December issue 2011
Profile: Khalid Malik
The Breakfast Show on City FM89 has, in a sense, revolutionised morning drive-time radio as more stations come up with their own versions of the breakfast show. Until a few years ago, morning radio slots were never this competitive.
The Breakfast Show, or the BFS as it is more commonly known, has become synonymous with Malik, who comes up with quirky trivia questions, quips random information, sings the birthday song in different languages (accompanied by regional music, of course), convinces callers to be silly on air (one time he convinced listeners to call in and demonstrate their evil laugh, and people did) and has segments such as ‘Like My Boss’ and ‘Rent a Nag.’ From Monday through Friday, Malik’s show is heard across the country and online, by people belonging to a wide demographic. “I always think of how I can make the show more relevant to a larger group of people which is why I try to add some desi-ness to it,” he says when asked about his target audience. And sure enough, from school-going children and their mothers, to people driving to work, the show does seem to cater to people of all ages. Malik’s popularity is evident and his energy contagious; if you scroll through his fan page on Facebook, it is filled with comments by listeners who want to know why and what he has been busy with that has kept him away from the show for some time in the past month.
Malik arrived for the Newsline interview in a T-shirt, skinny jeans (in a recent Facebook video he posted, his skinny jeans were the topic of discussion rather than the video itself, he says as he laughs about it) and a jaunty hat. However, Malik’s off-air persona is quite a contrast — he is introspective and talks about himself in an almost measured tone. Even so, that didn’t keep him from opening up about his love for radio, his acting career and life in general.
Making people laugh about the mundane things isn’t as easy as one would think. After the three-hour show ends, depending on whether he has a TV or a film shoot right after, Malik begins researching and planning for the next day’s show right away. However, the BFS is “entirely his child” and Malik wouldn’t have it any other way. “I’ve groomed it and given it some personality. Made it (the show) the person it is today.” Research for the show includes bits of interesting conversation he might have had with a friend, eavesdropping into other people’s conversations at cafÃ©s and then, of course, the ever-trusty Google. This is how the BFS has evolved into a show about everything and nothing.
Trained as an actor in Sydney, Malik never lived in Pakistan up until four years ago when he and his wife, dancer and choreographer Joshinder Chaggar, decided to move to Karachi. But adjusting to life in the city wasn’t problematic in the least. “It was tougher adjusting to the work environment than life here. And I’m talking about working in the television industry. [No] work ethic or adhering to time, there’s no implementation of systems; [there is] this sense of mediocrity — as long as it’s getting the ratings, it’s fine.” But this was a few years ago and he feels things are gradually changing and getting better.
For someone who has never lived in Pakistan and didn’t know anyone in the country, his career graph seems to have grown remarkably. From the popular BFS and two feature films (one being Sabiha Sumar’s Rafina, slated for release sometime in the near future) to television serials such as Uraan, Khandaan-e-Shughlia, Chand Pay Dastak and earlier stints at MTV and Aaj as a VJ, Malik has managed to cover quite a bit of ground. Initially, being new to the industry, Malik had to send out his showreels, talk to different people and it was a “bit of a process” as he calls it. “I feel now it is much easier to approach [the directors, producers] because it is such a competitive market. They need new faces. The problem with us is that we don’t have agents. But the momentum is definitely forming…I am working on my second feature film in one year,” says Malik.
But his positivity and outlook on life hasn’t always been this way; there was a point, about six or seven years ago when he suffered from depression. “What you hear from me now is a lot of trial and error, learning from other people who’ve helped and nurtured me along the way. I don’t get depressed anymore but I feel low. For instance, I’ve really worked hard and done some good projects but [there comes this] one project, where I want the main lead, I want to be the hero. And when that doesn’t happen, I get down. I get a lot of character roles, because of the way I look and also because I do a lot of character work,” says Malik as he becomes contemplative. “And then there’s a lot of self-talk, that where I am is where I am supposed to be. What’s happening right now is exactly what’s supposed to be happening. Life is an energy and you need to flow. Do what you can during the course of the day so that when you’re about to go to bed you can say, ‘I’ve done all I can and there’s really nothing more that I can do’ and that’s fine. You just leave it to the universe.”
BFS isn’t convincing people to act silly on air or make a complete fool of themselves — it is doing a show after there’s been a bomb blast in the city. “That’s the toughest show ever. Every time that happens I think, now what? I can’t be talking about pimple-poppers in the family when there’s been a blast. How can I tell people that it will be okay? I always try to remind them [listeners] that whatever happens, there is always more right than wrong that’s going on.”
One of the questions that Malik has repeatedly had to answer is how he manages to voluntarily host a show that early in the morning — he cannot understand why it perplexes some people. There are times when his day ends up being 16-hours long, filled with shoots and work for the BFS, but he isn’t complaining. “I think the reason I am happy is because I’m doing something that I love. Someone once told me that money is energy, if you’re doing something you don’t like doing then you might make money but it’ll be a struggle. But if you do something you love then because there’s open energy then money will also flow. It will feel effortless,” reflects Malik, as he sips on his cappuccino. That for him — being passionate about his work — is his idea of perfect happiness.
Having lived in different countries, Malaysia, Australia and now Pakistan, Malik feels that it has helped shape his perspective. “It sounds clichÃ©d, but open up your horizons to what else is in this world. Travel is essential to everyone’s growth,” he says emphatically. After travelling extensively in Pakistan, he strongly advocates the same for everyone. “People talk about ‘our’ culture but do they even know exactly what it is? We have such a diverse culture.” Out of all the places he’s been to, Hunza is Malik’s favourite destination where he would love to build a holiday home.
Switching gears, the conversation moves towards the lighter side of life and he unabashedly admits to listening to songs by Justin Beiber and Britney Spears. “They’re talented people!” he exclaims. Other favourite musicians include Adele, Maroon 5 and a big dose of the `80s such as Wham!, Rick Astley, Duran Duran and others. Malik also listens to local radio whenever he travels to a new city. Currently he has been playing a Turkish song on air, something he picked up when in Istanbul earlier this year.
When asked about any misconceptions people might have had about him, he is quick to respond: “That I’m 50, gunja (bald) and that I’m very muscular. They [listeners] generally think I’m much, much older.” And pet peeves? “When a waiter constantly asks how the food is every five minutes. When you’re about to turn onto a street and the car in front of you suddenly brakes. In our apartment, we have these energy savers instead of the regular light bulbs; when my wife switches those on, I hate it.” So conserving electricity isn’t on the agenda, I ask. “You get those warm energy savers too, but we have the white ones. Looks like a supermarket,” says Malik.
As the interview comes to an end, I wonder if there was anything he wishes he was, now or when younger. “I wish I was more confident with the ladies when I was younger. Sometimes I feel like I missed out on a whole part of my life because I wasn’t as confident. Maybe it’s also because I was pimply-faced, wore round glasses and was a fatso — my confidence level wasn’t exactly at its peak! I was the guy who spent lunch time studying in the library, instead of playing outside.” Incredulous as it may sound, coming from a person who now loves to socialise and is an actor, Malik insists it is, in fact, true.
This article originally appeared in the December 2011 issue of Newsline under the headline “Rock the Morning.”
Ali Arqam main domain is Karachi: Its politics, security and law and order