Christians alone are not oppressed rather everyone is a victim of violence in this country be it Muslim or non-Muslim
Not many people acknowledge the role of Lollywood in shaping the cultural norms of Pakistani society, even fewer realize the fact that the film industry owes its heydays to the dedication and creative input of a number of non-Muslim artists eg S. B. John, Robin Ghosh, Emmy Minwala, Irene Parveen, Saleem Razaetc. In its formative period Pakistani cinema had attracted many non-Muslim artists and directors from across the newly-defined border. Many of them later converted to Islam. After all it was a Hindu producer Deewan Sardari Lal who released Pakistan’s very first film Teri Yaad.
Though lady luck had been kind enough to singer A Nayyer when he entered the music scene back in 1974, he had to work hard to become a singing sensation in the presence of maestro Mehdi Hasan and ace singer Ahmed Rushdi. A great singer who was the ‘Kishore Kumar of Lollywood' and known for his peppy songs, A Nayyer is having a bit of blues these days due to a personal loss, social chaos and fading lights of popularity.
“Life is quite upset since the recent death of my son besides the political situation in the country is also very dejecting,” a somber A. Nayyer tells Viewpoint. When asked about his disappearance from music programs despite the growing number of TV channels, he told Viewpoint: “I haven’t quit music. But mostly I am engaged in the production of religious music more than commercial music. Yes there are many private channels and a couple of them have offered me a few projects but their remunerations hardly make both ends meet”.
Nayyer does not like to whine about adversities of his life but he has some genuine concerns. “Private channels are not willing to pay handsome fee to the senior artist but readily promote any upcoming singer without charging a single penny. Financially, the situation is not much promising for an old singer but I am living a life of contentment”.
His association with Radio Pakistan and PTV is still alive although he is rarely heard on radio or seen on PTV either. “Radio Pakistan and PTV do invite me to perform on shows slated for special occasions like Independence Day or September 6.” Then he quips: “Probably I have become sort of a ‘special singer’ for special programs”.
Reminiscing the golden days of Radio Pakistan A. Nayyer is filled with nostalgia. “Music, today, is way different compared to our times. I don’t disparage new musicians, they are like my young brothers but they sing, compose, write and even arrange their music themselves. Budding singers lack regard for the seniors and patience to learn. When I entered into the showbiz I was very respectful to my seniors but I regret to say that I have not received the same from my juniors”.
He wistfully recalls the sounds of the 70’s Lollywood.“Basically I learnt music from Mehdi Hasan Sahib. I have the honor being in the company of music legends Mehdi Hasan, Masood Rana, Ahmed Rushdi. We used to discuss, argue and advise each other and that is how we learned. We had no personal clashes ”.
He goes on: “The atmosphere of studios would exude creativity, zing and professional excellence. We used to work with the intellectuals and music directors of high caliber like Qateel Shifai, Munir Niazi, Tasleem Fazli, A Hameed, Nazeer Ali, M. Ashraf, Nisar Bazmi and others”.
He laments the dismal state of Lollywood, “There was a time when Pakistani cinema was at par with the Indian film industry but now Lollywood lags far behind. Bollywood is reaching out to Hollywood whereas we are bent on burying our local cinema”.
A Nayyer has got several offers from the Indian directors and his friends keep pushing him to accept them but a nationalist Pakistani at heart, Nayyer turns them down. Owing to the discrimination meted out to Christians, many advise him to move to India but he strongly dismisses the suggestion. “I don’t want to move to India. I would surely love to represent my country in Indian film industry if sponsored by the state and wish to return home respectfully. I can’t trade my country’s honor for few bucks”.
He adds: “Pakistan is my country and I will never leave it. Why should we flee our own country? No never! Instead, we should kick the extremists out”.
Talking about his favorites music he says, “I love playback singing because my professional career started off with Lollywood film songs. The song I love to listen is ‘Ji Rahay Hain Hum Tanha’ while Rafi Saab, Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangashekar and Asha Ji who all had their distinct style always inspired me. I remember once when I met Kishore Kumar Saab in Los Angles, he admired me and was amazed to note how well I could blend the ‘yodeling’ into sad songs.”
A Nayyer is a family guy who loves his wife and kids and “was never embroiled into scandals because I am happily married and love my wife who brought luck to me. Right after my marriage I got the opportunity to perform at the Pearl Continental in front of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, a few days later I was a superstar”.
Being a practicing Christian, A Nayyer has contributed a lot to the Pakistani gospel music despite being involved in fulltime play back singing. He reckons it “a service to God which I never abandoned. I have recorded a lot of psalms and carols and never argued about the payments”. But he is bit bitter too: “I have helped many Christian friends establish religious channels and studios but now when I need their support they have turned back on me”.
When asked if he ever faced any issue owing to his faith, A Nayyer said: “No, never! I have never faced any discrimination or hatred for being a Christian artist rather I was vilified by my own Christian community. They showed me more ‘khansahibiat’ than the Muslim producers or composers. In fact, Christians alone are not oppressed rather everyone is a victim of violence in this country be it Muslim or non-Muslim”.
He confesses that Pakistan of the 1970s and the 1980s was very different from today: “If I look back, I don’t see hatred and intolerance.” But being a sensitive artist and a devotee of Jesus Christ, he evades making political comments. “Accusing someone of blasphemy is so horrible I can’t imagine how one could insult other’s religion. Of course, this is too much!”. He believes: “The wave of terrorism is a conspiracy to tarnish the image of Pakistan. This is a land of peace-loving people, there are certain miscreants who want to pitch Muslims against non-Muslims. I have witnessed more riots in the West than Pakistan”. He thinks, good and evil exists everywhere in the world.
“I am an artist and have no particular political affiliations but I think Imran Khan is a better choice”, he says. He admires Pervez Musharraf for patronizing art and culture. “Zia ul Haq once rewarded me with twelve thousand rupees,” he says and bursts into laughter.
It is pertinent to note that A Nayyer was harassed by few goons in 2006 who robbed him and forced him to recite Kalma. The incident left Nayyer so dejected that he left the country. However, his patriotism forced him to return. “I felt really sad and shocked thus decided to migrate to Canada. But on realizing that I would no longer be a citizen of Pakistan, I came back. I have forgotten and forgiven these people because that is the message of Jesus,” he says.
His optimism for a shining Pakistan is unflinching. But he thinks: “All we need is an honest and visionary leader. I request J. Salik not to waste time washing people’s feet. Instead, he should redress their grievances. I think both Muslims and non-Muslim should join hands to combat extremists who are enemies of this country. Pakistan belongs to both Muslims and non-Muslims. Religion is a personal matter. Everyone has the right to adhere to his religious belief. No one should his/her religion on the others.”
|Duriya Hashmi is a passive activist, blogger and aspiring film maker who writes to vent anguish and believes in art as a catalyst for change. Her cyber self can be followed at