Arguably Pakistan’s most popular RJ whether we’re listening to his euphonious voice on one station or the other. I believe most of us can relate to a time where we’d start up our cars, switch on the radio and listen to the motivational monologues of RJ Khalid Malik on those manic Mondays when we just didn’t want to go to work. His enthusiasm for his work is what captivates his audience, from singing birthday songs in different languages to talking us through our daily issues- he’s been there for us. Thus, it was with great nostalgia and a huge smile that we welcomed our latest guest, RJ Khalid Malik, for an interview.
Opening up about his childhood, Khalid explained how his father “served in (the air force) from 1965-71, but by the time (Khalid) was born (his father) moved to Singapore”.
“My dad left the air force by then in the late 70s, and he became an engineer in a Malaysian airline, and as a result we moved to Malaysia. (They) spent 10 years in Kualalumpur from 1979-1989 and then moved to Australia.
“Then in my later years, we were in Australia but he moved to a different country in South east Asia to take up a job. Kuch saaloun ke liye it was to and fro, he’d come for a couple of months or we’d go for a couple of months, so we spent a lot of time away. Even whilst I was in University, he was still abroad working to vo kuch saaloun ka gap raha hai”.
We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t face some sort of struggle, and Khalid was no different. Growing up, he went to lengths to mention how he “didn’t fit in”.
“I remember my primary school quite fondly. I do remember that I was always like the clown of the class. I was a little nerdy, geeky, but I played a lot of sports. We had houses and I was the house captain in football, and was always one of those who would sit in the front row of class”.
“But I hated my high school. I was bullied; they’d call me things like ‘curry muncher’. However, my concentration was mainly studying. So, during recess, I stayed in the library especially during the last couple of years in high school. But as a child, growing up in general I had a lot of image issues. I was chubby, wore glasses and had a lot of acne problems growing up and all this sort of contributed to the low self-esteem, and just the overall awkwardness of my teenage life”.
“One time, I was home and I remember running up to my mom and asking ‘Why am I so ugly’. And she said ‘Listen you’re not ugly, but if you want then we can go see a doctor’ and went to go and see a dermatologist. I remember that I was only 15 and he prescribed antibiotics, so I was taking over 1000 mg of antibiotics a day for a week, just to get rid of the acne”.
Personal Struggles – “The Struggle Never Stops”
The transition from an RJ to an actor was no easy feat, but many people aren’t aware of the fact that Khalid actually tried his hand at being an actor before he ventured forth in the field of radio hosting.
He told me how from 1999 up to 2006, he worked as an extra in movies:
“I lived in a small apartment, and I did a lot of odd jobs. I worked in call centers, did door-to-door selling just to pay my rent. After one or two auditions, I got a small role in Superman Returns as an extra in Sydney. But then I think in 2004, I stumbled on radio and alongside, I got promoted from an extra to an actor.
I received many eviction notices and so I’d scramble for money. Everyone has a struggle, you don’t have enough money to buy a bus ticket and so you have to walk for 40 minutes. Obviously, being an ethnic Australian actor, my roles were very limited.
Pakistan anay ke baad bhi maslay thay because I came to Pakistan not knowing anybody. I’d just got off the plane with no connections. No one in my family is in the media, and one of the first people I met with regard to my acting career was Hamayun Saeed. I was sitting in the lobby of the Marriot in 2007 and we had a meeting there and I showed him my shooting and he liked it, laikin uss ke baad kuch howa nahi.
I called companies like MTV, ARY Musik and had an appointment with the latter where I waited for 3 hours in the hope that someone would come and see me and there were people who were in the office, but they just never bothered to see me.
The first person who bothered giving me a break and I’d really like to mention her is Rubina Ashraf. I was still in MTV and she saw me and I had a very brief discussion and she had a series back then called “Salaakhain” and she gave me an opportunity, and that was the first appearance I had in a serial show thanks to her.
The thing is when I came to Pakistan in 2007, I came with a mindset ke mai koshish karne ke liye aa ra houn, and although it took me a while to break through I met a lot of good directors in Pakistan. It’s funny, the struggle never stops. Even now, I’m still struggling and it’s a different struggle, a different challenge each and every single day.”
Failures – “We need to ask ourselves: what do we really want to do with our lives?”
“The reason I continuously failed was because I tried to do something that I had no passion for whatsoever”.
He enunciated: “Humaray yahaan aik masla ye bhi hai ke jo humaray maa baap chate hain, hum vohi karte hain. Of course, we want to keep them happy. My dad wanted me to become a doctor and for a time I also wanted to become that, but soon I realized that it was not really what I wanted to do; which is why I failed.
You’re failing continuously, but I think you need to sit and reflect ke mai waqai ye karna chahta houn ya nahi. Leaving all things aside, we need to ask ourselves: what do we really want to do with our lives?
For a long time, I always wanted to be an actor. This sounds cliché, but I always wanted to be an actor. Chup chup ke I did a degree in acting and I never told my father, only my mother knew. But as I was failing my academics, I felt that I was succeeding in becoming the Khalid that I am today. For me, in hindsight, it was an amazing thing at the time.
As a parent, to other parents, we need to stop expecting our children to fulfill our dreams. Agar ap aik cheez nahi kar sake to aap lyoun chaa rahe hain ke aapka bacha vohi karay?
Snakes – “As you climb the ladder, you find that the snakes get longer”
Mr. Malik wasn’t completely familiar with the term “snakes”, so after we explained how it’s a colloquial term for manipulators and backstabbers alike, he shed some light on the matter:
“The industry that I’m in has the greatest number of ‘snakes’ as you would call them, by that I mean anyone who wants to get ahead. People are willing to lie. There have been a couple of occasions that I’ve faced where even after signing a sealed contract, doosri party mukr gai. And that’s because we don’t have a union, we don’t have a proper functioning representative body who is able to do much.
These people are very visible in our industry, bas ye hai ke aapko thora sa hoshayar rehne parhta hai. As you climb the ladder, you find that the snakes get longer, more venomous and they’ll be hiding around the nooks and crannies slithering about just waiting to strike. Having said that, you need to sort of dodge them, work your way around them, but there are a lot of good people, which is why I’m still in this industry”.
Coping with demotivation- “Every no you get is getting closer to a yes”
“(Demotivation) happens to me very often. When I was working as a salesperson, we used to have a weekly training session, since door-to-door selling is one of the toughest jobs, and one of the things our sales trainer used to say was that: ‘every no you get is getting closer to a yes’.
If 10 doors say no, then you’re actually getting closer to a yes, and I use that even know for every setback, every stumble. The only thought that keeps you going is that there’s a yes coming just around the corner, and when that yes comes, it is going to be a huge yes with two exclamation marks. The higher your climb the ladder of success, the greater the struggle. The struggles increase because they’re trying to test your resolve ke waqai tum ye kar sakte ho? The more committed you are, the greater the challenge.
Sometimes when you feel an outward struggle, there will be a certain kind of physical pain. Whether it be around your arm, your leg. I usually feel it around my stomach and what I try to do is settle myself by putting my hand on my stomach and sort of rub it a little bit to try and calm it down”.
Future as an actor – “We need distinguish actors from non-actors”
“I do have a film that I’m shooting for later this year. I’m playing the bad guy. I’ve done two films in the past: Josh and Good Morning Karachi. They were both festival films and did run in Pakistani cinemas, but I think it was only for 4 weeks. The thing is that I’ve done a lot of character work. I’m a character actor.
I was nominated for the HUM awards in a serial where I played a Wadera, then I was in Baaghi, and so I play all these different people as opposed to a lead hero.
We have a concept here in Pakistan, that exists in many places, that you can only play the lead if you have blonde hair and blue eyes. Aapko beshak kaam na ata ho, laikin shakal achi ho, to you get the place.
Agr aapko kaam ata bhi ho, to call ati hai ke aapka kaam bohot acha hai laiking budget nahi hai. Why is that? Well because they’ve given the entire budget to those jin jo kaam nahi karna ata. This is a problem in Pakistan, and we need distinguish actors from non-actors.
I don’t know if I’m able to change that stereotype. I’m still pushing through it, I haven’t given up and I’m not stopping. I didn’t come this far just to say ‘Nahi yaar it’s too hard I can’t do this’. You need to keep the momentum and keep moving”.
Most notable encounter with a fan? – “That still sends chills down my spine”
“Many years ago, this one lady messaged me to say that ‘I’ve been diagnosed with cancer’ and she told him how she listened to his show every morning on her way to chemotherapy, and how my show picks her up and helps her get through chemo.
That’s a huge responsibility to have had made such an impact on one’s life in that sort of way. Six years after the incident, I happened to speak to her husband who said that unfortunately she had passed away, but she would always talk about (Khalid) fondly. This will stay with me forever. That still sends chills down my spine”.
Source of solace when everything seems to fail?
“My family means the world to me. I have three children, I have a loving and caring wife who understands my work. When I come, they make me forget all of my work, but they also spur me on. When I’m at home, no one cares if I’m an RJ. I’m Khalid: go and get the groceries, change the diaper, ground that child”.
“Well it would be sitting down, when I’m 70 or 80 if God wills it, and thinking to myself ke yaar agar mai vo karleta to kya hota. I don’t want to be that age and think if I had taken that decision or taken that role then what would have happened.
So many people get ahead in the corporate world, but they’re miserable because they weren’t able to do what they really wanted to. They don’t want to be doing what they are currently doing, and they’re setting themselves up for major regret.”
Message to youth – “It’s never too late to do what you want to”
“A problem with a lot of young radio producers is that they think that this profession is just time pass. Hum jain ge, bak bak karain ge aur pese kama liye. This isn’t the case. There’s a lot of preparation involved in this profession. You just can’t turn up without preparing. As long as you’re consistent, it will pay off.
Fame isn’t everything. I never got into acting or radio to become famous. These days, it’s all about numbers. Mere Instagram pe kitnay followers hain, mere Facebook pe kitnay likes hain. There’s this drive to become famous. I just wanted to be an actor. I just enjoyed doing radio. Fame is more of a by-product. I think you become famous if you’re really good at what you do.
I would say that it’s never too late to do what you want to.
Also, we need to learn to tackle problems in different ways. I had a certain conversation with a student who said that he’s sent over 200 resumes to companies but he didn’t get a single reply. I sat with him and we looked over what he may have gotten wrong. Was he sending one resume, to only the big companies, were they customized? Strategies become redundant over time, so you need to rethink them and move ahead with them”.
Lastly, how was the interview?
I really enjoyed it man, I had a heart to heart. The pleasure is all mine, and it’s an excellent project you have going here.