AN AFREEN STARTTO2018!

FOR COKE STU­DIO PAK­ISTAN SEN­SA­TION MOMINA MUSTEHSAN, GREAT FAME LEADS TO GREAT RE­SPON­SI­BIL­ITY

Hindustan Times - Brunch - - Front Page - By Sam­reen Tungekar

PAK­ISTANI SINGING SEN­SA­TION MOMINA MUSTEHSAN BE­LIES HER IN­NO­CENCE, SAYS: “GREAT FAME LEADS TO GREAT RE­SPON­SI­BIL­ITY” AND STANDS UP FOR A NEW GEN­ER­A­TION OF WOMEN

[ AN HTBRUNCH EX­CLU­SIVE ]

#VoiceOfWomen

T

he voice that sent Pak­istan and In­dia into ec­stasy when she sang Afreen Afreen with mu­sic mae­stro Rahat Fateh Ali Khan in one of Coke Stu­dio Pak­istan’s most fa­mous ren­di­tions of the song ever is bright and chirpy over the phone from Pak­istan. Chat­ting with Momina Mustehsan, one of Pak­istan’s youngest su­per tal­ents, is rather like chat­ting with a friend; the 25-year-old is filled with en­thu­si­asm for life – as she should be, hav­ing lived in sev­eral coun­tries around the world, as well as her na­tive Pak­istan.

An army kid with a doc­tor mother, Momina’s child­hood was spent be­tween Pak­istan and New York, with five years in Ukraine thrown in. This added to her reper­toire of lan­guages: Momina speaks Urdu, of course, Farsi, be­cause her mother’s fam­ily is Per­sian, Rus­sian and Ger­man. “Even though it was con­fus­ing, shuf­fling be­tween cul­tures, I never faced an iden­tity cri­sis,” she says. “No mat­ter where I lived, I knew I am a Pak­istani. In fact, it made me ap­pre­ci­ate my cul­ture even more. Still, ev­ery­thing in my house and life­style is adapted from the dif­fer­ent cul­tures that we lived in.”

And she has a dou­ble de­gree in en­gi­neer­ing and math­e­mat­ics, as well as a pas­sion for mu­sic, so es­sen­tially, while grow­ing up, she had no life, Momina gig­gles, and she liked it that way. “I’ve al­ways loved maths, so in col­lege when I started en­gi­neer­ing, I had ap­plied math and I re­ally liked it, so I over­loaded my cour­ses and did two de­grees,” she says.

Mu­sic was never her ca­reer plan (In fact, it still isn’t.) “When I started col­lege, I wrote a song

Pee Jaun, with a friend. I never in­tended to make main­stream mu­sic, but that song did re­ally well and I got some recog­ni­tion. That’s ac­tu­ally how I got Awari for Ek Vil­lain,” she ex­plains.

In 2014, she recorded Awari for Pak­istani band Soch, but she didn’t know that this song will be used in Bol­ly­wood film Ek Vil­lain. In fact, she was in her fi­nal week of col­lege when she recorded the song. “I recorded that song in two hours, and I told them if this works, then great. But if it doesn’t, I don’t know what we can do,” she says.

But the song worked. And Momina’s life changed.

Her voice is soft, pow­er­ful at catch­ing higher notes, and def­i­nitely unique, but while she learned the vi­olin, she never ac­tu­ally took singing classes. “When I started learn­ing the vi­olin, my choir teacher thought I could sing. But when I first got on stage, I froze!” she says. “And I learned the gui­tar from on­line lessons of­fered by a teacher in Ari­zona!”

De­spite her lack of for­mal classes, the suc­cess of Awari caught the at­ten­tion of Coke Stu

dio, who asked her to sing. “I had just grad­u­ated and didn’t have a hec­tic sched­ule, so I thought about it,” says Momina. “I hated fac­ing the cam­era, so I de­clined ini­tially, which meant that I wasn’t part of the three-month-long daily jam ses­sions that Coke Stu­dio in­sists upon be­fore record­ing. But two or three weeks later, I de­cided to do it de­spite my lack of prac­tice, and I ar­rived at Coke Stu­dio a day be­fore the shoot, ask­ing if I could sing

Tera Woh Pyaar. They agreed. But then Afreen hap­pened. And I had no idea about the song. And then I was told I’d be singing with Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, and I was like, ‘Are you kid­ding me’!”

Clearly, they weren’t. And so, says Momina, “The first time I heard Rahat Fateh Ali Khan singing live was when I was next to him!” She is a bril­liant singer, but Momina also has a huge fan fol­low­ing for her beauty! How­ever, she doesn’t like the at­ten­tion. “I’ll be a nor­mal per­son,

“MY STYLE STATE­MENT IS HOME­LESS; I DON’T LIKE GLAMORISING MY LIFE”

“SOME­ONE TWEETED I ‘LOOK LIKE A MAID’. I CALLED THEM OUT ON THE CLASS SYS­TEM IN OUR SO­CI­ETY. IT’S NOT AN IN­SULT­ING RE­MARK FOR ME” “IN­DIAN FANS HAVE MORE RE­SPECT FOR ARTISTES” “I HAVE SUF­FERED FROM DE­PRES­SION AND I WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT”

as long as you don’t put a cam­era in front of me. There’s a down­side to glam­our and since I know that, I think that’s why I have been able to stay grounded. I don’t want to be­come pub­lic prop­erty, to let ev­ery­one have an opin­ion on me.”

That doesn’t stop her fans from ask­ing things such as what she wears, who she wears, and the colours of her cos­met­ics. “And then they want to have an opin­ion on what I should wear,” she says. “For the record, I’d rather wear chap­pals than heels and my nail pol­ish is chipped. My style state­ment is home­less.”

Like all well-known peo­ple, Momina has her share of haters too, and has faced hor­rid amounts of cy­ber bul­ly­ing. “In fact, now what­ever I do, I think of the worst com­ment that could come my way. I’ve in­stalled this maila (dirty) mind­set so I can pre­dict the worst thing some­one can say about me,” she says.

The fact that she comes across as a gen­tle per­son seems to in­cite the haters even more. “Be­ing gen­tle is trans­lated as weak­ness, es­pe­cially in Pak­istan,” says Momina. “That’s what I’ve faced in the one year that I’ve been part of this ‘cir­cus.’”

As a mil­len­nial and a so­cial me­dia sen­sa­tion, Momina has 537K fol­low­ers on Twit­ter and 1.4 mil­lion fol­low­ers on In­sta­gram, and she uses so­cial me­dia to lead by ex­am­ple. “Some­one tweeted, ‘What’s the hype about Momina, she looks like a maid.’ I used this to call out the class dif­fer­ences in our so­ci­ety,” she says. “Be­ing com­pared to a maid is not in­sult­ing to me, it’s an hon­our, be­cause you’re com­par­ing me to a woman who goes out to work and earn a liv­ing.” Momina hasn’t been to In­dia, but she has a lot of friends here, as well as a mas­sive fan fol­low­ing. “I meet a lot of In­di­ans when I’m trav­el­ling, and I have no­ticed that In­dian fans have more re­spect for artistes than Pak­ista­nis,” she says. “The way they in­ter­act with you melts your heart.”

The di­vide be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan should not stretch to the arts, she be­lieves. “In­di­ans love

Coke Stu­dio Pak­istan and Pak­istan loves Bol­ly­wood,” she says. “I have friends in the In­dian mu­sic in­dus­try, and I think In­dian cul­ture gives a lot of im­por­tance to mu­sic, which isn’t so much the case in Pak­istan. That’s why I feel mu­sic that comes from In­dia is more pakka.”

But she is a star in Pak­istan, and that means Momina has a re­spon­si­bil­ity to ful­fil. “Be­ing a 25-year-old in this in­dus­try, I don’t feel too wel­comed by so­ci­ety. But what I say, what I do, will not go un­no­ticed,” she says. “So what­ever I say will im­pact girls who haven’t been able to es­tab­lish their own voice. We have to be care­ful and set the right ex­am­ple for up­com­ing gen­er­a­tions in Pak­istan. If we’re able to fight for our rights and get them, it will set the right prece­dent for gen­er­a­tions to fol­low.” Men­tal health, in­clud­ing de­pres­sion, is a dis­cus­sion taboo in our so­ci­ety, but Momina wants to open minds about it. “I think we don’t talk about men­tal health enough. In my case, I got en­gaged, and then it broke off, so as far as so­ci­ety is con­cerned, it’s like, now the girl is use­less,” she says. “The way I got through my de­pres­sion was through a for­tune cookie that said, ‘It only gets bet­ter when you get bet­ter’. This spoke to me! De­pres­sion doesn’t al­ways have a rea­son, it’s this sink­ing feel­ing. When I was de­pressed, I was so low on self­es­teem that I wouldn’t even look at my­self in the mir­ror. When I came back from that point, I be­came a war­rior. When you pick your­self up from be­yond rock bot­tom, noth­ing will knock you down.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.