Tanhai Ke Safar Mein: Bilal Khan Kay Saath
‘Tanhai ke safar mein, Chalna hai kaise’ yeh Bilal Khan nay sikhaaya humain. Known for his musical and acting skills – Bilal Khan has made a name for himself that is accompanied by love and support from his fans internationally. Having taken part of 2 seasons on Coke Studio Pakistan, acted in various serials and now, taking the world of vlogging by storm, this Bachana star has got us excited in anticipation as we sit down with him and ask – What’s in store for us next?
FUCHSIA: Bilal, you’re known for being this young, up-and-coming musician and actor, but your vlogs have given us a little insight into your personal life. We’re curious about how it all started for you.
Bilal Khan: I bought my own guitar at the age of 16, with my own money. Initially, maine kissi ko bataya nahin kyunke mujhe laga keh agar main kissi ko bataoonga toh woh mujhe discourage karenge. I told myself I’d figure out how to get it myself, but I was Rs.500 short, so my mum helped me out and encouraged me. I started writing songs when I was 18, and I would play in the lounge in LUMS* on occasions like Eid. People would tell my mum ‘Iski awaaz toh bohat achi hai, iska kuch karao’. Par ammi kehti theen keh: ‘Nahin, iski abhi parhai par focus hai’ and I was like: ‘Aapne mujh se toh kabhi poocha nahin!’ (he laughs)
FUCHSIA: What inspires Bilal Khan?
Bilal Khan: Life experiences! In general, the motivation and inspiration come from the idea that life is very short and that I have very limited time here. There are so many things I want to do, and I don’t have enough time to do them! In your 20s, you think you’re never going to die, but then it struck me that we’re all mortals and saara kuch khatam ho sakta hai – and that is what motivates me.
FUCHSIA: The decisions you make in your career intrigue us as they are very different from other artists. You’ve acted, sung, studied advertising and now you’re doing vlogs as well. Are you still in search of a creative direction that clicks with you as an artist?
Bilal Khan: Ah, good question! My first passion is singing and song-writing. The rest of the things I’m doing – whether its acting or vlogging – is only to supplement that. What’s happened in Pakistan and globally is that music banane ke tools bohot aagaye hain: laptops, keyboards, equipment, waghera. Ab bada aasaan hai music banana. Aur music ko distribute karna, utna hi hard hogaya hai. Because there is so much noise in the industry now. The biggest challenge in the Pakistani music industry (for an aspiring artist or even someone established), is to reach out to people. Regardless of the 2 million fans I have on Facebook, I have made many songs that have never been heard because they couldn’t reach out to the masses.
FUCHSIA: So where did this realization take you?
Bilal Khan: The idea of doing this was that I wanted to run an experiment – if I act, does that bring focus to my music? And the answer is, yes! The more I appear on screen, the more people take an interest in me and search me online. My doing many things in my career is not because I’m lost. This is all to supplement my core passion, which is my music.
FUCHSIA: Where did this idea come from?
Bilal Khan: I learnt when I was studying in the US, that the world is continuously changing, and you have to constantly upgrade yourself in the way you try and reach people. Yes, it’s challenging to do all these other things as well as my music at the same time, but it excites me as well.
FUCHSIA: Do you think that the Pakistani music industry has changed positively and has hope?
Bilal Khan: I honestly feel keh music kaafi saara aa raha hai, but we aren’t progressing. Focus ab bhi cover songs par hai. Battle of the Bands mein, for example, kitnay talented log aaye thay. Lekin uss mein se jo popular gaane niklay, they were all cover songs such as Kashmir’s Mera Pyaar, and Bismillah, by Badnaam. Coke Studio is also doing cover songs. And therein lies the problem; for a music scene to thrive, it needs originality and progress in terms of the sounds it creates. Yes, I know cover songs relatable zyaada hote hain aur unn par views zyaada aate hain, lekin overtime, there are deeper connections made through original music and that’s how the music industry will progress. Originality, authenticity, rawness and telling your own story are what I feel are lacking in Pakistan on top of an existing distribution problem.
FUCHSIA: How do we solve this distribution problem?
Bilal Khan: Achay singers bohat hain aur internet ki wajha se toh bohat hi hain. Exceptional aur unique jo hai, woh breakthrough karta hai. A lot of the time, people create work and put it out. Then, nothing happens, and they give up. The people who really make it, though, are those who are constantly trying. Ek nahin chala toh dusra, dusra nahin chala toh teesra. Eventually, koi aisa gaana hoga jo kick karega. Yeh khaali Pakistan ka problem nahin hai. Duniya mein har taraf yeh problem hai, lekin phir bhi gaane successful ho rahe hain aur artist bhi ban rahe hain.
FUCHSIA: How did you overcome this distribution problem?
Bilal Khan: My first song, Bachana, had zero budget and I knew nobody in the industry. I really had zero contacts and I wasn’t even social. The song was good enough to the point that it spread on its own. The other side to the distribution problem is – if the song is EXCEPTIONALLY good, it will find its way.
FUCHSIA: Who is the one artist you really want to work with?
Bilal Khan: Probably Adele, partly because she has never worked on a song with anyone else or been featured on anyone’s work. Also, because she’s amazing.
FUCHSIA: Have you had any offers from Bollywood?
Bilal Khan: This is a really funny story but I was on my second season with Coke Studio and I got a call keh ‘India se ek director aap se baat karna chahtay hain. Would you be interested?’ So, I speak to the lady and she tells me she’s seen me on Coke Studio and liked my look and they were considering me for the role of a Pakistani boy. Now, this was right before I was about to leave for the US for University which I was very excited about and I felt ‘Mujhe Bollywood ka koi shauq nahin hai’. Uss waqt, mujhe script reading aur auditions ke baare mein bhi kuch pata nahi tha, toh, na kissi se poocha, maine apnay dost kay saath phone par record karke unko aisay hi bhej diya. 2 years later when I was in the US, the movie came out. And I heard those very dialogues in the movie, PK**, for the role of Sarfaraz.
FUCHSIA: Oh no!
Bilal Khan: Mujhe dukh zyaada iss baat ka tha keh, Sarfaraz uss movie mein Anushka Sharma ko kiss karta hai! (laughs)
FUCHSIA: (laughing with him) If you could cast yourself in any Bollywood or Pakistani film, which role would it be and why?
Bilal Khan: I want to be in Dabangg 3 whenever that is shot. I can never control my laughter when I watch any of the Dabangg series.
FUCHSIA: Please tell us something you’ve never told anyone else – a FUCHSIA secret!
Bilal Khan: Most people ask me the secret to good skin and I think I will finally reveal it: I drink a lot of water, maybe more than I need to. I haven’t really analysed it in detail, but that could be it.
FUCHSIA: If the youth and aspiring artists could learn something from you, what would it be?
Bilal Khan: Like I said earlier, the people who make it are the ones who are constantly trying and never give up. I’m a huge supporter of original work and creativity. Write original songs every day. Forget covers, and I will see you on stage soon.
FUCHSIA: You had released a song with QB. Could you tell us a memorable or funny incident from that process?
Bilal Khan: I can, however, tell you about my new co-star in my new drama Khamoshi – Zara Noor Abbas. We were travelling on a plane and she is extremely scared of flying. I thought she was faking it and I was laughing throughout but halfway through I realised that she was really scared. I caught it all on tape: youtube.com/bilalkhan
**PK is a Bollywood movie released in 2014 starring Aamir Khan and Anushka Sharma.