Atif ban gaya gentleman

Atif Aslam at Ponds Ensemble

Atif Aslam scraps his scruffy pop dude look for a svelte, more suave image for the Ensemble Show and has high society women on their knees!

Saba Imtiaz, Karachi

Atif Aslam is arguably one of Pakistan’s biggest superstars. You can hate his extremely offbeat sense of style, his videos or his brand of pop music (or love them), but he is a superstar no doubt. And for sceptics like myself – who cringe when Atif’s songs begin playing at cafes on popular demand – there was a complete silencing of doubts at the night of the Pond’s Ensemble Spring/Summer 09 show, held in Karachi as a fundraiser for the Teachers Resource Centre (TRC).

His performance kicked off on a high note and as he walked out on to the fashion runway, dressed entirely in tuxedo white with a Rizwan Beyg clad Hadiqa Kiyani, he had the crowd screaming with delight. The rest of the night was a blur of groupie-like hysteria, as socialites and celebrities alike decided to shed the prevailing sense of doom and gloom (as well as any inhibitions) in the country to literally dance the night away to Atif Aslam’s music. The kind of hysteria his performance evoked was nothing short of remarkable: at any concert that has such a heavy socialite/corporate presence, it is extremely difficult to stir up the crowd. But not this crowd, as this crowd was fixated by the man who had moved the masses.

Ali Azmat has often openly criticized the front row of corporate executives at sponsored shows for being a mute audience; he has always appreciated the mad crowds dancing at the back at these gatherings. But the men and women at the Ensemble show had no such inhibitions – and the runway/stage was crowded on both sides by people going absolutely mad as Atif belted out one hit number after another. And they didn’t just stop at swaying along to the music or singing aloud with Atif. Several socialites got up on the ramp to dance and the groupie feeling in the air was palpable as one woman shrieked, “I love you Atif…I LOVE YOU!” And the love for Atif wasn’t just restricted to the few teenyboppers in the audience, who watched most of his performance sitting on their knees on the floor. It was executives and socialite aunties, all screaming out Atif’s name and requesting for songs – you’d hear “AAAAAAADATTTTTTTTT” from one end or “TERE BINNNNNNN” from another. And the crowd just did not want to let go of Atif. At 2:30 AM, a visibly exhausted Atif pleaded with the audience to let him stop singing, only to be met with a roaring “NO”. One meek husband walked up to his wife to ask her if she was ready to go home, only to be rebuffed: “Nahi, abhi nahi!” (No, not now!)

And it was just more proof of how popular Atif really is. For an audience that on face value one would assume would not like his music, they knew every word and sang along, whether it was Bollywood hits like ‘Pehli Nazar’ (Race) or ‘Tere Bin’ (Bas Ek Pal) or his hit singles ala ‘Aadat’, ‘Doorie’ or ‘Mahi Ve’ or a medley of old Bollywood songs.

And Atif played to his adoring audience with the skill of someone who can take the fame and adulation for granted: his cool demeanour didn’t shift for a second, so much so that he didn’t pay attention to the women and men dancing along side him on the ramp. Perhaps it was the ‘playing-hard-to-get’ act that had the women in such frenzy, and it had one thinking that had Zeba Husain decided to auction an evening with Atif or had him hold an auction, the fundraiser would’ve made more of a monetary benefit. There’s always a next time!

What was also interesting to note is how Atif more than made up for the lack of the usual starry presence that has been part of TRC’s events in recent history. With luminaries like Arjun Rampal, Milind Soman, Urmila Matondkar and Shilpa Shetty having attended the TRC/Lux Carnival de Couture in the past, one didn’t expect Atif to have the same kind of hold on an audience used to the Bollywood nexus. And in an evening of fashion that highlighted the best that Pakistan has to offer, Atif’s performance made the night truly Pakistani. As Kamiar Rokni’s shirt read: “No one’s leaving home – I love Pakistan!”