January issue 2016

By | Profile | Published 4 years ago

With a background in engineering, and an MBA to boot, one would have expected Junaid Khan to settle in nicely in a steady nine to five job in a growing concern. Instead, the good-looking 34-year-old, who fancied himself as a singer in his student days, but pursued a career in engineering subsequently, eventually chose to be both, a singer and an actor. He explains the 180-degree turn in his choice of career: “After graduating from FC College, I joined UET Lahore to do my engineering, where I engaged in a lot of extra-curricular activities in dramatics, sports and music.” Junaid also happened to have a neighbour “who played the guitar and he would often ask me to sing while he would strum a tune. We would sit in our garage and jam together; I had no idea then that I could actually sing, until we noticed our neighbours hanging around to listen to us! That’s when we realised we had it in us.”

His interest thus ignited, Junaid began to listen to all kinds of music from rock to classical and Pakistani to Indian, meet with what he describes as “the right kind of people” and took up music in earnest. He joined the band Call as their lead vocalist. But not quite sure of how it would play out initially Junaid did not quit his job. It was only around four years back that he decided to take the plunge into the field of arts.

Junaid spent nearly a decade with the band, released two albums and went on concert tours to the US, India, Dubai and Qatar. But differences began to surface among Call’s members and it was finally disbanded. Says Khan about that period, “It was a difficult time for musicians in general, as Indian content was being promoted more on TV while Pakistan was being sidelined.

Now, three years down the road, the group has mended its fences. Says Junaid, “I think we have all matured, and grown up and out of our differences, and we thought for the sake of music and our fans, we should reunite as a band.”

Recently, they did a gig together and the response was so overwhelming, both on ground and on social media, that they decided that they needed to return to the music scene. “We realised that there was a vacuum for our kind of music and our fans were looking forward to hearing it again,” says an exuberant Junaid.

Not that he ever stopped singing. When the band was out of action, he did a few solo tracks, one as a collaboration with an American singer, Jennifer, and two other songs, ‘Keh do,’ and ‘Koi rokay mujhay.’ He says he will continue to do solos even now, as will his other team mates. But Call, as a group, will be releasing a number of tracks in 2016.

A true nationalist at heart, who wants to project a positive image of Pakistan, Junaid has written and sung some patriotic songs.

“I wrote these songs at a time when there was a lot of negative propaganda against Pakistan in the western media, and we felt we owed it to Pakistan to stand up and be counted. Just like a painter portrays all that he sees and feels on canvas, so does a musician; he expresses his innermost feelings through his lyrics and music.”

Once Junaid’s musical career took off, the acting offers started to roll in. Says he, “At first, I didn’t think I even had what it takes to appear on screen, but when my friends insisted I decided to give it a shot. I got a great deal of encouragement from my fans and that’s what kept the acting bug alive in me, even though I don’t think much of my own acting credentials.”

But Junaid enjoys it nonetheless; he feels it is a challenge playing someone else and describes it as “fun, as you get to explore a lot about your inner self — what you are able to do and what you aren’t.” Mata-e-Jaan Hai Tu, a Mehreen Jabbar serial, remains his favourite to date. Reasons: Wonderful director; a great cast, including Sanam Saeed, Sarwat Gillani and Adeel; a talented DOP who has now become a director, Shehzad Kashmiri; the shooting in New York and a brilliant script — it was a huge project for me in every respect. When I saw it later on television, I really enjoyed it, even though my character was fairly negative in it.”

From Kabhi Na Kabhi and Mujhay Roothnay Na Daina in 2011 to Yahan Pyar Nahi Hai, Mata-e-Jaan Hai Tu,Madiha Maliha and Ek Maamooli si Larki  in 2012, to Firaaq and Nikah in 2014, Junaid has notched up an impressive number of serials.

He has also done his first film: Bin Roye, in which he had a small role. Khan dispels the impression that his role came under the knife at the editing table: “I had actually been waiting for the right script and perfect environment to make an appearance on the silver screen, but I have such an old and great relationship with HUM that when they asked me to do the cameo, I couldn’t refuse. Of course in the serial that was shot simultaneously, my character has more depth, but the film didn’t really require my role to be a prominent one.”

Poring over a couple of film scripts that have been offered to him recently, Khan says he is not ready to talk about them till he signs on the dotted line. With one serial running on ATV and another in the pipeline, Junaid Khan is determined to juggle his two loves, acting and singing, with equal passion.

This article was originally published in Newsline’s Annual 2016 issue.

The writer is a freelance journalist based in Karachi. She also works at Hum television.