“Billo was a once-in-a-lifetime thing; it just dawned on me out of nowhere and kept on shaping itself. As hard as I tried, it did not happen again. Not that kind of a song. I wish I could make one such song every morning when I wake up.”
Abrarul Haq smiles amusedly as several hits and five albums later, he recounts the blazing success of this debut song that gave new meaning to his life. But this success was not presented to him on a silver platter.
Although Billo made history, it was not without some controversial bearings being associated with the title character, who, according to certain people, was projected as a seductive temptress. Was it a deliberate move intended to boost sales of the debut song?
Shaking his head in disbelief, Abrar puts forth his stance: “I fail to understand what sort of a distorted mind can cook up a thing as absurd as this. I mean, Billo’s character was conceived and presented as a simpleton’s dream girl, but a very special one if you look at her through her admirer’s eyes.
This was the basic idea I tried to present. Maybe its simplicity played a major role in turning it into such a huge hit.”
And while on contentious issues regarding the Bhangra king, here’s another one that cries out for clarification: Nach Majajan, another roaring success, was initially titled Nach Punjaban but the crooner was forced to change it since certain quarters allegedly did not appreciate the lyrics that suggested their girls dance.
“No at all,” Abrar is quick to deny the allegation vehemently. “There was no mala fide intention or disgrace for Punjabi women in that song. It was just an attempt to reflect the boisterous and lively culture of Punjab and its people who immensely enjoy and cherish all occasions, living life to the full.
And mind you, the alleged objection was not even from the people of the province. It was a negative reaction out of envy and jealousy by some. Nevertheless, the lyrics were altered in order not to hurt anybody’s feelings.”
As to why he restricts his music to only Punjabi lyrics, Abrar says that it’s not entirely true. “I’ve sung Urdu songs as well. Punjabi is a widely-spoken and understood language and even if some people don’t really get the lyrics, they enjoy the beat and rhythm of my music.”he says
Abrar now believes that in order to make it big in music, one’s luck and God’s help make a huge difference. “I had always been keen on making music, but my entry in the field was quite accidental.
I got a big breakthrough and then the pressure to maintain that stardom itself was huge. Had it not been for His blessing, I would have fizzled out like so many other singers who fade away into oblivion.”
This star, however, was not destined to fade away. It continued to shine bright, music not being the only field where its brilliance reflected. Soon after his second album was released, he initiated the Sahara For Life trust with the aim to help the poor and needy.
Abrar says the idea was sown in his mind early in life when his grandfather would discuss the miserable living conditions of the poor in under-developed areas of Narowal and the surroundings. The Sughra Shafi Hospital (named after Abrar’s mother) is also a link in the same chain.
“In the beginning, I did not get a very encouraging response as people used to call it a whim. I had just come out with my second album and needed at least two more hit albums to carry it through in financial terms. I believe it was His doing that my next two albums became hits and provided me with the means to make my dream a reality,” he says.
Nachan Mein Uday Nal is Abrar’s fifth album and according to the reviews, it is not being greeted with the same fervour and enthusiasm as his previous albums. However, Abrar feels otherwise and claims that the album is getting a very good response, considering that it was not given as much media projection as its predecessors.
“You see, the launch of this album and the inauguration of my hospital happened simultaneously. But that does not mean the album has not been well received; numbers like Pardesi, Shareekan Noo Aag Lagdi and the title song Nachan Mein Uday Nal are very popular, while the others will gain appeal when their videos come out. The album is establishing itself slowly but surely.”
Abrar’s social work is a very significant entity in his life which makes one wonder how he manages to juggle time and energy between the two time-consuming projects like music and his charity. “There’s no problem in this respect.
There never has been. The trust and its projects are being competently managed by my brother Israrul Haq. Of course, I am a vital part of it and vice versa, but it does not hinder my music in any way at all, so there’s no question of compromising in either case.”
Abrar has many projects in the pipeline. “Having completed the hospital does not bring an end to my responsibilities. I’ve not only to sustain this project but also replicate it in other remote areas of the country.
Then there are more projects that we’re working on such as health and educational institutions all over the country and a project called Khaima-i-Wafa which would serve as a sanctuary for the homeless, old, widows and orphans.
I want to do something big for my country, something that no one has accomplished as yet and something that would keep my name alive.
I know it’s not easy, but I’ve done it once and will do it again with His help.”
As a post-script, Abrar also tied the knot on June 25 in Lahore, ending years of speculation as to who will be his real-life ‘Billo’.