Farhan Saeed is having a terrific year. The singer – who first came to prominence after being recruited by Jal as a replacement for Atif Aslam and then parted ways with the band to pursue a solo career – is riding high on the success of his song ‘Roiyaan’ which recently won him multiple awards. He has also been busy with his budding acting career, appearing in television dramas including Mere Ajnabi which saw him starring opposite his real-life partner, Urwa Hocane. In an interview with Instep, Farhan talks about his latest successes, venturing into the world of acting, and his upcoming projects.
Instep: Since parting ways with Jal in 2011, you have released a handful of songs, including ‘Khuwahishon’, ‘Pi Jaun’, ‘Kyun Gayi’, and more recently ‘Roiyaan’. Why have you only released singles so far and not a full-length album yet?
Farhan Saeed: Since I started doing music, I have seen the music scene of Pakistan changing drastically. When we started, Pakistan’s music scene was on a high and saw some of its best times. After around 2008–2009, it has been in a relatively difficult situation.
In my opinion, it was a technology shift. From CD players we went to iPods; from buying music we went to downloading it onto our iPods or smartphones later on. This whole technology shift disturbed the business model all over the world, but in the West and other countries like India, they soon got control over it and started paying the artists as their music got downloaded or played anywhere in the world in the form of royalties. But in Pakistan, as expected, no one really came out to help the musicians. Record labels lost interest as the numbers didn’t make sense anymore – everyone started downloading the music for free and CD sales went down to zero.
On top of that, YouTube got banned in Pakistan, which pretty much closed the international doors for Pakistani artists, especially the ones that were new.
With all this in mind, I thought this is a better way of producing music – release a single, make a video, and promote it, rather than releasing an album and not doing justice to each song as I would like to.
Instep: Are there any plans to release your debut album? How soon can we expect a full-length record from you?
Farhan: Honestly speaking, I am not thinking about the album right now. I’d rather release six to seven songs in a year as singles. If things get better and it makes sense, I’ll probably be the first one to do it.
Instep: ‘Roiyaan’ has become your most successful song to date, winning trophies at the Hum Awards and the Lux Style Awards earlier this year. Why do you think the song has been so popular and resonated with listeners and critics alike?
Farhan: Yes, by the grace of Allah, ‘Roiyaan’ has been liked by almost everyone and won me the biggest awards of Pakistan this year. I think it was a great team effort from the audio to the making of its video. I personally believe Pakistan’s audience has a great taste when it comes to music, and good work never goes unnoticed. On top of that, I have some seriously loyal fans behind me to support me through all this.
Instep: How was the experience of performing at the Masala Awards? And how much preparation went into your performance?
Farhan: It took me half an hour for preparation. I reached Dubai just a day before the performance due to my tight schedule. My song was already rehearsed by the dance group, I just had to go and do my bit. I enjoyed every bit of it so it wasn’t that difficult for me.
I loved the feeling of representing Pakistan at the Masala Awards. It was a proud moment. Thanks to Frieha Altaf (Catwalk) who approached me for this and made this possible.
Instep: How much value and importance do you attach to awards and award shows?
Farhan: I think it just motivates you a lot more when you come to know that your work has been appreciated and you’re contributing to Pakistan’s music industry in the best possible way. It just gives you that kick to keep going and make a lot more music.
Instep: You have also been working as a playback singer for Bollywood movies. What do you prefer, making your own music or playback singing?
Farhan: I think both are very important. When you’re making your own music, it’s like a one man army, from making a song to its recording to making its video till its promotion, whereas in a Bollywood movie, or any movie for that matter, you have a lot of people working as a team; it’s relatively easy, but having said that, you get exposed to the biggest audience which you probably wouldn’t be able to achieve on your own.
Instep: You are currently touring Pakistan and India, performing in various cities across the sub-continent. How would you compare the audience of both the countries?
Farhan: I’ve been lucky in that aspect since the start of my career, to be exposed to audiences around the world. Music generally has the same effect on everyone no matter where you are from, but it feels special to represent Pakistan across the border and present the softer image of Pakistan.
Instep: You’ve recently ventured into acting. How has the experience been so far? Has it been easier or harder than you expected? Have you faced any difficulties?
Farhan: I enjoyed acting. In the start obviously I felt it’s harder, but then I started enjoying it and surprisingly it complemented my singing too. I started enjoying being on stage even more as I kept switching between acting and music. I plan to do a lot more acting in the future.
Instep: You recently appeared in the drama serial Mere Ajnabi alongside your real-life partner Urwa Hocane. Is it easier or more difficult to work with the person you’re in a relationship with?
Farhan: It was definitely easier as we had the comfort level and that chemistry one would ask for as an actor. We’d help each other if needed in various ways.
The only difficult thing was our laughing fits which would just come from nowhere in a very serious scene and then [it would be hard] to control them. We’d laugh at any and everything; once it started, it was impossible!
Instep: Are there any upcoming music or acting projects you can tell us about? What can we expect from you in the coming months?
Farhan: There’s a lot in the pipeline: a couple of projects in Bollywood, working on my own music videos – I won’t disappoint my fans even in the coming year, Insha’Allah.
As far as acting is concerned, I have got some big offers, [and I am] working on them. One project is a drama with Hum TV called Silah. It’s a musical serial, directed by Aabis Raza. It’s almost completed; I’m looking forward to its release too.