Jugni Girl’s Hollywood Outing

From being a Coke Studio Pakistan sensation to becoming Bina in Mira Nair’s Reluctant Fundamentalist,the feisty Meesha Shafi talks about her role in the film and her music.

Written by Suanshu Khurana | Published: May 21, 2013 2:42 am

Lahore-based Meesha Shafi,a relatively unknown artiste in Pakistan and India till 2010,stormed the Indian music scene by becoming a sensation online. Watching Coke Studio Pakistan,on You Tube,one could see that Shafi was different. She was the oomph in Jugni — a famous folk singer Arif Lohar’s cult track — which has received more than 10 million hits so far. Her bright red lipstick,chunky jewellery and black leather jacket was as unmistakable as her raw,bold voice. It’s in this studio in Karachi,that we saw an unorthodox and slightly indulgent philosophy. People were happy here,even as the country was going through much turmoil. Music gave a balance against the larger spectrum of politics and this bit reached India,at least initially,through Shafi. She was feisty,a livewire and an overnight hit.

“I was delighted with the way the song had shaped up,and the electric energy on the sets when we performed,but nothing could have prepared us for the response we got. It was already a dream come true for me to perform with Arif Lohar,but yes,season 3 of Coke Studio really did change my life. It broke language,age and geographical barriers,” says 31-year-old Shafi,whose recent outing in Mira Nair’s Reluctant Fundamentalist is also earning her much appreciation. Shafi,who has essayed the role of Bina in the film and has also sung the track Bijli aye ke na aye,met Nair before her breakthrough track Jugni was released. “When I met her,Mira hadn’t seen me anywhere. I think,she could already see the characters in her mind’s eye and it was just a matter of who clicked,” says Shafi,who plays Changez’s (played by Riz Ahmad) sister in the film. According to Shafi,the character is close to her spirit as her roots,influences,family and lifestyle are all quite similar. “Bina is raised in a house full of books,music and free thinking. Her family puts culture,substance and education before money. Bina is actively involved in the performing arts,singing and acting are part of her life. Much like mine,” says Shafi,who is the granddaughter of famous Pakistani Urdu writer,Hameed Akhtar.

But it was her mother Saba Hameed,who introduced Shafi to Nair’s cinema and the young girl in Shafi found Nair’s style of filmmaking unique. “She translates tales so beautifully and with such compassion and sincerity that the impact is undeniable,” says Shafi,who is assured that a director like Nair knows exactly what she wants and communicates it to her actors.

Her song in the film,written and composed by her is an upbeat number that shows the range of Shafi’s voice. She wrote the song after she felt frustrated because of the power cuts in Lahore studios during recordings. “But at the same time,I didn’t want it to be a negative,depressing song. I like keeping my lyrics simple and catchy but it’s important that they mean something. I truly believe that challenging circumstances contribute greatly to content. When you work against all odds,it can do wonders for your creative juices,” says Shafi,who is a self-taught musician. Some of her earliest memories include playing songs of artists such as Aretha Franklin,Robin S,Whitney Houston,Abida Parveen and Reshma,“till I could hit the notes and work on things like delivery and expression,” she says.

For quite some time now,Shafi has preferred to pick and choose her projects carefully despite the offers from India and Pakistan. She may have been criticised for not having done a lead role yet,but Shafi is happy with the credits on her portfolio and says that she would like to be extremely selective. “Substance is important to me. More important than commercial success or fame,” says Shafi,who is looking forward to three releases this summer.

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