Clad in a graphic tee and hip-hop trousers, this rapper-cum-comedian looks every bit like an artiste who is least bothered about his looks. Ali Gul Pir, the effortlessly handsome hip-hop entertainer, has girls swooning over his good looks and an entire lot of youth dancing to his tunes. With the release of his ever unforgettable and extraordinary single Wadere Ka Beta (WKB); the king of satire introduced Pakistanis to the art of sarcasm, satirical music and rap culture. The Saeen of sarcasm himself sits down with MAG to talk about life, love and laughter.
Packed with unique concepts and hilarious punch lines, his songs are different from the kind of music Pakistanis are accustomed to. How does he come up with these ideas? “Being a Pakistani you are surrounded by so many issues that you can never run out of ideas,” he laughs, adding that he channels his anger into writing. “I think the best writing I have done is when I am angry because that’s when I can really make fun of it.”
The idea behind Pir’s musical ventures is not to ridicule a group or an institution but to challenge the troublesome norms of society and enable a conversation about the hot-button topics that many shy away from. “My target is the mentality. You can’t just malign an institution because of some bad people. When I make fun of a problem, I’m trying to show how ridiculous this is. My aim is not only to make people laugh but to stimulate a conversation around taboo subjects,” he says.
The popularity and recognition he garnered for his debut song, WKB, which he wrote on a whim, was nothing short of a surprise. “I never thought it would turn out that well because nothing of that sort had ever happened before. Back then, reaching 1 Lac views on a video meant it was viral, so we were hoping to reach that mark in two to three months but as soon as we uploaded the video on Facebook, the response was amazing. We reached the 1 Lac mark within two days,” the pioneer of Pakistani rap scene recollects the memories of his initial days.
It’s the drill of doing something unconventional that keeps this trailblazer going. “I wanted to do something different because I knew I could never make a mark by doing what everyone else was doing,” he goes on. “All the comedians were mimicking and all the singers were singing love songs – I wanted to do something that hadn’t been done before because that’s what makes you a leader in your industry,” he shares the secret of his success.
One has to pay the cost of being different and Pir’s fate was no different. “Of course, there was a backlash and threats. The nationalist Sindhi parties had objections against WKB, they thought it was a dig at their culture, which is not true. Wadera culture is not Sindhi culture,” he goes on to talk about the inability to understand sarcasm. “When I released Taroo Maroo, some people actually thought I was promoting the culture of staring. People didn’t understand it because they don’t understand satire, but it stimulated a dialogue and that’s what is needed,” says the man who thinks Pakistanis are gradually opening up to satire and sarcasm.
He also raises concern about not being able to cross certain lines. “There are always some topics that you don’t dwell into – religion, army, terrorism or nationalism. I wish I didn’t have to restrict myself into these lines. I feel restricted as an artiste but you have to abide by some rules,” he reveals.
The comedian-cum-singer-cum-actor-cum-digital-artiste started his career as an improv comedian. “I wanted to showcase my skills somewhere so I took to theatre and joined improve comedy troupe Light On Hai,” he recounts. Taking us back to his struggling days, he shares, “I was offered a lead role in a sitcom but was kicked out even before the shoot started. They stopped answering my calls and then they just simply replaced me.”
What followed his bumpy beginning was a smooth ride to success. He has now made his way to mainstream media by acting in a telefilm, hosting an award show, doing a song for Jawani Phir Nahi Ani and making a special appearance in the movie Maan Jao Na. “I am also doing radio, working on my film and doing improv with LOL Waalay. I am also a consultant at an advertising agency. Now that I know my domain is comedy, I am doing multiple things and think I can do a lot more,” he says.
What is comedy for him? I ask. “As a child, laughter and sense of humour was always my defence mechanism. Whenever something bad happened, I would joke about it to make things lighter. I moved around a lot and realised that humour is a common language and people will like me if I was funny. So, I subconsciously took to comedy from a very early age,” says the comedian for whom “making people laugh is an unmatchable feeling.”
The digital artiste who rose to fame because of social media understands the importance of an artiste’s on-screen presence. “My main source of recognition is internet. My songs and other works first garnered popularity on internet and then it came on TV, so I have done well without being on TV,” he says. While he has done some projects to make a mark, he doesn’t wish to become a mainstream actor. “I have been offered a lot of dramas but I keep refusing to do it because I don’t want to make people cry,” he adds. “When it comes to songs – you come up with an idea and execute it on your own – you have a 360 control over the process and the product. When it comes to TV, there is lack of control. You have to adapt to somebody else’s vision. I don’t like that very much,” he remarks.
The 31-year-old artiste is all praises for his family and friends for their undeterred and unconditional support throughout his life. “It takes a village to raise a baby. It’s important to realise that I am not on my own. I have all these people around me who support me,” he says. Pir reveals he was an ‘aimless teenager’ and it was only because of his brother’s suggestion that he graduated from SZABIST University with majors in Film and TV Production. “My parents weren’t the typical dictator kind. They obviously told me I have to make money [laughs] but they never stopped me from doing anything,” says the doting son. “They sometimes don’t even understand what I do but they are okay with it as long as I am happy with it.”
The youth icon, who broke many hearts when he tied the knot with his beautiful wife three years ago, is still head over heels in love with her. “She understands what my work means to me. She knows nothing else will bring me this kind of happiness. You need to have a supportive better half because without one you can’t really do anything in life. It’s good to be married and have her by my side,” he says with an unbeatable admiration for his wife.
“There are so many sides to this extremely unusual human being... The person you see on television is far from who Gul is in his everyday life. The every-day Gul is a silent observer, who chooses to speak less and listen more,” rightly pens his fan-turned-wife in a blog post and Pir reiterates her thoughts, “I have a very introverted life. I am a completely different person when the camera turns on but I think I am balanced. I am toned down in real life and toned up in reel life,” he says.
To be happy in life is the mantra he lives by every day. “We get so occupied in this fast paced world that we forget to be happy in the present. Everyone keeps telling you to make it big but no one tells you to enjoy, be happy and have peace of mind,” he says maturely.
He signs out by sharing his secret to staying calm and composed in life: “Every day, I try to take out few minutes to pause and just breathe. You are breathing all the time but you are not aware of it. When you do it consciously, that’s when you are conscious of being alive. It makes you realise that maybe there is a mess out there in your life but you are alive and breathing. It gives you a sense of calm in the middle of all the chaos.” •
I was born in Bhopal. My mother was from there and father from Lucknow....Read Detail
Clad in a graphic tee and hip-hop trousers, this rapper-cum-comedian....Read Detail