Ajnabi: Video Review

Song: "Ajnabi"
Artist: Josh
Director: Umar Anwar

The three-albums-old Josh’s latest offering, a music video titled "Ajnabi" that is currently on air on all music channels local and international, is akin to a restless soul - seeking, searching, running away and breaking free. The first shot sets the mood of the song and the video directed by the young and promising Umar Anwar. It is nothing short of a scream of anguish and angst against societal norms with superficial walls erected to uphold illogical traditions and the arrestment of thinking and self-actualization through programmed education and conditioned behavior.

“We were challenged to truly act out and show our emotions. The "Ajnabi" video is an abstract piece of work; a metaphoric depiction of what the song means to both Qurram (Q) and I,” explains Rupinder Singh. “As people, there are times that we can be so lost in life that we are strangers to ourselves, as the line in the song goes: "Mere dil se main ajnabi …".

“The journey of finding oneself and fighting societal norms is never easy. In the video, you’ll see Q breaking a guitar, but it’s in reverse, so he’s actually bringing a broken guitar back to life. You’ll see me attached to a desk - implying how we are programmed to go to school and study to become things that we might not want to. It wasn’t easy for us to become artistes when our friends were becoming doctors, businessmen, lawyers, etc. In the video, there is a girl who is forced to get married, and rips up her favorite picture, which is of a butterfly - symbolizing the loss of her freedom. I can probably keep talking for hours about it,” says Rup excitedly.

Defying a robotic existence, the subjugation of the soul, and the suppression of emotions, "Ajnabi" is a combination of symbolic analogies, terse angles, and shots and editing glitches that betray the waging conflicts within. ZQ plays the sacrificial lamb offered at the altar of family traditions, Rup is tied down to a career chosen for him and Q surrenders his passion for arts in the face of social stigma. However, the owl on Q’s arm has its own context value.

“The song is about breaking the norms of society. The bird is a symbol of freedom as it is not caged in the video. It also shows that we can relate to animals when it comes to instincts as they are only ruled by instincts and not by society’s rules.”

Earlier, Josh’s "Mausam" video was more Umar Anwar-style with its long shots and scenic backdrops. What convinced Josh that Umar would do justice to the edgier "Ajnabi"? “Umar and Josh work well together. We understand each other’s points of view and respect each other’s art forms. I think it is important to realize and give space to the other person when space is due. He’s also a great guy to hang out with, a key point for us to work with anyone. Friendship first, work second,” they said.

So, was the video visually translated as the concept of the song conceived or was it a hybrid of ideas? “The idea on which the song was written was very specific and very elaborate. We did evolve the idea with Umar, keeping all the major themes of the inspiration behind the song in mind. Along with that, we always like to keep the videos a little open to interpretation, giving them more room to convey ideas the viewers can relate to.”

With a huge fan following on both sides of the border, Josh has been up-close and personal with the Pakistani and Indian music scene, observing professionalism/work ethics. The disparities are evident. “The Indian scene is much older, so there is a lot more structure there - whether it has to do with record companies, or any other media or press. It will come to Pakistan as well; it’s just not here yet. However, you can tell from the quality of work that Pakistan is working on catching up to international standards,” say the band members.

True to their love for fusion, Rup and Q seem interested to mingle with the local artistes and are keeping their eyes open for new opportunities. “Collaborations, for us, have always been something that would come up naturally. So far, we have made close friends with Strings, Shafqat bhai and others, so let’s see what comes up in the future. Hopefully, we’ll get a chance to jam with them and some good ideas will come out.”

Winding up, I had to ask: Are there any other music videos in the pipeline and would Josh be taking on Umar again? “Our next video is for a track called "Rock Your World" which we’re shooting in Montreal, Canada. After that, we’re not sure yet. Umar has a style of shooting videos and it has matched our songs we did with him very well. Depending on if the next song is a good match for Umar and Pakistan; we’ll make that decision accordingly. There will be more videos coming out soon though, that’s for sure. So keep watching, as we do have a lot of ideas that need to be put out visually.”

Faiza Khan
June, 2007
Dawn, Pakistan