Sun Re: Video Review


Song: "Sun Re"
Artist: Abbas Ali Khan
Director: Sheheryar Haidery

A gentle but stunning bolt out of the blue: that is probably how one would rate Abbas Ali Khan's latest video "Sun Re." Previously Abbas, an upcoming artist of great promise from Islamabad, had released the "Janey Kya" ("When We Dance" by Sting influenced) video and the "Chori Chori" (amazing rocking guitars, great production) video to much acclaim along with a worthy debut album "Humsafar." Yet his latest is possibly his greatest video and is understated, yet electric. The first time one sees it one is struck by its elegance, understated colors and beautifully rendered concept. While it does not have the explosive impact of a new Junoon or EP video, it is no less effective. Perhaps given that it has more pathos and depth to it than your standard everyday video it is perhaps better than the videos of the earlier mentioned super bands.

What is startling about the video after a few viewings is that not only are the production values excellent, what is more so, they are understated. They lend an air of elegance to the video. The pace of the video is temperate and deliberate and much in keeping with the softly melodic song. In that it is a welcome rarity too. One has to think back to Abbas's own "Janey Kya" for a similarly paced song and video. Yet, despite the slow pace, the video is also focused in making the point it seeks to make. The one most successful thing the video achieves is the mood of the piece, an aspect often overlooked in many videos. One has to think all the way back to "Manwa Re" to find a video that so perfectly compliments the mood of the song.

Abbas himself explains the concept of the video on his site as follows: "The entire video focuses on the strong character of a clown as he yearns for his lost love, changing his own form and trying desperately to be at peace with himself." Yet like most pieces of art, there is more to the video and it improves with repeated viewings. The simple plain lyrics ("Sun re morey pyare sajna/ Mora tum bin jia naheen laagay/ Raat andheri ginoon main taray/ Kaysay aaion piya toray duaare/ Lagay naa mora jia jia jia/ Aankh yeh nam hai dil bhi hay toota/ Jab se hamara saath hai choota re") are in fact given more pathos and depth by the video than one would have gleaned from the song. Strings' "Anjane" was one notable similar example. Plus the video works on various different levels beyond the stated concept. This is a fresh take on the love–lost/ lovelorn theme ("Aankh yeh num hai dil bhi hai toota /Jab se hamara saath hai choota/ Mora tum bin jiya nahin lagai") There are no models on display, just pure and simple depiction of sadness, angst and pained confusion (and possibly some sort of a reconciliation at the end.) On onelevel it is about how a clown tries to change his looks to get over his lost love or perhaps to ingratiate himself to her. Is he a clown because he does that? Or is the video saying that we are all clowns looking for love and satisfaction in life. The video is open to any of these and more interpretations.

The song that forms the heart of the video is excellent too: The melody is truly eastern and gorgeous. Yet the video tries to be brave by adding disparate elements to the song and getting them to work together. Perhaps that is the point of the piece and the video: everybody, from all disparate backgrounds and natures, is looking for love, from the clown to the elegant smoothie and at the end it all somehow manages to work out. Or not.

On the production side, Shehryar Hydri (the director) makes his mark as a director of note and is the true star here. The video is excellently directed, edited and is shot with a lot of visual invention. There are certainly influences one can identify in the video (Annie Lennox's "Why" and the circus motif from perhaps "All I Want Is You" (U2) crossed with "Tears of a Clown" shot through with a lot of Marlene Dietrich's "Blue Angel"), yet the end result is still startlingly original. The special effects used in the video are used unstatedly: the jump cuts are effective and the way the split screen is used in the end to merge the clown and the singer is even more so. Moreover, there are some other effective scenes: The moment the joker rubs all the makeup off his face for Tariq Amin to appear is brilliant.

Other players in the production shine as well: Asad Shaykh and Tariq Amin did the styling and clothes which is brilliant (barring one exception). Abbas's own Mystic Media Studios along with Indispensible Communications team have done a great job with the production (reportedly at a phenomenally low cost). The colours are stunning, and the lighting of the piece is excellent. For that Alexander the director of photography certainly deserves all the kudos that are due his way.

In the video, there is one star: After years of walk–on cameos (Awaz, Ali Zafar, etc.), Tariq Amin's performance shows that he truly does have acting chops in addition to his other talents. His clown has pathos (a la The Blue Angel) and is truly expressive. Further, not only does Tariq Amin perform in the video with great merit, he also contributes as the core member of the Indispensible Communications team which collaborated with Abbas in the video.

The downside of Tariq Amin's pre–eminence provides the only real cause for complaint in the video in that it downplays the singer slightly. Perhaps it was to compensate for the presence of the clown (how does one compete with a clown?) that Abbas goes over the top with the styling or more precisely Abbas lets Tariq Amin go over the top with his styling of him.

Abbas takes on the bling bling/bejewelled 'gangsta' image for the video. For the initial viewing of the video this is quite off–putting and afterwards only barely tolerable. To the extent of the video concept the look almost works (was it the point of the video to make Abbas look clownish with this image in parallel to the actual clown?): beyond that he would certainly be advised to stay away from 'gangsta' affectations. Ahmad Ali Butt (Nestle ads) is hardly a look to aspire to.

The one other thing one has started to find a tad bothersome with most videos and which is present in the instant video too is the trend to pick up motifs and depict eras from the West (consider Faakhir's "Mahi Ve," quite a few Hadiqa videos or the Western Clowns and gangsta looking Abbas). What is the relevance of those looks to us? It might work for a bit but it is somehow starting to grate at times. Surely there is much in our culture to inspire videos too?

These two qualms aside, this video is fabulous. Further, in keeping with the polish of the video, the complete marketing scheme is quite great. The video is accompanied by a whole sub–site (www.abbasalikhan.com/sunre/sunre.htm) at Abbas' website (www.abbasalikhan.com) accompanying screensavers, photographs and audio files This is certainly the best way to launch a video and to create a net buzz for the same too. The clown pictures form my desktop and have evinced many comments of appreciation for onlookers. Overall, this is a very accomplished piece of work and certainly highlights quite a few stars of the future.

Moahammad A. Qayyum
February, 2005
The News International, Pakistan

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