The voice of the common man. The mouthpiece of the masses. Furnished by his wit and his wisdom, most people know him as the comical architect behind “Wadere Ka Beta”, “Taroo Maroo” and multiple other hits. A man who brought about a revolution that went beyond the rudimentary restraints of Pakistani comedy, spanning from the streets of Karachi to all corners of the world, but it was in this interview that we learned the true depth to the human being who is Ali Gul Pir.
We may not have been able to meet him in person, but his ecstatic personality coupled with his static presence via intercom covered up the void of his physical absence. As we called him up in Karachi from our office in Lahore, we got an-depth view into the life of Ali Gul Pir – upfront, unfiltered and uncut.
After arranging the interview with his manager at 4pm, we eagerly waited for the moment to come. We watched the minutes, even the seconds tick past on our watches and when the time came, we dialled the number.
“Wadere Ka Beta, Wadere Ka Beta” was the caller tune on his number, which affirmed that we’d dialled the right number, and after a few moments of dancing to his theme, we began the no-so-crunch talks.
Kyaa Aap Asal Main Wadere Ke Bete Hain?
In a stark contrast to his hit song, it turns out that Ali actually isn’t the son of a Wadera. He outlined his life story by informing us that he was “born in Islamabad” where he studied at the “Islamabad Model College for boys… till the 3rd or 4th grade” after which his family emigrated to Canada for a number of years.
This proved to be quite a transition for him especially due to the language barrier: “English ati nahi thi jab mai gaya Canada”. As with many young children who shift countries while growing up, Ali had some initial issues fitting in since it was a totally different atmosphere and described himself as being “the closest thing to a black kid”. Eventually, as time managed to progress, Ali grew accustomed to the environment and “English thori behtar ho gai”.
As life seemed to become stable, change struck again as Ali had to return from Canada to Pakistan, and then resided in the city of Karachi where he completed his O and A Levels.
One thing that is particularly striking in Ali’s songs is his ability to relate to the qualms of the common citizen and bring these issues under a magnifying glass, peppered with his tinge of satire. This capability may be accredited to how he states that he witnessed such occurrences during his early years, and they were seemingly embedded within him: “I’ve been on public transport with my mother. I know what tarooz are like. I’ve witnessed waderas doing injustice” and it was these very experiences that inspired him and subsequently propelled him to stardom.
“I lived with my mom till I got married”
Even before he got married, Ali Gul Pir stood fast to his commitments. He describes his family as being “close-knit” one especially during the unfortunate absence of his father who was taken as a political prisoner during the reign of Pervez Musharraf. In those times of hardship, it was his elder brother (who is also his only sibling) who emerged as a “father figure”. Ironically, his elder brother is a banker which is “totally opposite” from what Ali’s doing.
Overcoming Negativity Through Humour
Was Ali Gul Pir destined to be a comedian? It may seem so since the next part of this interview was particularly notable, not only for us, but as a greater message to society at large. In responding to the question of how he conquered negativity, he said “I think I used my humour throughout”. To elaborate on this point, he emphasised on the need to look to the positives in times of hardship. “In all these situations I’ve faced, I always make fun of them” since a human being cannot control when and where he may encounter problems, but “the important part is how you deal with it”. “Maslay to atay hain. Har kisi ki zindagi mai maslay hain but it’s how you react to it. I would make fun of it. I would laugh at it” and “I think that’s where my humour gets me positive”.
During his school years, he would take “all of that negativity, and would daydream that he would one day become important”. He would sit down in class and imagine that he would be getting out of a luxurious car while people would be lining up to take pictures with him. The purpose behind conjuring up this fantasy would be “just to satisfy himself” since “in a make-believe world you can be whoever you want”. He took pains to highlight how there is no point in hating since “agr nafraat ko aap andar rakhain ge to aapko hi jalay gi. Doosray ko faraq nahi parhay ga”.
The political element underlying Ali’s songs “could be” accredited to his father’s arrest since his father “a bureaucrat but my family had that political background”. This may also relate to his famous lyric “Jhoota case bana kar tujhe kar doun ga kehdi” from his hit, Wadere ka beta. Notwithstanding political beliefs, Ali admires the level to which a human being is willing to go to for his political beliefs, even going to jail: be it “adayala jail, Nab ka jail, etc”
Even in his youth, “mujhe politican bannay ka bohot shauk tha” but it was only after he matured that he learned how the profession is littered with negativities and so he was “put off by it”, and thus he opted for satire as a creative from of expression in order to highlight those specific negativities.
Being one of our hot favourite topics to discuss, we just couldn’t leave out the snakes! As the comedian iterated, growing up in Islamabad, he looked upon many of his father’s colleagues in a “positive light” especially with closer members being “helpful and very nice”.
Yet when his father was imprisoned and his parents divorced, they were struggling while living in someone else’s house because “humara apna ghar bhi nahi tha” and most of these very same people showed their true colours in what Ali described as being an “eye-opening” experience by turning their backs on the family. In spite of this, Ali doesn’t hold any resentment towards them because he believes that “God is gonna judge everyone” and rather than to try and take matters into his own hands, he still greets everyone with the proper respect that every human being deserves.
He claims to have only 1 or 2 truly close friends, with the aim not centred around having “attention” directed towards himself, but rather that “kaam log mera kaam jane. I don’t care if people don’t know me”.
“Grades ko log bohot serious lete hain”
Speaking on an issue which many people face, Ali said that “I understand that my career has been very unique and not everyone in their life as a Wadere ka Beta” but the main point is that “Dunya mai aap apna kaam bas acha karo”. Although he has a GPA of “around 3.12”, “people get too caught up in numbers and grades. It’s not everything. There’s much more to life than that”.
He shed some light one of his own “failures” which happened 2011, prior to the release of Wadere ka Beta. After graduation, he took up the job of a production assistant who would pick up lights and would bring food for actors. One day, he received a call inviting him to audition in the role of an upcoming sitcom where he was given the role of a cross-dressing male and had to audition separately in both the male and the female role.
“Somehow”, he was selected for the role and was set to feature in around 25 episodes appearing alongside stars such as Khalid Malik and Faiq Khan, but on the first day of filming, Ali wasn’t able to perform to his best due to the pressure. He was asked to return tomorrow but wasn’t called the next day, and “when I called them, they didn’t answer. I called my co-actors and they didn’t answer. Nobody answered, and basically I was fired after my first day on the job”.
Despite the fact that he was left in dismay after seemingly failing at what seemed to be his first chance at real success, he stood committed with dogged determination and after 10 months, he released Wadere ka Beta. “I think people who face failures need to understand that this is a process… people don’t understand the inner struggle that takes place. And if you get something without struggling, then you’ll never appreciate it”.
His initial inclination towards music stemmed from how he would listen to his brother’s favourite musicians such as Michael Jackson, but his biggest inspiration was Tupac specifically because of the variety of his songs, ranging from “gangster rap” to discussing more sentimental ideas as exhibited in “dear Mama”.
Taking this particular song into context, what was really inspiring was how TuPac was able to “keep his head up in a song about a divorced mom trying to raise two kids”.
“Socially conscious rap” is what really inspires Ali’s songs, especially in how “rap music respects the members of its society”. He believes that artists such as the “backstreet boys” had a predilection towards “superficial” music focusing on love and emotion, but this music was “raw and real”, taking roots directly from what the rappers would see through their own eyes, something that he inculcates into his own work.
“I’m funny, and so are my fans!”
A marriage proposal on email. Yes. Ali Gul Pir woke up one day to casually check his e-mail when he received a marriage proposal which, to this date, is still in his inbox.
In another notable scenario, “guy came to me and asked him to autograph his chest” which he jokingly remarked wouldn’t have been “so lame if it were a girl”. Nonetheless, he still signed his chest!
One time, an “auntie” sent him a video of a four-year-old singing “Wadere ka beta” (a video that’s still up on YouTube) but what deeply touches Ali is how that song has become a part of that girl’s childhood in a memory that has been cemented on the internet.
Sometimes Ali gets depressed when he thinks about the brutalities happening within society, but what motivates him is the “hope that things will become better”. “Material things don’t inspire me” and what Ali seeks to do is create a sense of awareness and bring about a positive kind of change. Some people become immortalised because of their work in the way that humans have a certain life span; but if your work can outlast it, then you know that you’ve been successful. Anyone can hold a 9-5 job, but motivating people and creating something that extends to others is what’s really important and the hope that he can achieve this goal is what keeps him going day after day.
Advice to Youth? – “Aap successful to uss waqt hotay ho jab rickshay ke pichay likha ho: Saeen to Saeen”
In offering us some much-needed relationship advice, Ali informed us of how “bachiyaan mujhe kio lift nahi karwati then” but after his song, he dated a lot of girls but, if you don’t find anyone with “substance and personality” then there’s no point.
Moreover, he suggests that the youth should stop following trends, “agr aik Atif Aslam aagaya to sab Atif Aslam ban jain gaye”. Whatever you do, you should stand out and do something different. Many stars are remembered regarded for one specific hit, “like Tom Cruise and Mission Impossible” and “every artist has one big hit that becomes their identity” and “that’s something you can’t control” but you can “create so much work that you’re not only known for that one hit”.
“Keep on working. Keep on producing content” since “people have a very short memory and you have to stay relevant”. Sometimes, we need to take risks too since if we always “looked at repercussions, then we may not even leave our house with the fear that our mobile could be stolen”.
Lastly, how was the interview?
“Bohot acha. It didn’t feel like an interview. A surprising remark, given the level upon which we operate, but Ali reassured us saying” I don’t collaborate with people based on how famous they are. I try collaborate with people whose content I appreciate. No publication, no-thing is too small and if this was the case, then I wouldn’t be where I am today”. We thank Ali for giving us the time for this interview; it was a conversation than we’ll never forget!