I am a patriotic Pakistani, raised by a patriotic mother: Azaan Sami Khan
Not many music directors in the recent era can boast of composing songs for two Eid releases, and penning the story and writing the screenplay of one of them.
The only person that comes to mind is Azaan Sami Khan who is doing both his mother Zeba Bakhtiar and father Adnan Sami Khan proud.
The youngster not only managed to churn out chartbusters for ‘Superstar’ and ‘Parey Hut Love’ but also wrote the screenplay of the former, and surprised all with his creativity. He may look young but he has matured immensely thanks to advice from his cross-border parents, and his willingness to learn from his mistakes.
Spotlight had a chat with the multifaceted youngster and spoke to him about everything from music, writing, acting to the reaction to his father’s tweets.
Were you aware that both your films – Superstar and Parey Hut Love – would be battling each other at the box office, and would be released at the same time?
Not at all. In fact, I composed the songs of Superstar long before I started working on Parey Hut Love. I am glad that people are loving the songs of both the films, especially Superstar which is my creation from story to screenplay.
I composed its songs around the situations that I knew would appeal to the audience and I am glad that the film is doing well in cinemas.
Let’s start with the writing part. Composing music and acting would come naturally to you because of your parents but how did you end up writing a screenplay based on your story?
I have been writing for a long time now – ever since I was a kid. As for Superstar, it was close to me as I was brought up in the same world. The songs came first and the story came later; I would create situations for the songs and that’s how I ended up penning the screenplay. Music is embedded with the film and the songs sort of dictated the plot. Ehtesham Bhai, Mustafa Afridi and I then developed it into what it turned out to be and I couldn’t be happier.
How difficult or easy it was working with an accomplished TV director Ehteshamuddin?
It was great fun actually, considering he has known me for a long time. When he was picked to direct the film, I was overwhelmed because I have seen his work and the dedication he puts into a project. We used to have lots of discussions on the sidelines of Superstar; it was quite embarrassing when he asked for my approval after a shot (laughs). To work with someone who is on the same wavelength as you, despite the difference in our ages is not just refreshing but taught me a lot.
And then there were the singers … what was your heart rate when Hadiqa Kiani, Sunidhi Chauhan, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, and Atif Aslam were in the studio, people you have grown up listening to?
I can’t even explain that feeling, considering Hadiqa Kiani and my father worked in Sargam and on Pakistan Television long before I was born; Sunidhi Madam was his first co-singer in Bollywood and same goes for Atif Sir and Rahat Sir.
Working with Hadiqa ji gave me a feeling of happiness and déjà vu at the same time since she doesn’t do many films. It was only her third film after Sargam and Bol and that added pressure on me. I was constantly thinking in my mind that she was comparing me with my father, but she was so kind and generous.
As for others especially Atif Aslam, during Lux Style Awards when we were practicing a song from Parwaaz Hai Junoon, he asked me if he was doing it right and I was like ‘why is he asking me?’ before realizing that it was a playback singer asking a music composer, and I had to break away from the fan mode I was in.
And what about the comparison between you two – like Father, like Son kind?
I don’t want to compete with my father because a) I can’t compete with someone who has accomplished a lot and b) the son takes the legacy forward and I want to do the same. I want to make a mark separately because I have seen many of my friends fall in either the ditch where they compete and fail or the one where they try too hard to be different and fail.
You can’t take genetics away from me, after all, I am his son and if people think that Noori reminds them of Adnan Sami, I can’t change it. All I can do is to create a separate identity for myself and for that I will have to compose my own songs, not just film numbers.
In films, you have to compose songs for the characters on screen but when you compose for your own self, it’s something that reflects who you are. I would be coming up with my own Private Album which I believe if done smartly can change the music scene in Pakistan.
Honestly speaking, if I am compared to him, it will be an honor for me. But trust me, if we ever share the stage in the future, I would like it to be as two accomplished performers and not as a Father and his son.
How do you feel when people ask you about your father’s tweets; he seems to do that a lot and many people from this side of the border feel offended?
When his nationality changed, it was done at the national level and Indian Prime Minister Modi made him an Indian citizen. It is not my place to comment on it because he is my father and I can’t look down to what he has done because honestly, it is not my place to say something about it. I will love him and respect him for whatever he does. He chooses to live in India and I have no problem with that because that’s his decision.
I may agree and disagree with him but I have been very clear that I have been brought up by a very patriotic woman and I am a very patriotic person myself. Yes, I could have gone there and launched myself at a bigger level but I choose to live in Pakistan because it is my home.
As an artist, I would love to work anywhere in the world and collaborate with anyone be it in India or abroad, but representing Pakistan. As for his tweets, no one including my close friends asks me about it because they know I would have nothing much to say about it.
Who is Saad Sultan who shares the credit with you in Superstar? How did you manage to rope in Shiraz Uppal’s exclusive lyricist Shakeel Sohail for Superstar?
Saad Sultan is a music producer in Lahore and when I composed songs for Superstar, he helped me produce it. It was Saad who introduced me to Shakeel Sohail who is a wonderful lyricist and wrote most of the stuff I have composed. He has no ego and is very open and that why I like working with him.
I would also like to mention Indian lyricist A M Turaz here who wrote the Qawwali lyrics in Ghalat Fehmi. He is the guy who penned down the lyrics of Bajirao Mastani’s songs among others and when I requested him to write the Qawwali lyrics, he was kind enough and sent the lyrics overnight.
With Superstar, you have joined the extraordinary league of music directors by composing a song for Nadeem Baig. Why didn’t you go for an older singer for the veteran actor who filmed a song after 19 years!
I didn’t want to use an older singer for Dosto, the song that was filmed on Nadeem sahib because I believe it’s a young song. I have used Mustafa Zahid for Nadeem Sahib because he has a mature voice which isn’t old. For Bilal Bhai, I went for Mustehsan Khan who had already sung Bulleya for me in Parwaaz Hai Junoon and they both have done a good job.
When Nadeem sahib comes in the frame, everybody else becomes invisible to the audience because of the aura, the charisma he carries with him.
What’s next for Azaan Sami Khan now that you have produced a film (021), composed songs and background score for three films and written a screenplay based on your own story?
I haven’t sung and acted as yet; I plan to do both in the coming days. With Patakh De I will be my debut as an actor opposite Hania Aamir, and alongside Ahsan Khan and Shamoon Abbasi. I have always wanted to act but before that, I wanted to know the basics of showbiz and that’s why my parents rightly advised me to get a grip of how things are done before taking the giant leap.
As for my songs, it is work in progress and I am quite excited about that too. Maybe you would hear me sing by the end of this year.