The Philosophical Singer

by November 24, 2018 0 comments

Singer, composer, actor Lucky Ali

More than just  singer, actor, and composer – Lucky Ali has has roots in other fields as well.

It has to have spirit and that alone will call out to me,” says  sagely singer, songwriter, composer and actor Lucky Ali about the reason why he decided to sing a song. He is dressed in a long black overcoat with a matching T-shirt inside, brown trousers and grey shoes, while his shoulder length salt and pepper hair blows in the wind as he stands on the terrace of a radio channel.

For anyone growing up in the 90s, Ali’s songs featured prominently in the play list. But it was this preponderance that made the gaps when he dropped off the radar felt more acutely. Ali, who was named Maqsood Ali by his actor father Mehmood, says, “For me, music is not a profession. It is a serious hobby and I want to keep it like that. Because the moment it becomes a business, you lose the love of it. You  start working for different purposes and I don’t want to do that. The joy that I get from what I do and the form that I do gives me that energy that I wanted in the first place when I started out.” So in between making music, he could be going to the mountains, travelling abroad and ‘chin wagging’.

“I like to talk about things that are relevant. There is a lot to do and very less time,” he says as he places his hand on his head to tame his unruly hair which is swept by the wind.

While travel does influence his music and he is often on a globe trot, he feels that he has not gone around the globe as much as he wants to. “I haven’t gone to Antarctica or the Arctic region. But travelling opens up  your perspective even if you go from your home to the next village.”

Ali believes that his songs are not about nostalgia. “They are about what I hope  to see, what I will see and what I will make possible to see because that is what I have told myself,” he says.

The 60-year-old, who will be playing at the two-day Riders Music Festival in the capital is not a hardcore biker but does like riding as was often seen in many of his music videos. He says, “The kind of music that I play here or any other concert depends on the mood. There is no set format. Our music changes from concert to concert.” Just like his set list is not fixed, neither is his process of composing music. “There is no process that I will sit down and write. It can happen any time, even just now. It depends on the moment. It mainly happens when I am in love,” he says.

And that is one of the reasons why he disappears time to time from the scene of music-making. “If I find that there is no love in a place, I just leave.”

While his last film collaboration was Safarnama from Tamasha, he is currently working on an Indian-Israeli collaboration. “These  guys researched me. I didn’t even understand that they listen to our music but they did. They sent one of their top artists and we recorded an album called Himala which is set for release world over.”

Ali has his reasons from staying away from the music industry, especially the Hindi film industry, which he thinks has “devolved” rather than evolving. “I was not there to see the changes but I know whatever they are doing is not working for anyone there probably because of the way they perceive it. It is not organic. If it was, people would subsist and a lot more musicians would come out to express themselves. There is so much  of great music outside which has not been discovered and I am fortunate to be playing with them.”

His special grouse is reserved especially for film music which he feels is ‘dead’. Ali says, “They killed all the musicians, the violinists that formed a part of the industry. Everything is a cut and paste job which is stolen from here and there. If the music belongs  to someone else’s spirit, you can’t just take it,” says Ali and goes on to add, “Art is not about money. That is just a by-product. It is about the music whether we are getting better while playing a riff or while practising.”

Ali does not find the Hindi film industry bundled off as Bollywood acceptable to him. “My family was never a part of Bollywood. It was the Hindi film industry that they were part of which died or is half dying. By referring to it as such, people are making it dirtier,” says Ali who made his debut with Chote Nawab in 1962 directed by his father.

Besides his father, his paternal aunt Minu Mumtaz and maternal aunt Meena Kumari were actors. So didn’t acting ever occur to him as a natural choice of career? Ali, who acted in Sur and Kaante, says, “Of course  my family background impacted me. I did not get a break till I was 36. Everywhere that I went, people said that I was Mehmood’s son so I didn’t need any work. But my father was a disciplinarian and he did not believe that I was entitled to anything, including driving his cars. I travelled in buses and at the end of the day even gave him details of the money that I spent.”

But Ali looks back fondly at the earlier era of film-making. He says, “Some of the current movies are exploring issues and newer  ideas but the grandeur of the cinema, where you can get abreast of technologies or ideas, does not happen any more. It happened very early during the time of Bombay  Talkies when you had German film directors, directing Hindi films. And look where we have landed now — in Karan Johar’s lap.”

So while he stays away from music, “the project that I work on mainly is taking care of things that I have. There is a farm and then there are children (he has five from three marriages).  You give your time to certain things,” he says trailing off.

When asked about his interest in organic farming, Ali replies, “There is nothing organic in my country now. If you are going organic and your neighbour is putting pesticide and that pollen comes on to your farm, how can it be organic? I think our country needs education for us  to grasp the potential that we have.” Ali goes on to quote the example of Ganga which is only five metres deep now in places while it was 100 metres some 10 years ago. He is concerned about the rapid degradation that is taking place in the country. “The change is very fast and drastic. I walked into Delhi and smelt smoke. I look at this not from a general point of view but as an artiste and it disturbs me  sometimes to see the direction that we are headed to. Where are we going? To me, this seems like the end of Kalyug,” says the singer who first captured popular imagination with O Sanam from the album Sunoh, which featured his first wife.

But he does not believe in just expressing his disenchantment but suggesting solutions. Ali believes that the power of changing what is going wrong lies within us. “While the newer things are calling you to the malls, movies and bikes, there is an older self inside you that is telling you about the weather. Nature gives you the  best of itself to you but you abuse it, get drunk, do drugs and litter the place.” His mantra to break out of it is not to lose your humanity and do things ethically.

Writer: Saimi Sattar
Courtesy: The Pioneer

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