Sohail Javed - The Game Changer

  • 22 Sep - 28 Sep, 2018
  • Attiya Abbass
  • Interview

The ace music video director, known recently for ‘Tillay Wali Jooti,’ speaks his heart out in a candid chat with MAG. Read on to find out details about his journey from being an entertainment writer to being the big shot he is today.

Just last week, in an interesting turn of events I found myself sitting in front of Sohail Javed. Within a space of 10 seconds into a conversation with him, you can tell that the man can either successfully bully you or make you feel completely at ease. Thankfully, for me it was the latter for the conversation about to unfold.

Pragmatic, laid-back, with silver hoops glinting in his ears and a young boy’s charm concealed in a winning smile, he shares how he too, once worked at MAG The Weekly and how everything earnestly began for him, there.

A celebrated figure in the industry, Sohail’s name is indelible and indisputably deserves credit for changing the landscape of pop music in Pakistan and inspiring an entire generation of video directors. In addition to directing scores of music videos and TVCs for multinational clients, Sohail has worked with big names like Junoon, Vital Signs, Fuzon, Sajjad Ali, Ali Haider and Hadiqa Kiani to name a few.

We recently had a fresh taste of his talent with the release of the song Tillay Wali Jooti from JPNA2, which was an instant hit.

Making dramatic transitions from a young journalist to a musician, to being a director and producer, he has done and seen it all in a life well-led; a challenge to chronicle in a single page interview.

So, where did it all start? I ask. “In 1993, my jawani,” he laughs softly. “I started off with a record label which was commonly known as the label for Vital Signs, which later also became a label for Junoon.”

But what came first, the writer or the director? I inquire. “Yes, the writer in me came first. He was just poor, with a single mother who just kept it real for all of us,” he reminisces. “My mother used to admonish me, saying that I have the weirdest hobbies where I get a box of tapes from offbeat every month, and this can’t go on as she won’t give me money for that anymore. A friend of mine was working for Muneer Hussain sahab in a magazine called Glamour. I wrote a trial article for the publication, which was a critical review of a rock album, I think Black Sabbath. It panned out and I was paid Rs 600 for that.” He uttered the figures with such satisfaction, compelling me to ask, was the amount a big deal back in the day?

“It was a great deal!” he announces, “Six hundred rupees won’t end in 1990. You could conquer the world with it,” he states. “Then I went to Mens Club, but it was too much fashion for my taste. Sometime later, I was introduced to the team at MAG The Weekly and that is where most of my writing happened.” Sohail narrates his happiest memories at his first proper job, saying, “It was a lot of fun,” and adds, “Peerzada Salman, Tehmina Khaled and Samra Niazi were there [at the time]. Oh Samra! She was like my mom. With her dainty joora, her beautiful saris and tinkling bangles. Beautiful soul!”

Realising, much later that he doesn’t want to write about entertainment anymore, Sohail shifted his gears to writing about social issues. “I joined The News and then much later, moved to DAWN.”

Sohail defines it as a period of exploring himself, when he was swinging back and fro, and transitioning himself from an array of career paths. As a student of psychology at Karachi University, Sohail kept on exploring what he was truly destined to do. In 1996, came Jazba Junoon and the young director found himself a niche where he outshone everyone.

He later launched AAG TV for Geo and greatly transformed the advertising industry of the country by bringing about innovative ads, inticing music videos and much more.

In 2006, Sohail discovered he has cancer, which he fought with valiantly for over a year, emerging victorious. The next year beckoned more triumph for the virtuoso, when he won the Lux Style Award for Sajjad Ali’s Chal Rein De. The same year, he launched his company, which to date is known as Brand Talkies.

At present, Sohail is gearing up for his first feature film that will mark actor Faysal Qureshi’s comeback to the silver screen. The untitled project is going to be Sohail’s first feature film with Qureshi, who is also serving as the film’s co-producer. “We just finished the final draft of the feature and will hopefully have the cameras’ rolling in December or early January,” he divulges. “It is a serious film with a grave storyline,” he adds, being stingy with the details. “We are in prep and sorting out the funding.” Is it difficult to gather finances for a serious film? I wanted to know. “It is close to impossible,” Sohail affirms. “We also had two financers who backed out.”

But why? “One financer wanted me to hire a particular actress for the film, which I refused, because I believe she isn’t the right choice for the sort of performance I want,” he discloses. “Another financer wanted me to change the climax of the story."

Giving me a slice of his workaholic life he says, “There was time I used to shoot five videos a week, and often two videos in a day. One in the morning, one at night. They started calling me a machine. At one point I started forgetting who I am actually shooting for,” he says. “Shooting musical videos really liberate me and I enjoy it immensely. I agree in advertising there are huge numbers involved, allowing you take a coveted vacation in Prague, but I feel I can truly express myself through music.”

An excited Sohail spills the beans on future plans. “I will also be shooting another music video. Unfortunately, I am not at liberty to share the name, as at the moment it’s contractual. I will probably shoot and release it in October. I will be collaborating with this band after 10 to 12 years!”

He goes on to declare, “I was very excited about Tillay, too. It had exceptional music and a good budget for me to play with. Humayun was a very generous producer,” and predicts, “Music videos are definitely making a comeback. You know, I can shoot 10 ads and feel nothing, but it will give me enough to go buy an Empire State Building. Magar dil khush music se hota hai. When I shoot a music video and if it turns out the way I want, behold, I am [happy and excited like a] kid again!” •