Posts Tagged ‘Sajid Ali’

I started stopping everyone I know (and didn’t know) to make them listen to Coke Studio Pakistan about six years ago. One of the many things that stands out is the excellent house-band that the studio has.

This post is just a small thank you from someone who admires Coke Studio Pakistan’s magicians. I hardly see ‘filmwalas or musicians’ discuss about Coke Studio Pakistan but that can never negate the fact that Coke Studio Pakistan is undoubtedly the biggest music brand to come out of the subcontinent in as far as I can remember. Melody, continuously. So let us  quickly say thank you to those who stood out this season.

Tanveer Tafu:tanveer-tafu

  • Be it his jaw dropping guitar in Sakal bann.
  • Be it his mandolin play in Rung Jindri (Where he affords himself a sway and rockstar swag as a bonus!)
  • Be it his Banjio in Umran lagiyaan (Yes it is called Banjio! I didn’t know it)
  • Be it his mandolin play that elevates Khari neem higher than the empire state building
  • Be it his Turkish Saaz play in Ajj din vehre which is brief yet quite soothing.
  • Be it Khalis Makhan in which his Rhubab was jumping and making moves like a kid negotiating stairs playfully
  • Be it Tajdar-e-haram in which the Rhubab lent depth to the song that pauses everything else in your mind.
  • Be it the nostalgia inducing Rhuaab in Hare hare baans.

No Matter what Tafu sahab holds, it starts playing and playing rather well!


Sajid AliSajid-Ali

  • He touched a chord with his splendid participation in Phool banro, which to my mind remains the song of the season in the 7th Season of Coke Studio.
  • be it in Khalis Makhan where the flute was accompanying Bakshi brothers all throughout and taking us back to those childhood days when life was a bit more than ‘likes’, ‘selfies’, ‘lol’. XboX etc.
  • Or take his example in the fabulous Umraan laggyan. Towards the end, song reaches crescendo thanks to the lovely flute that makes you visualize a lover (who was waiting forever on her toes) running towards the door where her lover is approaching. Someone said flute is next to voice, I think they can use examples like this song to further their point.
  • Or be it the fabulous ‘Ve Baneya‘ in which not only the flute furthers the song and stays largely in the background otherwise and sings along Mulazim especially when he goes ‘Haye Jaau Kahan
  • Or be it the heartbreaking and beautiful ‘Ajj din vehre‘ in which Sajid along with the brilliant Arsalan give the song the right feel.
  • I could go on and on about his participation in the Khari neem because of which the song sounds breezier, or I could remind us of rockstar, in which the flute added to the swag of the song, and you can almost picture a narcissistic  rockstar making a slow entry to the scene. But i won’t.


Arsalan Ali Arsalan-Ali

The magician on Harmonium! It was his groove that started the season and he pretty much rocked throughout. Be it Aankharli Pharookai, Tajdar-e-haram, or the ‘lahori’ touch he adds when the harmonium plays along with Ali Zafar in rockstar, and lest we forget, its quiet accompaniment throughout but especially during ‘Umraan lagiyaan paban pa’ in the fabulous Umran lagiyan. It is safe to conclude that with Arsalan’s Harmonium, the sound of the studio gets an earthy touch.

Coke-Studio-Season-4-House-Band-Jaffer-Zaidi-6Jaffer Ali Zaidi

Do we remember the subtle beginning of Rang jindri where the calm keyboards set up the stage for something as simple as ektaaaara to give you goosebumps with a simple riff? Sheer beauty! Even towards the end, the lasting notes on keyboard welcome the descending fading notes of Chimtaaa which make it surreal. Jaffer is always there, like Oxygen. It doesn’t matter if we notice him or not, but his keyboard play is always necessary. Listen to sohini dharti again and catch the keyboard play again, you will know what I mean.

19Aahad Nayani

I remember getting all angry with his excessive antics in Season 7. Of course we weren’t used to seeing excessive display of any emotion by drummers in the Studio (Give me Gumby any day!). That aside, Aahad really acted like a metronome to almost all the songs where he was present. His perfect outing in Sakal bann, Khari neem, rockstar just added so much to these songs, not to mention that delightful acknowledgement and pointer towards Nabeel at the end of ‘Bewajah

Babar Ali KhannaBabar-Ali-Khanna-Laili-Jaan-1

  • Though subtle, Babar was superb in rung jindri especially where his dholak brings in antras.
  • To me, Babar was top of his game in Fizza Javed’s parts of ‘Ve baneya‘. There is just so much emotion in both the Antaras of hers, and dholak’s variation just amplifies that emotion. Rare for a dholak to have so much airtime and boy did it work!
  • Of course we can never forget the way Babar’s tabla in sakal bann (especially during ‘bhaant bhaant ke phool mangaye) and Piya dekhan ko. Both these songs can make wonderful Indian dance songs with a lot of ‘bhaav‘, largely thanks to Babar.
  • And the way babar added a desi touch in rockstar and umran lagiyaan when the tempo of the song changes, speaks volumes of his talent and the faith producers have in him.


Omran-ShafiqueOmran Shafique

Smiling as usual and swaying to music (with a pout or two) was brilliant but I missed seeing an out and out Sunn ve balori like song where he soared like no other and stole the show from a very very able Meesha Shafi, or for that matter the powerful rendition in the ever so strong Jawad Ahmad’s Mitti da pahalwan.

Kamran ‘Mannu’ Zafar

My first favorite musician from CokeStudio Pakistan. His brilliance is that you will hardly see any emotion but the bass line that every song enjoys in the studio, is his doing. You will love the way he started ‘rockstar’, you might even like the depth he lends when Jaffer ali zaidi says ‘nyun‘ for the first time in Nyun la leya ve. This blogpost would run out of space If I try to enumerate his contribution over the years. Thank you, Kamran


Strings section

Javed Iqbal sahab, Islamuddin meer Sahab, Saeed Ahmed Sahab and Mansoor Ahmed Sahab were there, quietly running the riot of colors on all of us as we sat, bewildered and smitten at the same time.

String section

  • How can we ever forget the transformation of an old classic which was largely due to the extremely hot and sensual strings section? Yes, I am referring to the superb ‘Khari neem‘. Mai Bhagi sang the song first  and I am sure wherever she is, she would have smiled and probably given a bit of shoulder dance on this version and the string section is to be applauded for a large part of that.
  • Don’t forget the superb flow of the string section in Rung jindri. Strings are quite prominent anyway but watch out especially in the second line of mukhda, and second part of antra, the way strings flow, they are nothing short of melodious miracle hidden in a song and it hits you when you least expect.
  • Not to forget the radical change in the string pattern in the first stanza of Rabba ho which to me is the highlight of the song.
  • Not only from this season, but Javed Iqbal sahab has mesmerized everyone in countless songs…be it Husn-e-haqiqi where the violin was continuously giving Arieb Azhar good company, or Senraa bayaria where your violin pierced the soul at 4:08 minutes, or for that matter, the powerful beginning you gave in Neray aah and Na raindee hai. I could go on and on, Sir, but I would summarize it with a big Thank you!

Back up vocals

Be it the hamnawas in Tajdar-e-haram or the magnificent boys aiding the house backups in Rang jindri, I cannot write enough praises for the backups in the season. They were subtle and stuck to the brief, which, to an outsider like me, looks like was, “it’s the music and not heroics stupid!” A special mention of the house-band’s back ups excellent strategy of enforcing ‘saa’ ‘tarse’ part of ‘Piya dekhan ko’. Ustad Hamid clearly didn’t have a clear pronunciation of ‘tarse,’ and that could have made the sound a bit dated. Very smart! It starts from 1:33 min on wards in the song, do hear it to know what I mean. Of course, it was just phenomenal to see them getting a significant part in Rockstar in which they complimented Ali all throughout, adding the required charm and craziness of ‘fans’

Other partners in crime

The strength of Coke Studio Pakistan is their brilliant house-band without a doubt. They have all been splendid all throughout and may be because it is fresh in the memory, but I absolutely relished the way Imran Akhoond, Haider Ali and Kamran played around in the mid section of ‘Armaan’ song.

Sikandar Mufti


Last but certainly not the least. There is always at least one guy in a group who is a friend of everyone and is always seen smiling. Sikandar Mufti reminds me of that guy. One more thing – Sikandar rules the percussion! Apart from his incomparable talent, it is hard to not smile every time the camera pans on to him. It looks like he is the happiest when an experiment goes well in the studio. You can see him gesticulating (remember the start of Zu sta pa sha?)  and not being loud at that…all this with a smile! Thank you, Sikandar. And not just for this season, for all the seasons of which you have been a fabulous part of!

Every single one of you have given us all a benchmark to measure the various aspects of Coke Studio Pakistan. There is a some movement on this side of the border as well, and you guys are the textbook reference for those who want to know how it’s done.

So, here’s a toast to everyone for making the experience breathtaking, heartbreaking, melodious, sensual, insightful, reflective, and all good things that come to our mind when we play ‘my-favorite-wala-song-from-Coke-Studio-Pakistan’

Love from India.


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Not again, I said. Bhartiya naari gets the guy. Boozie naari gets converted to bhartiya nari as she tries to get the guy. And the guy is desi at heart who is also Mama’s boy- will sleep with boozie, will fall in love with bharatiya. Imtiaz Ali, Sajid Ali and Homi Adjania took bollywood’s oldest and most favourite formula of love traingles and did just one brilliant thing – remove the communication gap between the three which has always been a bane in desi love triangles. So all three of them sat together and discussed it openly – tum mujhse, main isse pyaar karta hoon. And then? Nobody had any clue what to do – writers, characters, makers. As the formula goes, cool and confused lovers will travel a distance to discover true love. London —-> Cape Town —-> Delhi.

Fatema disagrees. She says there’s more to it. So, over to Fatema Kagalwala and Nadi Palshikar for the rest. We are going with the Cocktail trend. This post is also by 1 guy + 2 women –  @CilemaSnob

Cinema feeds us so many stereotypes. Loudly, brazenly, irresponsibly. In the race for finding the formula, women characters have been brutally pigeonholed in our cinema for ages, making us believe there isn’t anything more. The curse of populist feminism as well as quick mass appeal has given us generations of blanket portrayals of loud, gender role-defying women as ‘strong’ and shy, silent and traditional women as helpless wimps. It is easy for us to see a gun-toting Zoya and the sassy Veronica as perfectly liberated but is it a true portrayal of liberation or is there more? Are we missing something because the definitions we are fed are shaky themselves and years of gender polarisation have left us no gaps to sieve characters that don’t fit in? Is Meera as wimpy as she comes across and is Veronica as care-a-damn as she looks? Let’s uncover the world behind the characters of Veronica and Meera discovering what makes them tick and different in Imtiaz Ali’s and Homi Adajania’s Cocktail. First, over to Nadi

Veronica’s Parents. They send her money but do not really care. So our girl is a wild child. An attention-seeking child. She breezes into places and then behaves brazenly. Look at me, I am being bad. The loud music gets faster and faster until towards the end she says, “I can’t do this anymore” Tantrums are tiring. The tantrums have not worked either. Kya hai mere paas, she asks- not once saying “what did I get after loving you so much?” There has been no question of that anyway. There was supposed to be no question of that anyway. But that she is fatigued, exhausted. Going round and round like a child having a fit. Having banged her head against a wall to seek attention and then complaining that her head hurts to the same person that never saw anyway. For now that she knows that the love she wants can never be had, does she want to gain bliss by being child to this couple? This couple, who unlike her own parents, will stay together. This woman who has given her house a feeling of ‘Home’, this man for whom, what started as a superficial thing has turned into a love so deep that he has to be clung to- whatever maybe the rules of the game. Like Martin who does not mind being scolded like a child and then comforted by his wife Antonia when he finds her with Palmer in iris Murdoch’s A Severed Head. Like Anais Nin in some moments, felt about Henry Miller and his wife. And in our own cinema- my favourite ‘triangle- Gulzar’s Ijaazat (based on  Jatugriha by Subodh Ghosh)  where Maya says  about Sudha, her lover’s wife- “Didi maarengi toh nahi” while Mahender has said – I will put you in Sudha’s care. She will know what is to be done with you. And the bitter words between Sudha and Mahender that Maya hears over the phone- which remind her of the fights between her parents. And she goes away-

But coming back to Veronica-

Outside the club, Gautam glances at Meera- like an adult signalling to another about taking care of a child who is sick. Veronica quiet easily slides into the role of child being taken care of by parents. Two people who love each other, and yes she knows that, but are responsible for her well being. Deep, difficult, this. The scene – Lest we do not recognize that this has gone beyond mere two friends taking care of a drunk friend, is the explicitly spelt out – “Why can’t Gautam take me to the bathroom?” The tantrum of “Why can’t Daddy take me to the bathroom?” which is usually explained by a “Because you are a big girl now, and so you go with the women.” Which usually appeases the child.

But here the script goes dangerously close to the enactment of incest or rather an incest –like fantasy with the shocking “There isn’t anything you haven’t seen before.”And how easy it is to sink into fantasies. (Maybe this is the way he need not give this girl up?) Sink together near Veronica’s bed after tucking her in and ask a very adult, really caring. Are you okay? Parents saying thank God, the children have finally slept.

The next day- while Meera who is good and kind has done what she thinks is the right thing – gone away, we have veronica trying to win Gautam back. Not like an adult woman. But emphasizing the imitation of Meera – See, I got the recipe off the net – I will cook – just like her. The apron almost a disguise – poised with a ladle in hand. Saying defiantly – I sent her away. The simulation of the fantasy of mother being banished – I’ll look after father – I can even make ‘the yoghurt salad thing’ and the difficult biryani. And here, thankfully, I thought, Gautam does the responsible thing. He is angry, rightfully so. From somewhere far away there was more than money coming for this neglected child at last. Sensible, stern ‘parenting’?

And ‘stern’ I do not think she would mind. For looking back, we now remember that comic scene with Gautam’s Mama telling her how to sit properly, for Kavita Kapoor would surely disapprove. This comic scene in retrospect, seems poignant as this is what Veronica has never had – a gentle reprimand for the way she has been dressing and behaving wilder and wilder.

Here, when Gautam does the right thing- reprimands her for this silly behavior, looks for Meera, I saw hope for Veronica. After that  little relief that is awarded to her – Gautam looking after her- making her laugh, feeding her. Plaiting her hair- (reminding me of that other film – Sadma which too hinted at a kind of quasi-incestuous relationship), I hoped Veronica would realize the situation that she was in.

And so we are okay with Meera ordering Gautam to take care of Veronica, this being agreed to. Sure. Sometimes the writer would like to provide just a little succour for a character he can’t help but love.

And Veronica did not let us down. Being cared for a while- like someone blowing softly on all those wounds the crazy girl carried on herself- the hospital-bed scene actually bringing out the wounds, making visible, the scars of Veronica. This almost dying and then being given a chance to make a new beginning- and she does realize what the situation is. And decides to restore the rightful couple to each other. It is here that the script is not very kind to this, its most lovable character. And we see that although the character arc of Veronica seems to be on the way to something good, Gautam has not become adult enough. So there’s the jumping out of autorickshaw and dialogue like “My best friend’s marrying my other friend” or something as corny as that! And our photographer girl who has put them in the rightful frame and would have liked to click and walk away, is pulled into the frame- collective hugs all around. Once again, she is let down. You can’t really blame the Kapoors for not knowing the right thing to be done of course – after all, the D’costas didn’t.

For this is where she should have been restored to her place, the door shut in her face, so to speak. However traumatic it might be for her, the script should have left her behind while Gautam goes to India (Meera’s located nicely in this other separate world to where he can go ‘leaving’ Veronica to her own resources of which she has quite a few, considering her realization etc).

But even as the potential darkness is broken by a loud song, as the screen fulfils the Indian fantasy of both these girls dancing with the hero,  I say to myself – once again a ‘not really my type of movie’ has connected in a way I cannot describe. Once again, just a love story – good looking people in pretty locales – written by Imtiaz Ali has gone beyond – has shown me the painful journey, the remarkable transformation of a character. And just like that other time, Homi Adajania has very subtly gone dangerously close to taboos, hinted at the terrible hurts that lie behind our ‘bad’ behavior.

And now Meera. Nadi Palshikar’s intuitive post on Veronica made Fatema want to delve deeper into Meera. She was intrigued to uncover the world behind her character because something told her there was more to her. She felt Imtiaz hadn’t written a stereotype howmuchever our sensibilities may push us to believe… Read on.

Meera – In our cinematic landscape where women characters have to be one of a few ‘types’, on first glance Meera seems to be your regular chhui-mui, sacrificing goat because she knows no better. The first time we see her she is dressed in a demure salwar kameez, with jhumkas and a mangalsutra, extremely uncomfortable sitting close to a garrulous gent on a cramped flight to London. She manages her luggage awkwardly while she waits for a husband who doesn’t show up. We see her as a reserved and simple girl from the heartland of India (assumed by her dress and demeanour) and think she will be the dependant, helpless type as we are generally shown such girls to be. Soon after a long wait at the airport of a foreign land where she knows no one, has no place to stay and whose ways are completely unfamiliar to her, she heads to the police station to seek her husband. Her first action when she meets trouble is to look for a solution. Her first thought is not a victimised ‘oh what will I do?’ something we’d expect a character like hers to automatically do. She breaks down only after her husband brutally rejects her. We see her hiding in the bathroom of a store sobbing away…It is only later that we understand she wasn’t sobbing because she was feeling helpless at her plight but because she was deeply hurt. If by then we have already typecast her in our heads we are likely to miss out on more that we learn of her later…

Meera is a product of her upbringing. An upbringing that is rooted in values very Indian across the spectrum of positives and negatives. She does not understand live-in relationships and relationships without commitment. She is a self-respecting girl, one who is a little out of her depth in this foreign land but who does not let that become an excuse to wallow in self-pity. She willingly looks for and takes up a job to support herself, as if it is the most natural thing to do. Yes, she blames herself for her husband leaving her and that hints at a typically low self-esteem but how many of us haven’t blamed ourselves for our partners leaving us? Especially if you come from a space where marriages are sacred and a world where women’s identities are closely linked to their house-bound roles…Actually even without either…

One would expect Meera to ‘Indianise’ the rootless Veronica and Gautam, and the film to an extent. Any other film would have done so and that’s where Meera’s character becomes independent of the demands of the story. It does not use her character to sell Indian values, which is what we are used to seeing. She is who she is but she also lets the two stay who they are. She draws the limits of her comfort but does not impose her will. Yes, she does lack a confidence in herself in relation to the larger world but not in her own values; hence, she does not shy from praying to her gods in the irreverent household she lives in but refuses to give friendly hugs to Gautam, even after they become friends. Yet, she straddles both worlds beautifully, allowing herself to change some and then drawing her boundaries tight. She keeps emphasising ‘Main aisi hi hoon’. She rejects an idea not because it scandalises her but because that is who she is and that is what she identifies with. That is what she does not want to change… She does not flee at the first hint of trouble, but then we know she is not the fleeing type. She leaves when she thinks that is the right thing to do. Right not because she believes sacrifice is a great virtue and as a woman she is supposed to be so, but because that is what she sees as doing the right thing by her friend Veronica, someone she has come to love like a sister.

It is a thin line Imtiaz Ali and Homi Adajania tow in keeping Meera just this side of stereotyping but they do it with an intuitiveness and maturity we aren’t used to. It is another thing that a lot of this is swept by in dialogues and the compulsive yuppie-ness of the film. Some more is in the over-weaning need of romantic films to be dreamily so. Extrapolating a bit, it is this strength of character that must have made the flighty Gautam fall in love with her, something the film should have emphasised rather than go on a romantic trip of ‘you are this’ and ‘you are that’. She grounded him, something Veronica (or any other girl) couldn’t do for him. Isn’t love after all, about finding a home for our souls to rest in? Gautam had to find it in Meera because she always chooses to remain who she is not because she cannot go beyond her boundaries but because she won’t. Choice is empowerment and what better symbol of strength than the ability to make it?

It is for this that despite her shy exterior, Meera comes across as a woman stronger than cinema would have us believe. Because being true to oneself requires far more strength than we can imagine, in cinema as much as in life. It isn’t an exciting thing many times, hence Meera is a boring character and Veronica is attractive. But isn’t the foundation of ‘self’ far more solid than colourful antics and a glossy exterior that barely manage to hide the chinks inside? As a film, Cocktail didn’t strike me as anything more than a warm romance but all its superficiality couldn’t hide the worlds of its characters…created with a subtlety we aren’t used to watching.