The inspiring singer, actor, writer and TV host collaborates with photographer Mohsin Khawar for a one-of-a-kind shoot. Scroll through our pages to explore the magic they created, while also reading Haider’s exclusive interview with Mehek Raza Rizvi
In one ofÂ yourÂ interviews you claimed the process of writingÂ Uddi JaÂ has been a spiritual and life-altering experience. Why is that?
I think a qalaam like Uddi Ja comes into formation through a power greater than all of us. I never tried writing those lyrics consciously, they just penetrated my mind. Thatâ€™s just how it is with such music. It took around a year and a half for the lyrics to be completed, in fact the last section was added even later when we were recording it for Coke Studio (which was around four to five years later). Iâ€™ve always believed I have a connection with God and Iâ€™m grateful that I was chosen by Him for this qalaam. Iâ€™d have never been able to come up with such powerful lyrics without otherworldly guidance. I remember the first time the words Uddi Ja came to my mind was during a late night drive with my friend. I had pulled the window down and as the cool wind brushed across my face, all I could repeat were those two words, in the exact tune youâ€™ve heard after its release. This qalaam has truly been the most transformational thing to happen to me because itâ€™s what Iâ€™ve turned to each time I needed relief, each time I was anxious and each time I felt hopeless. It has helped me not just in my professional life but my personal life too. To put it simply, if someone wants to put Mohsin Abbas Haider down in words, theyâ€™d be Uddi Ja.
Tell us about the struggles of your career and how they transformed you.
Iâ€™m very proud of the time Iâ€™ve spent struggling to make ends meet because itâ€™s what put my journey into motion. Iâ€™m not ashamed of the days I had nothing to eat, of the aimless walks across streets, of living in just four t-shirts (something I was regularly mocked for). I survived through illness, through poverty and the worst possible living conditions.
I remember when I used to work in radio, my eyes would always be set on this one colleague who sometimes brought packed, home-cooked dinner to work. I knew the days he had a lunch box in his hands that he might share and I may not have to go to bed on an empty stomach again.
â€œTo put it simply, if someone wants to put Mohsin Abbas down in words, there would be only two: Uddi Jaâ€
Despite all of this, I still maintain moving from Faisalabad to Karachi for work was the best decision of my life. What pushed me most at that point was the fact that I had just gotten engaged and was told by her father that I only had one year to prove I could make something of myself.
Iâ€™ve lived through eight to nine years of extreme hardship, but I believe my unwavering determination through this phase is what truly defines me. Today, Iâ€™m self-made and proud.
You wear many hats as a singer, actor, writer and television host and are loved equally for all that you do. What do you enjoy the most and why?
I feel very blessed when I think of all the things Iâ€™m able to do. The response and love I get assures me that I must be doing something right. If I had to choose what I enjoy the most out of all youâ€™ve mentioned, Iâ€™d definitely be in a tough position. I absolutely love acting because it allows me to live many different lives. However, music will always take precedence between the two. This is because I believe music has shaped my life into what it looks like today. Itâ€™s provided the solace and strength I sought.
Luck, hard work or talentâ€”what do you think has been the secret toÂ yourÂ success?
Luck is important, but it only works its charm for people who recognise their talents and polish it through tons and tons of hard work. Iâ€™ve worked day and night like a labourer. I read a quote somewhere that said â€œhard work beats talent, when talent doesnâ€™t work hard,â€ this couldnâ€™t be more apt.
Which projects are you currently working on?
Some of the projects my fans can expect to see soon include a drama serial titled dewar-e-shab, my film Baaji (releasing in June) and Choti Choti Baatein, a mini-serial by Angeline Malik. Iâ€™m also working on some new songs, the videos for which will be shot soon. Apart from that, thereâ€™s quite a few exciting projects in the pipeline, including movies and web series. Iâ€™m reading scripts right now and will be able to talk more about this after some time.
Tell us about yourÂ childhood in Faisalabad.
I was a very shy and quiet kid, who liked staying alone with his thoughts. I was sensitive and extremely inquisitive. I started living in the storybooks and magazines I was so obsessed with.
In certain aspects Iâ€™m still the same, an introvert who doesnâ€™t talk about his feelings and keeps to himself.
Did you always know you would grow up to be in the limelight?
When I was in college back in Faisalabad I became pretty popular as the president of the music society, following a huge singing competition that I won. I was also very actively involved with the dramatics society and had the lead roles in all our plays. I guess that kind of gave me a taste of what being recognised for your passion felt like. Apart from dabbling into the arts at school, I also started working in radio in my hometown, while also recording voiceovers that were played on the local cable TV. I had a feeling after this that I wanted to perform, but did I think Iâ€™ll ever be in the limelight like I am today? Never!
I remember the only time I ever thought about becoming famous was the day I first stepped foot in Karachi. Only took a week for me to realise how hard it really was to make it big and quickly gave up on the idea. My only focus was to try and make ends meet.
Youâ€™ve been courageous enough to talk about suffering from depression. As a public figure how do you think you can help people going through the same?
Depression is not something that just happened to me the day I chose to speak about. I just had an emotional breakdown that particular day so went public with my thoughts, but it had been building up since a while. As I mentioned earlier, I was always the kid who preferred keeping to himself, who never spoke about his feelings and I guess over the years all of that pent up emotion began eating me from the inside. Especially after experiencing the death of my mother, my daughter and some other pressing personal issues. Iâ€™m not saying Iâ€™m the first child to have lost a parent or the first parent to have lost a child, but I realise now that because I never spoke to anyone about how broken I was, things actually became worse for me. When I opened up about what I was going through, the heartwarming support that I received from across the globe moved me to no end. I canâ€™t even begin to explain how grateful I am for people reaching out and showering me with concern.
â€œLuck is important, but it only works its charm for people who recognise their talents and polish it through tons and tons of hard workâ€
This is what made me understand the importance of seeking help; of talking to someone, of letting someone in. I know Iâ€™m not the only person who has suffered from depression. There are so many people who go through hell every day because of the voices inside their head. This is why I want to use whatever influence I may have to urge those people to get help. The taboo that surrounds mental illness needs to be overcome.
I have to take this opportunity to thank someone from team GT. The Assistant Editor, Sana Zehra, met me at my first cover shoot and found out about what I was going through. Sheâ€™s a mental health counsellorÂ and was kind enough to not just take my contact details but stayed in touch with me constantly and kept checking in. Her words of encouragement and motivation still replay in my head every time Iâ€™m low. Iâ€™m forever indebted.
How do you overcome loss and failure?
This universe has a healing power: time. Time really does heal everything. Iâ€™m not saying the pain vanishes, but it takes the form of a scar. It stays with you for the rest of your life, but hurts only when you revisit or touch it. I remember looking at my reflection in the mirror a while after my motherâ€™s death. I was ashamed of the fact that I was smiling, laughing, eating and carrying on with my everyday routine. Itâ€™s weird but it happens, you get on with life.
As far as professional failures are concerned, theyâ€™ve never been a roadblock for me. I think you stop growing if you experience constant success. Failure makes you understand that youâ€™re human and motivates you to keep yourself in check and do better.
â€œI’m not saying I’m the first child to have lost a parent or the first parent to have lost a child, but I realise now that because I never spoke to anyone about how broken I was, things actually became worse for meâ€
You and Mohsin Khawar decided to capture the essence of Lahore throughÂ yourÂ shoot. How would you describe the love you have forÂ yourÂ country?
I met Mohsin Khawar at the poster shoot of a film. This is when he spoke to me about collaborating on a photo shoot. I really like his concepts and his belief that actors should do more than just generic glamorous shoots.
The first time we did a shoot together I chose to dress up as a clown. For this particular shoot, featured on your cover, I wanted to dress up as Charlie Chaplin, but it was Mohsin who suggested we try to capture Lahoreâ€™s essence as well. Itâ€™s great working with him, heâ€™s a very positive man with a great vibe.
â€œI remember the only time I ever thought about becoming famous was the day I first stepped foot in Karachi. Only took a week for me to realise how hard it really was to make
On my love for Pakistan, I can just say that whatever I am is because of this country. Iâ€™m a complete patriot. In fact, I hate travelling abroad, I just always want to explore my own country. I prefer travelling by road so I donâ€™t miss out on the breathtaking views. Iâ€™ve also always admired the men in uniform who keep us safe from all forms of threats, internal and external.
Photography: Mohsin Khawar
Art Direction: Aysha Mohsin
Starring: Mohsin Abbas Haider & Musa Mohsin Khawar
Wardrobe: Tangerine & Carmin
Location: Sweet Tooth, Heera Mandi