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First Published in Economic Affairs (Islamabad) March 2014

A forlorn figure making portraits in hotel lobbies may not be newsworthy. The flash-forward of him wandering his old stomping grounds however can make headlines. By then he has acquired some elegant titles that go well with stardom, while retaining a measure of humility that keeps him grounded.

Renowned musician and actor Ali Zafar has been in the game for a decade. His name is listed in ‘Wall Street Money Never Sleeps’ (2010) - soundtrack section. He has an array of awards under his belt and a line-up of movies & songs to his credit.

He saunters on stage to take his place as the star of the evening but happily shares the spotlight - with a fan, randomly chosen for a photo-op, with nimble footed celebrities who waltzed in and in some cases, leapt out, and Shahbaz – the surprised looking technician who got his 5 minutes of fame in exchange for some bottled water.

The singer scores with his generosity and endears himself to listeners by doling out mini doses of philosophical musings inlaid with self deprecating humour. A string of surprise cameos follow. All this takes place in the backdrop of Hum TV’s Valentine day celebrations, aptly titled ‘Dil Jhoom Jhoom’ held on 31st January, 2014 in Pearl Continental, Karachi.

The Ali Zafar experience becomes interactive when Faisal Qureshi, of the ‘Dr. & Billa’ fame now seen in U-fone adverts, who hasn’t attended a live show in years appears onstage, full of praises, and slightly apprehensive at what the singer might say. Ali has a reputation of being blunt. But other than a humorous dig at not writing a film for him, Faisal escapes unscathed.

Occasionally Ali lapses into ‘no woman no cry’, spliced in with random political observations. He believes that enmity between 2 warring nations gets them nowhere and advocates talent exchange programs insisting that collaboration would solve many problems. His film, ‘Total Siyapaa’, due for release on 7th March is reportedly patterned after a similar theme.

Junaid Khan, with whom he performed an impromptu little duet, believes that 'there are few who have mapped their own destinies and Ali is one of them …’ An aspiring singer, sketch pad in hand with no money to record a song, and no prospects on the horizon, qualifies.


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