Mufflers, monkey caps and sneakers met mascara, highlights and stilettos at the Atif Aslam concert (presented by ARN Entertainment and R.V Steels and Power). The crowd didn’t really belong to any particular age group. The old, the young and toddlers, they were all there with many of them vying to prove they are his biggest fan.
The show started with DJ Suleiman from Goa playing a mix of party favourites. Next up was Aditi Sharma, who sang the title track from Dhoom 3 and put up a spirited performance with numbers such as ‘Raabta’, ‘Tu mera hero’, ‘Badtameez dil’, ‘Balam pichkari’…Her energy brought the audience to its feet and her bit was perhaps the liveliest part of the evening.
An hour and forty-five minutes after the show began Atif finally made his appearance amidst chants of ‘Atif Atif’ from the fans. Even the agitated lot who were complaining about his late entry seemed mollified as the singer sang an improvised version of ‘Woh lamhe woh baatein’ from Zeher. This was the song that launched him in Bollywood back in 2005. “Mahesh Bhatt called me over, through a common friend, and asked me to sing ‘Woh lamhe’. Ever since there has been no looking back,” he adds.
Nine years on, the singer from Pakistan has to his credit numerous chart busters such as ‘Beintehaan’ (Race 2), ‘Labon ko’ (Bhool Bhulaiya) ‘Tere bin’ (Bas Ek Pal), ‘Piya o re piya’ (Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya)…
Atif also displayed his guitar skills, singing the immensely popular ‘Doorie’, ‘Ehsaas’, ‘Hum kis gali’, and a few other non-film numbers followed…He tried out a lot of improvisations, though, some of the songs would have sounded better if he had stuck to the original version. But then if you are Atif Aslam nobody really complains. “He’s so-o-o-o cute!” cooed a young lady seated behind me as she and her gang of friends went into hysterics.
Meanwhile enthusiastic children danced and it took a lot of persuasion to get them to remain seated during the show. However my energy levels were nowhere near theirs, considering that I had spent two hours in the evening waiting for the singer to arrive for an interview before his sound check. Finally I met Atif who was sporting a red hooded t-shirt and dark aviators in his caravan.
Atif as a teenager was an avid cricketer nurturing dreams of becoming a fast bowler for Pakistan. “My parents didn’t want me to play cricket because they felt I wasn’t studying. They wanted me to become an engineer. But after that I wanted to sing,” he says. Cricket’s loss perhaps became music’s gain. At 17, when he started singing professionally Atif recorded ‘Aadat’ and released it on the Internet and it became quite the rage. His unusual voice won him many admirers.
A non-trained singer, wasn’t he apprehensive about pursuing music as a career? “Every singer thinks that it’s their talent that takes them forward, but I think it’s god that takes them everywhere!” Talking about changes in the music scene he says that there’s a structural change after every decade and he’s rather pleased to notice that the youth is interested in poetry nowadays. What’s next? “I am going to release my album this year. It’s a pure Pakistani album…from the roots,” he flashes his disarming smiles.
Though almost all his tracks for Bollywood are love songs, he believes he is essentially a pop-rock singer. As if to make a point, he mostly stuck to pop-rock album songs at the concert, leaving out chunks of his hits that the audience kept requesting. However he did sing ‘Tera hone laga hu (Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani),’ ‘Pehli nazar main’ (Race),’ ‘Jeena laga hu’ (Ramaiya Vastavaiya) and finally finished with ‘Tu jaana na’.
Most live concerts reach a point where the performance peaks, however this event maintained a plateau throughout. But many in the audience didn’t mind that, they were out to have a good time and root for their favourite singer. At numerous instances all Atif had to do was start the song and the audience would sing along. “Mujhe bahut khushi hoti hai jab India ke crowd ke saamne perform karta hu aur aap log itna pyaar dete hai. Dil bhar jaata hai,” the singer signed off.