Singer and actor Atif Aslam, who is rarely seen doing interviews, appeared on Super Over with Ahmed Ali Butt for a rather candid conversation about Bollywood’s role in making him a megastar, his love story with his wife Sara Bharwana, his bitter-to-sweet relationship with legendary singer Asha Bhosle and his opinions on the downfall of music in Pakistan these days.
Speaking about the role Bollywood played in making him and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan a megastar, Atif said that while he can only speak for himself, the beginning of his success started in Pakistan’s entertainment industry only. “Firstly, I’d like to point out that I got my first recognition here and not there. My album was first released here and when Aadat and Voh Lamhe got hit, then Mahesh Bhatt called me to India,” he said.
However, he does give credit to the Indian industry and media for marketing his talent in a way that reached the global masses in a wave that still holds its impact worldwide. “Of course, their media has a huge impact globally, it’s bigger than ours and so there was another layer to the stardom. I’d credit them for marketing my talent in a way that made me a superstar. For example, if someone in Fiji is listening to me right now, that credit goes to Bollywood for sure.”
‘Bollywood remembers me, even now’
Despite not having worked in Bollywood for years, Atif’s contribution to the music industry isn’t forgotten—and he is often remembered for his talent. “I had a lot of fun working in Bollywood while representing Pakistan and even today, there’s an acknowledgement of my work there. Sometimes it comes from Twitter or when an artist puts up a tribute for me in the comments,” he said. The host, Ahmed Ali Butt, mentioned that even Indian singer Arijit Singh mentioned how he loves Atif’s songs during a concert. “That’s his generosity, and he even sings a few songs of mine in his concerts. He likes them.”
Atif also recalled when Euphoria’s Palash Sen gave a shoutout to him. “He recently tweeted that in 15 years, Bollywood wasn’t able to produce talent like me and even today, people pick up their guitars to play like Atif. And I think that’s very kind of them to still appreciate my work there.”
However, Atif doesn’t think of the two nations as any different when it comes to musical talent. “There isn’t a lack of talent in either place. We just happened to work more there. I’d again say that it all felt like it was in our destiny and not in our control that I worked a major part of our careers there. We went there, we sang and it got hit,” the Tu Jaane Na singer said while owing his success to Allah.
Whether Atif has felt pressured while performing in front of and with bigwigs like Alka Yagnik, Udit Narayan, Asha, the Dil Diyan Gallan singer humbly replied that he felt no pressure but always pride in representing his nation.
Bitter-sweet relationship with Asha Bhosle
When Atif featured in an Indian reality show with Asha, the two were often seen having their differences on the screen. Commenting on whether those rifts were real or not, the 39-year-old singer revealed that all arguments were in fact real and not scripted at all.
“I had a rift with her at the start before doing the show. We didn’t share the friendliest of relationships and that went on for quite some while. All the arguments that people saw on stage were real and to an extent, that sometimes, we had to shut the recordings in between the show for four to five hours. We’d resume the recordings of the show after the requests of directors and producers,” he said.
While their relationship had a bumpy start, it’s actually Atif’s fandom that mended it and brought the two musical powerhouses together. “Actually, her daughter was my fan and that made her call me one day. She said that my daughter came to me and said why do you always fight with this handsome guy. ‘If I can like him, can’t you like him too?’ she said and that statement from her daughter made her forget everything and put it in the past. It was so big of her to stay that she likes me now that her daughter has this love for my music. That honestly won my heart,” exclaimed a flattered Atif.
Love at first sight
The singer behind our favourite romantic ballads is quite a romantic himself too. Upon how he met his wife Sara, the Tera Hone Laga Hoon singer shared that she was actually the first person that he prayed to talk to just after looking at her once. “It was love at first sight. I saw her six different times actually but she was styled differently and I didnt even recognise that it was her all-time. But when I looked at her, I prayed to God to make me talk to her at least once. He listened, and we met through common friends. The first thing she asked me was if I have a girlfriend or not. And I said, even if there was, my answer would still be no,” he said.
He went on to add how dating Sara for seven years completely changed his outlook on marriage. “I never believed in marriage before meeting Sara then when we did it, I realised how important marriage is to tame a bachelor. You know men, most of them, in our field often have these opportunities to interact with our female artists in close capacities. I could’ve waited or explored more but once I found her, it was done.”
Upon whether Sara gets jealous of a certain artist or has in the past, Atif straight up declined. “Sara never felt jealous. She knew that I left the whole world to marry her.”
The downfall of Pakistani music
Music isn’t the same as in the olden days anymore and Atif agrees with that sentiment. However, he doesn’t blame the artists completely. “If I’m honest, I see that there are people who are working and releasing new music on social media. It’s not on a grand level but it does feel a little weird to even want that. The country is going through such turmoil, there’s nothing to eat, nowhere to live, and nowhere to earn so what will an artist even do with music initiatives? Who will they perform for?” he thought out loud.
The host, however, commented that Pakistan has in fact seen music changing narratives even in difficult times and that made Atif think of the iconic Noor Jehan. “Well, you’re right. Music is important in social and political upheavals. Madam created music even during a war,” he said. “Then maybe these new young musicians don’t have the skills to create something that powerful but I don’t blame them completely. When you try to talk about anything explicitly, you’re stopped now. So when you can’t put out what your heart wants to say, the lyrics can’t be powerful enough to bring change.”
One wish that Atif holds close to his heart is for him to perform Azaan in Kaabah. “I’m hopeful. I may be sinful, but I have high hopes that my prayer will be heard one day,” he concluded.