The amazing messages of Ali Azmat

Published: August 20, 2011

PHOTO: FILE

I once saw a sign in an ice cream parlor:

NO SUGAR FREE, NO FAT FREE—ONLY REAL ICE CREAM.

IF YOU WANT NUTRITION, EAT CARROTS.

This pretty much sums up how I feel about music videos/movies/poetry/novels/et cetera meant to convey messages. They are useless in terms of providing pleasure, which is what they are meant to do, and utterly rubbish for nutrition, which is what they are purporting to do.

When I first heard that Ali Azmat has released a video called Bum Phatta, and knowing what we all know about him, I laughed for about a week. Then I took the risk and heard the audio, mainly because I have been a Junoon fan going back to circa 1991 (it all ended when Salman Ahmed took up vocals). Although the song runs out of steam at the two minute mark and starts to look more like an animal chasing its own tail, it wasn’t even half as bad as I imagined; in fact, it is a nice fun number which makes bombs going off sound like something you could tap your feet to. And it gave me the courage to go for the video.

The video opens in a circus with Uncle Sam entertaining an eager audience. Uncle’s brandishing a stuffed, cuddly missile and the audience is loving it. Then pour in a slew of other stars which include a Chaudhry sahib (wink-wink), a madcap dandy in a light-blue suit (IMF/Bilderberg Group/Free Masons), a gangster swinging a pistol (now, who could this be?!), a man in black (hint: kala pani), a Che Guevara smoking a cigar (that’s our sifarishi, I mean sazishi boy, Zion Hamid), a fatso with a long thick beard who vaguely resembles the stereotype of a terrorist mullah (impossible to guess),  and then some more.

The evil men in the video dangle various essential food/household items in front of their fervent audiences. These include a roti, a boti (to go with the lyrics: sari boti kha, bura na mana), a sack of flour (labeled ‘muft aata,’ in case you still didn’t get it), and oh, a bulb (lest load shedding got left out). Just as some desperate hapless fellow from the audience reaches out for these enticing goodies and botis, they are duly pulled away. This goes on for a bit and finally, the performers manage to piss everybody off and then lo, ho: riots, mayhem, revolution: people sack the stage, shoot Uncle Sam, snatch his cuddly missile, smash heads, spill blood and accomplish the mission.

Gentle readers, I hope you’ve got the deep, amazing messages here: a) There are lots of important evil men here in this Land of the Pure and they are all out to get all of us; and b) We need a goddamn revolution, baby!

I am absolutely sure that you have never heard of this sort of thing before.

However, I want to tell you this: this video is a success. Not because of the message, but in spite of it—for the enticing, visually evocative characters, imaginative direction and editing, and the cracker of a performance by Ali Azmat in those fifteen characters he dons in less than three minutes. Here one finally sees Ali Azmat the performer—he’s a natural when it comes to delivering whacked out, over the top characters.

I’ll go a step further and say this: if Ali Azmat believes that it is his message that convinces us, then so be it. If it takes a proselytising spirit to bring out the best in our badass vocalist, then I am willing to tolerate him on the talk shows too (umm, wait… I need to think over that).  And besides, I don’t really blame him. In a country where one can make claims like Iqbal was the greatest thinker of the 20th century and get roundly applauded for it, he’s really small fish. We really have a much deeper crisis at our hands.

And dear Ali Azmat, for future reference: if you must have messages, it helps to remember that subtlety is the name of the game. We get it.

Bilal Tanweer

Bilal Tanweer

A writer and translator who teaches creative writing at LUMS.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • parvez

    Nicely put. Ali Azmat may be a pain but if anyone has talent, its him.
    Don’t agree with you on being subtle with our crowd, you’ll lose the message that way.
    In your face, loud and vulgar is required to drive it home – possibly in 35 or 50 years time subtlety may work.Recommend

  • TT

    the title –> its not Amzat, its Azmat.Recommend

  • tanoli

    nice maan.Recommend

  • Sajid I.

    Wow! pity this guy for the pit he has fallen intoRecommend

  • Haidar

    Well put. Specially like the bit where you say “we say Iqbal was the greatest thinker of the century” hahaa… Great indeed but greatest… well maybe not. Its true we Pakis go overboard with our patriotiscm and the ingrained belief that we are God’s special nation. I can think of at least one other nation who thinks/thought that of themselves — wanna guess? Yes, the Jews. Christians – well they are already forgiven.
    Ali Azmat – I am still a big fan. Even though he has become a promoter of Mr. Zaid Hamid.
    And contrary to the author I strongly believe that media and arts should be used for more than mere entertainment. And it has been since a long time. We need to have our media/arts directions as well in the face of propaganda media. Entertainment is a luxury we cannot always afford.Recommend

  • khan

    plus you forgot the sound cliping from the wiki-leaks video clip named collateral murder in which some trigger happy americans shoots iraqi journalists from their helicopter and the brag “look at those dead bastards” Recommend

  • KJ

    @Haider n Author: whats wrong with Zaid Hamid? have u ever heard what he normally says/talk about on air?? i don’t know about his history (frankly speaking, who knows) but Trust me and I m being very honest here… whenever I had a chance to listen to Mr. Zaid Hamid talking about our religion, our history i end up falling (more) in love with my religion our history, our scholars our great leaders etc… my advise to you… do listen to his programs that are available on the internet about our Muslim Ghazis. scholars about our religion when ever you get a chance… wish u good luck…. and Mr. Author: try writing some thing positive some time for a change… you will not only feel a difference in your life but also in the number of likes on your blog… God Bless…..Recommend

  • Haidar

    @KJ:
    I used to be fascinated with what and how Zaid Hamid used to talk about our religion and great history and all the Ghazis and all that. However, not all of it is always true. It is just his enthusiastic gestures and shout and scream of Islam that gets the attention of young people who at the end of the day are easy to motivate and susceptible with such remarks.
    The thing is he is always talking about fighting specially with the Indians. And thats all he says and does.. motivates people to fight with some Islamic enemy. That is not the approach we need. Islam is the religion of peace, acceptance and tolerance.
    Also, on many occasions when he has been asked to comment on questions and history, he has shied away without any concrete reply whatsoever. Then there is another scandal attached to him about claiming Khilafat or something. Can’t remember the details but that is not something which concerns me too much. He has also been many times associated with the ISI and to be honest his views do represent the sort of Pak Army agenda.
    Anyways… he perhaps has some good things about him but I dont agree with him anymore – at least not mostly.
    Each to their own sir. You should do your own research into who you believe and what you believe. Mind you our country and nation and indeed even the Muslim ummah is filled with “munafiqs” running with their own slimey agendas. So do watch-out. Recommend

  • Anonymous

    I have been thinking of all the big names like Bergson, Heidegger, Sartre, Russell, Freud etc and wondering, who is then the greatest philosopher of the 20th century?

    I can only make out Iqbal who combined all of these philosophies, trimming out their loose ends, and coming up with something equally rational and intuitive. Sorry to say, to drag Iqbal into such sarcasm seems to me either only ignorance (probably you didn’t read his texts and poetry) or an extreme love of western thought on your part.Recommend

  • http://djdurrani.blogspot.com Saad Durrani

    Dear ET, why? What have we done to deserve this post?

    Ali Azmat – like Shahid Afridi – has lost it. Talent or not, this track is insensitive at its core.Recommend

  • ANA

    @ KJ

    zaid hamid has a very shady history!!! the ISI handpicked him to promote their interference in politics…but they didnot do a background check…Zaid hamid was the first appointed khalifa of Yusuf Kasab,a man who claimed to be the reincarnation of Prophet’s soul….which is why zaid hamid got into trouble with the mullahs in 2010 but his ISI backing protected him…
    and making people love their countries on basis of lies,concoctions and false glory and hope is simply wrong and counter productive in the futureRecommend

  • Mustafa

    I’m surprised by the line about Iqbal. I don’t know whether or not he was the greatest thinker of the 20th century, I’ve never given it any thought, but if he wasn’t, who was?Recommend

  • Mustafa

    @KJ:
    Of course it would make you feel proud. That’s all he’s doing, making us feel proud. A lot of what he says has no basis though, a lot of what he says isn’t our history, its Arab history and a lot of what he says about the state of affairs today are purely conspiracy theories.Recommend

  • malang

    I am sorry….. but the song is only as good as the singer and thus the VDO is only as good as the director. The beauty of this merger is that the message of Ali Azmat has been delivered through a very powerful direction of none other than Jami and his brilliant team. This blog totally ignores the other part. Mr. Bilal, was it not the VDO that got u thinking?Recommend

  • Ilmana Fasih

    Great write up. Indeed Ali Azmat is extremely talented. I may not agree with a lot of his ideas and opinions. But I admire him for being unpretentious, honest, and fearless in airing his thoughts, even if they label him a cynic.Recommend

  • abhi

    KJ an Anonymous proved blogger’s point. I think Mr Zaid is second greatest philosopher after Iqbal.Recommend

  • Moiz

    loved the article, loved the video.Recommend

  • ahmed

    i wanted to learn english and i wanted to write english and i wanted to spoke englishRecommend