Saturday, September 27, 2008

Shehzad Roy shifts focus from much anticipated 'Qismat Apnay Haat Mein' video

Playing it safe: Shehzad Roy shifts focus from the much anticipated 'Qismat Apnay Haat Mein' video

He's making a video for the romantic ditty 'Ek Baar' instead. Will the lack of corporate sponsors for edgy songs take the edge off our music?

Saba Imtiaz, Karachi

The massively popular 'Laga Reh' video by Shehzad Roy - which poked a satirical finger at how Pakistanis deal with the problems that are facing the country now, as well as highlighted the issues that are everyday headlines - was by far one of the best things to have happened on the music video scene in Pakistan. The next video was expected to be that of 'Qismat Apney Haat Mein' - another hard-hitting number that forces people to sit up and think about those who have wrestled our future into their own hands. However, Shehzad's planning to make the video for another song in the album first - 'Eik Baar'. 'Eik Baar' is one of his signature romantic ballads, songs that Shehzad has built his career on as a pop singer. However, the move does come as a surprise because one would expect another controversial video to follow up the first, as the 'Qismat Apney Haat Mein' video was being billed as a sequel of sorts to 'Laga Reh'.

So what's happened? Obviously, Shehzad wants to play it safe. While the 'Laga Reh' video has garnered more coverage than anyone would have thought of - there were no sponsors willing to touch the video. All that said and done, while it's understandable that there was earlier hesitation on the part of corporations, the video's become a massive hit. But if companies are still afraid, as the grapevine goes, to touch Shehzad's album, then it speaks double standards about a lot of things. Corporations don't refuse to air advertisements on news channels that portray the truth or lift the curtain from social ills hidden in society. Supermodel Kate Moss, after her cocaine bust, was dropped by almost every brand she endorsed - but the ones that stuck with her reaped the benefits when she came back onto the modeling stage, as much of a force as before. It also makes one think why Shehzad Roy wants to shift the focus - releasing 'Qismat Apnay Haat Mein' now would cement his sudden rise in popularity and make him a star.

But can one even blame the corporations? While many business dealings in the country are far from being white as snow, the hesitation does make sense. Can companies afford to offend higher authorities - given how our business environment is so fragile with the constant political turmoil? Probably not - but then there is no other alternative for musicians - and these are ancient, ongoing debates that do not appear resolvable.

However contrary to how it may seem like, Shehzad Roy's satirical video is not the first satirical production to air in Pakistan. The classic Fifty-Fifty'TV show in the '60s was a groundbreaker - which spoofed Pakistani culture to the hilt and made fun of anything and everything under the sun. Even in the repressive 80s, the TV serial Aangan Tehra, penned by Anwar Maqsood, directed by Farooq Qaiser and starring Shakeel, Bushra Ansari and Salim Nasir - the play subtly pointed out the harshness of the regime that had banned dancing or the economic crises of that time. That was aired on PTV - during the 1980s. And there are countless satire shows on TV now - from Hum Sab Umeed Se Hain' to The Reel News.

In this day and age, when companies in Pakistan are sponsoring musicals, risqué 'entertainment' events and obscure artists, it is a stark parallel that a musician who's album has been consistently selling since its release, has yet to land a deal which would make doing music like this commercially viable. It makes someone who has been following the music industry for over a decade now think that we are still stuck in 1997, when Junoon got banned from the airwaves thanks to the 'Ehtesab' video, 'Khudi' and Ali Azmat and Salman Ahmed's long hair. The media revolution has come - but if musicians and corporations still need to 'play it safe' then what has really evolved?

Nothing, one fears.

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