Ali Azmat, you crossed the line

Published: December 19, 2013
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Instead of behaving professionally, Azmat mocked the contestant simply because he carried a high-pitched voice. PHOTO: FACEBOOK PAGE

Comic book writer and filmmaker Kevin Smith once said the following words and they are perhaps some of the most profound I have ever read, probably because they resonate on a personal level:

“Remember: It costs nothing to encourage an artist, and the potential benefits are staggering. A pat on the back to an artist now could one day result in your favourite film, or the cartoon you love to get stoned watching, or the song that saves your life. Discourage an artist, you get absolutely nothing in return, ever.”

As a child I loved to draw and for a ten-year-old I was quite talented. Then, in an incident that I will not get into, my sketch book was torn into bits against my screaming protests and the treasured drawings I had poured my soul into were destroyed before my eyes as I was left to wipe away my tears.

After that day I never drew again.

I continued to write occasionally and even worked at a video games website in my university years, although I never showed my work of fiction to anyone. Eventually, my writing stagnated. Later, I realised that I had hidden my work due to unprocessed fears of rejection.

Even today my monstrous 10,000-page fantasy novel sits on my hard drive, unseen by the outside world.

When I met my soul mate she encouraged me to put my writing ‘out there’. It was all that I needed – a little encouragement. Inspired by my future wife’s support, I sent some drafts to the then editor of The Express Tribune Blogs, Faria Syed, who to my delight, wrote back with some praise for my writing.

Today I contribute to several publications, yet am still insecure about my work on occasion. Nothing cruel from my readers bothers me, while constructive criticism is welcome from both readers and senior writers in the industry.

But nasty words from someone I look up to? Well, that can hurt.

When I first saw Pakistan Idol judges Ali Azmat and Bushra Ansari humiliate the young man in this video for his physical shortcomings, I felt disbelief. Here was a young man with no other fault than the fact that he put himself out there on the minute chance that he could fulfill his dream.

Instead of behaving professionally, Azmat mocked the man who had found the courage to be judged in front of Pakistan simply because the contestant carried a high-pitched voice.

Lacking any creative way to insult the contestant, Azmat tried to mimic his voice by squeaking like a mouse. Next, when the contestant talked about the song he wanted to sing, Azmat recommends a ‘nursery rhyme’ instead, because to Azmat, the contestant had a childlike voice.

Unfortunately, this tells us more about Azmat’s mind than the contestant’s lack of ability.

Before the show I knew nothing about the former Junoon superstar’s personality, but I had always respected his music and contribution to Pakistan’s pop industry. That has certainly changed.

Meanwhile, Azmat’s fellow judge, Bushra Ansari, seemed to bask in the contestant’s humiliation. On a side note, who is Bushra Ansari and what has she achieved on Pakistan’s music scene to be cast as a judge on this show? Couldn’t Pakistan Idol find an iconic music producer such as Shoaib Mansoor instead?

Unfortunately for Mr Azmat, the joke is on him.

Pakistanis on Facebook are lauding this young contestant and instead mocking Azmat.

Screen capture of top comments on the clip posted on Mobilink’s official Facebook page.

Normally, I wouldn’t care much for such petty comments, but if Azmat feels that physical shortcomings are a valid enough reason to insult someone, then he should realise that his features are not very suitable for national television either.

On the American Idol audition episodes that I have seen, the judges exchanged many jokes at the expense of delusional contestants, but always did so carefully so as not to cross the line. Here, it seems that the judges are trying overly hard to channel the mocking nature of their American counterparts, especially Simon, but failing miserably.

From these auditions it seems that people such as Ali Azmat believe that just because they are celebrities they are allowed to spew whatever nonsense flows from their minds.

Well, Mr Azmat, these contestants came to your show because they had a dream. If you must shatter that dream because they don’t cut it, then that’s fair enough, but don’t disrespect them as human beings.

Whenever a new artist shares a picture they painted, a song they sang, a poem they wrote, a sculpture they made, a superhero they drew, they are putting a piece of themselves out there for the world to see. Constructive criticism can prove to be a catalyst but cruel discouragement achieves little.

If you cut the stem because it is unsightly, then you may never see the flower bloom.

Noman Ansari

Noman Ansari

The author is the editor-in-chief of IGN Pakistan, and has been reviewing films and writing opinion pieces for The Express Tribune as well as Dawn for five years. He tweets as @Pugnate (twitter.com/Pugnate)

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