One of the earliest posts we did at ATP was titled “Indians are laughing at Pakistanis.” It was about a comedians from Karachi – Rauf Lala, Irfan Malik, Ali Hasan and others – who were taking Indian audiences by storm in the hit Indian television show “The Great Indian Laughter Challenge.” 40 year old Rauf Lala from Pakistan went on to be voted the “Funniest Man in India”!
Today I heard from a former student telling me how a set of young Pakistani singers are winning Indian hearts in the ZeeTV hit show SaReGaMa Challenege 2007. Three Pakistanis reached the top-8 and one, Amanat Ali from Faisalabad, is now in the final three. The Super Final will be on the 13th of October and while the competition at this level is super tough, many are giving him better than even odds for winning.
I have caught the show occasionally, but had not seen any of the 2007 shows. I have a fondness for South Asian music in general and have always been amazed at the quality of the contestants in Indian music contests. There have been some phenomenal performers in these shows. Unlike many US reality contests (including early rounds of ‘American Idol’) where novelty can trump talent, the musical talent in Indian shows is nearly always phenomenal. So, while I had been skeptical about Kashif Memon making it to America’s Got Talent, this I had to see.
What I saw is actually very impressive. At the end of this performance of Mitwa, note the judges’ reactions at the end of the song. The superlatives they use are astounding, and obviously heartfelt.
If you look at his performances, he seems to excel as much at the ‘performance’ as at the singing. He sometimes improvises by putting his own or a judge’s name in the song and the confidence, charm and charisma he has on stage is certainly catching. Here is one example of this with the Soniya. Note Kareena Kapoor’s reaction.
Of course, the novelty of being from ‘across the border’ must have some role in the success of Amanat Ali and his compatriots. But it has also been a burden at times and because of their follies or other’s intentions inevitable controversies have also emerged. My own inclination is to ignore them for the time being. This is a young 19-year old from Faisalabad making it big – no, huge – in neighboring India. The pressures cannot be easy and, at least on the stage, he is carrying them well. This particular show (15th August) made for some needless controversy, but again, I thought that he not only carried a very difficult song (Aye meray piyarey watan) very well but his opening words weren’t bad either.
Probably his other songs were better sung, but I got first hooked when I heard this song (janey kahan gaye woh din) which is one of my all time favorite songs from one of my all time favorite movies (Mera naam Joker):
And finally, here is one more great song, beautifully rendered. Tujh say naaraz nahi zindagi from the very momorable film Masoom.
I don’t know enough about the other two finalists to make any predictions, nor do I have any expertise in such things. But it should be obvious from the above that I have been very taken by Amanat Ali’s performances and have been watching his videos again and again. I know a good performer when I see one. And Amanat Ali is certainly that. I wish him well. I also wish that he the intense politics of our region will leave him alone and he will leave it alone too.
P.S. I had written this before the blast at Ajmer today. Our hearts and sympathies go out to all who lost their lives or are injured in the blast. As we have maintained earlier, violence is never a solution to anything and those who use violence to instill fear and create hatred must not be allowed to wreck the efforts of those who want to spread peace and goodwill. All violence, by anyone, anywhere, and for any reason must be condemned and rejected by all. It is in this spirit that we have decided to go ahead with this post which, we hope, has deeper meaning than just highlighting a really talented singer from Pakistan making his mark in India. May the oices of peace always overwhelm teh voices of violence