With Ali Zafar known as the good boy of the Pakistani entertainment industry, many fans may find it hard to relate to his big and bold persona as he makes his way back into Coke Studio with Rockstar.
Swaying from side to side along with the gold chains dangling from his Ali Xeeshan jacket, he belts out the hook of the song, touting himself as the unstoppable superstar ‘AZ’. But where he pokes fun at the lifestyle of the rich and famous on-screen, he also makes us wonder if his off-screen self is somewhat an extension of the badass rockstar image he satirises.
“Partly,” says Ali laughingly. “I partly lead the rockstar life I’ve made fun of.” Ali’s first out of three stints on Coke Studio season 8 has so far received polarised reviews, with some labelling him as being too full of himself. Shrugging off this perception, he explains how it takes a good sense of humour to perform a self-deprecating song. “This is a first for me. I don’t think I’m arrogant otherwise I wouldn’t have made such a song.”
Although people may disagree on whether or not they like the song, there’s no gainsaying that it merits applause for being experimental. Given that he has not only explored diverse styles of music as an independent artist but also as a Bollywood film composer, it was no easy feat for him to come up with something that has never been done on the Coke Studio platform before. The result was Rockstar, for which he struck up the composition with the house band in the first three to five minutes of their jamming session. “After this, I went on with the lyric-writing process,” he shares.
Ali states that the lyrics of the song are such that they bring out child-like enthusiasm in people. “They remind me of how I used to perceive rockstars when I was a kid,” he states. The tongue-in-cheek lyrics also helped him become more relaxed and expressive while performing the song. Describing Rockstar as commentary on the larger-than-life lifestyle of musicians and the subsequent media circus, he said the song, a complete U-turn from his previous appearances on the show, amped up the energy on the sets.
“I’ve always believed that every artist is unique and has his own style. When I performed Dastaan-e-Ishq, I was in a completely different zone … of spirituality. On the contrary, there’s an aspect of vanity and arrogance in Rockstar, which required me to get more animated,” he notes. Having also established himself as an actor, Ali realised he would have to up his game to remind the audiences of his skill and showmanship as a singer.
But he credits his acting stints in Bollywood for uplifting his performance on the show. “Working with different choreographers across the border has definitely helped me improve. Dancing and singing at the same time is very difficult and fortunately, I have been able to better that side of me.”
Returning to the show after a gap of more than six years, Ali feels nostalgic about how the show has grown and progressed over the years. He considers himself lucky to be a part of Coke Studio’s founding team of musicians, who kickstarted the venture nearly a decade ago. Ali is slated to perform two more songs this season, one of which includes a duet with house band member Sara Haider.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th, 2015.