The last few days, Pakistani artist Rahat Fateh Ali Khan has been in the news for the wrong reason. On Sunday, February 13, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan was detained at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi for allegedly carrying huge amount of undeclared foreign currency. The news of his arrest created a furor both in India and in Pakistan as Rahat Fateh Ali Khan is a singer par excellence and is widely hailed as the rightful heir to his uncle, the late legendary qawwali singer, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan who died in 1997.
However, in the ensuing drama that unfolded, with the intervention of the Pakistani government as well as massive support from his Indian as well as Pakistani fans along with his counterparts in both the countries, Rahat was left off after a thorough interrogation followed by a hefty fine by the Indian revenue department for trying to take the currency out of the country, undeclared at the customs at the Delhi airport.
Rahat started his career at a very tender age of nine and went on to win acclaim for his singing. It was the Bhatt family who introduced him to Bollywood and thereafter, there was no looking back for this versatile singer who gave his maiden hit in ‘Paap’ with the song, ‘Laagi tumse mann ki lagan…’ and recently bagged the Filmfare Award for Best Male Playback Singing for the hit song, ‘Dil toh bachcha hai ji’ from the hit film ‘Ishqiya’.
Since his debut with ‘Paap’, Rahat has grown leaps and bounds as a singer in India and made quite a name for himself as a playback singer in Bollywood. Today, he is one of the most highly paid singers in India. Back in Pakistan after being freed by the Indian officials for the currency debacle, Rahat has no qualms about his ‘arrest’ which he pointed out was a result of his own lack of Indian law and looks forward to visiting India again, a country and its people whom he rates as one of the best connoisseurs of his talent.
Rahat Fateh Ali Khan follows a list of highly acclaimed singers and other artists from across the border who have found a second home in this country. Few would forget the trauma of Adnan Sami, another versatile genius from across the border who had made Mumbai his home and was in the news for all the wrong reasons, the last being his property being impounded by the Indian officials. Adnan Sami, a gifted singer and one of the best keyboardists, has been a part of Bollywood since his awesome track ‘Mehbooba, Mehbooba’ from the Akshay Kumar starrer, ‘Ajnabee’ became a huge hit. He had made his mark and went on to sing some of the most popular songs in films as well as cut albums in the country.
Lately, there has been a spurt of Pakistani singers and bands who have gained an entry into Bollywood. Last year, Ali Zafar made his mark in Bollywood with his maiden Hindi film, ‘Tere Bin Laden’ in which he sang four of the songs as well. Hence, it won’t be long before this multitalented artist who’s a big pop sensation in Pakistan, makes a mark in India for his playback singing as well.
Pakistan time and again, has given us immensely talented singers over the years. Indians revere the works of greats like Abida Parveen, Ghulam Ali, Mehdi Hassan and Farida Khanun. Every album of theirs, find a place in the homes of the fans of these artists across both the sides of the border. And few would forget the wonderful song, ‘Aap jaisa koii meri zindagi mein aaye’ from the blockbuster Hindi film ‘Qurbani’ which later won the Best Playback Singer Female Award. This song was sung by the young talented 15-year old Nazia Hassan who later teaming up with her brother Zoheb Hassan, went on to bring out few albums in India that were lapped up by the Indian listeners.
Atif Aslam and Mustafa Zahid with their pop background and Shafqat Amanat Ali with his classical background too tasted success in India with their playback singing. They have been instrumental in giving several hits over the years and have further blurred the divide between Indian and Pakistani talents. Same could be said of the Pakistani bands Strings, Junoon and Jal who have found a high fan following in this country. Further, collaborations with their Indian counterparts have just added more feathers to their caps.
In the 80s, noted Bollywood director Subhash Ghai was instrumental in using rustic Pakistani singer Reshma in his film, ‘Hero’. The song ‘Lambi Judaii’ went on to become a rage. Another noted Pakistani singer who made a dent in Bollywood during this time was the noted ghazal maestro Ghulam Ali. His rendition of ‘Chupke Chupke Raat Din’ for the film ‘Nikaah’ became a sensation putting Ghulam Ali on the Bollywood map not just for his filmi ghazals but for his non-filmi ghazals as well.
If one considered the days of the pre and post partition of India, another memorable name that stands out for her golden voice was the great Noor Jehan who wowed the audiences both on screen with her dramatics as well as with her playback singing. It was India’s loss when during partition, Noor Jehan decided to cross over to Pakistan. But her songs continued to live on in the hearts of the Indian listeners.
And now with the news of Rahat Fateh Ali Khan hitting all across the media, another prominent and versatile Sufi singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan comes to mind. Nusrat saab made a mark in the Hindi movie industry with his songs in ‘Aur Pyar Ho Gaya’ in 1997. Long loved for his albums released in Pakistan and yet finding favours in India, he went on to strengthen his hold on his fans with his other renditions and a couple of other Bollywood films. Not just in India but even Hollywood fell prey to his extraordinary talent and went on to use him in a lot of Hollywood productions.
What is it about Pakistani artists that India is so much attracted to? Critics point out that India has a bigger talent pool then Pakistan. However, few could deny that the above artists and many more, who are trying hard to make a mark in India, are indeed a cut above the rest. For some, they are the bridge between the two divided countries, a source of platform to sit down and discuss the peace initiatives. But for music fans across both the countries, these joint collaborations are a way of uniting the differences and ensuring music lovers are not deprived of the gems that these collaborations produce. Irrespective of the kind of relationship that the two countries share from time to time, the common man has ensured that the music doesn’t suffer. Hence, in most cases, music directors have preferred to work with Pakistani artists on neutral grounds such as a recording studio in London or Dubai. One recording studio’s loss is another one’s gain. And the common man’s win!