisions the time of Armageddon and speculates that immorality and greed is going to become the only principle of mankind. The video is about the last man and woman left on planet earth,” says Zuj, who doesn’t want his real name to be disclosed.
Though the artist has reasons to feature most of the elements depicted in his well-shot video, one wonders what is a localised Wolverine doing in a Pakistani punk rock video? “Well, the video is about the pre-apocalyptic world and not just Pakistan. So we wanted to bring in a popular character that everyone can identify,” says Zuj.
The artist maintains that the kind of music he’s doing has never been made in Pakistan: “Mizraab came close, but they played metal, not punk; Noori, with ‘Kuttay’, was heavy rock, and Atif’s ‘Hungaami Halaat’ came very close, but none treated it the way I have.”
Zuj believes that Pakistani musicians need to concentrate on how they present themselves to all audience. “All over the world, a lot of rock musicians do goth makeovers, but more than that the reason why most of the bands don’t get noticed in Pakistan is because they don’t care about how they look and all of them wear brands like Outfitters or Stoneage in their videos. So, they all end up looking the same and that’s where I leave a mark,” Zuj shared.
But is making a controversial video in Pakistan the only way to make a statement? And more importantly, how will the Pakistani listeners take punk music in the days of Atif Aslam and Ali Zafar? “We have received all sorts of reviews, extremely good one and bad ones too, but the bigger issue is that the people here don’t read the philosophy around music,” says Zuj.
The name ‘Babu Rao’ is primarily known to the Pakistani audience through Indian films and it won’t be much of surprise if an artist has made the chorus as a stepping stone into Bollywood. “Well, I have already made it to Bollywood,” exclaims Zuj, who has two of his tracks — “Be Rukhi” and “Hum Adhooray” — being taken up by an upcoming Indian film Number 7 Welcome London, an independent production with a Bollywood release.
Zuj is glad that his songs were taken in their original form in the film and states that his debut album, which is ready to be released, will have some punk rock songs, as well as some other genres of music.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2011.