Indian cinema no longer restricts itself to Indian talent as globalisation has allowed numerous Pakistani artists to enter the main stream music industry in Bollywood.
The influx of artists such as Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Atif Aslam and the assistance of business-minded and liberal film producers in Bollywood has allowed this to happen. Whether it’s convenience or the right skill set, the trend of importing Pakistani talent is clearly mounting.
“Music has become standardised in India over the years, which has resulted in vocalists suffering [from monotony],” says leading Indian music composer and film theorist Madan Gopal Singh. “Pakistani artists seem to have filled that void.” He explains the reason behind the rising interest in Pakistani musicians is due to the melodic uniqueness they possess; they represent a melodic transition which Singh feels Indian musicians have left behind.
He feels the sudden arrival of Pakistani artists has generated insecurities in the minds of local Indian musicians and what’s more important is that Bollywood no longer has a nationalistic impulse to cut Pakistanis off. Amongst the local musicians in India, Singh reveals it was Abhijeet, a renowned playback singer, who led the first chorus against Pakistani artists. He feels Abhijeet, who had become a spent force, was simply threatened by the tough competition.
“Local artists [Indian] in general, feel threatened by the new talent that is coming in and the reality is that this new talent is much more talented and a little more than just good,” Singh says about Pakistani artists.
Singh explains there are two factors that have allowed collaborations between the two nations — economics and technology. As far as political issues are concerned, he feels it’s a two-way street; there are conspiratorial mindsets on both sides of the border. And to deal with this, Dubai and London have become neutral spots where projects can be worked on.
“It’s theatre to be honest, how conspiracies have been churned out. And I am also aware that this goes both ways — Zaid Hamid in Pakistan can also be quite hysterical,” he says. “I don’t know how we are supposed to deal with the politics but I think the only option we have is to work together silently as these [Pakistani artists] are very popular people who have a huge following in India.”
While Pakistani artists had to fly to India initially to record music, technology has now evolved and numerous producers use video conferencing as a tool. “Studios are more sophisticated and equipped now, and technology has progressed to a point where people can use Skype to record music,” he continues. “Therefore, artists don’t even need to go anywhere to produce songs now.”
Meanwhile, a source close to Atif Aslam reveals that producers ask artists to record songs in either Dubai or Lahore. “We are told that Indian singers would obviously become apprehensive as their work is being taken by Pakistani singers; but the environment is becoming very competitive and it should be looked at from that angle,” the unnamed source continued, saying competition is healthy. Aslam remains indifferent to these local sentiments saying he is too focused on his work.
Music producer and cultural icon, Mian Yousuf Salahuddin, gave another perspective to the theory. He feels the main reason behind why Pakistani artists choose to go to Dubai or Lahore instead of India is because it’s more convenient. “While there are only a handful of people who make noise [about political issues], the tension will always be there regardless,” says Salahuddin. “Pakistani artists primarily record music in Pakistan or Dubai because it’s just easier for them.” He says Rahat recorded most of his songs in Lahore and if he had to go elsewhere, it would be Dubai.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 6th, 2013.
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