You may find a young busker entertaining crowds with the songs of Kumar Sanu, Bollywood’s undisputed “lord of melody,” on most evenings at a public park on Islamabad’s main Murree Road.
Akhtar Hussain, 35, paints houses and buildings for a living. However, by dusk, he is Kumar Sanu of Lake View Park, singing in the sweet voice of a musician who has given India some of Bollywood’s biggest hit songs since the 1980s, wearing a shalwar kameez smeared with paint.
Hussain’s side job provides him with some daily tips and significantly aids in his ability to sustain his family. Additionally, it is the only way a daily wage worker who is also a parent of four young children can ever hope to get the attention of a record label.
As he painted a recently built house outside of the nation’s federal capital, Hussain told that “Kumar Sanu is my favorite and I have been listening to his music since childhood.”
The musician claimed that Sanu’s “sadness” in the singer’s voice was what motivated him to learn over 250 of his songs by heart.
The voice of Kumar Sanu was filled with pain. Hussain was mixing paint in a bowl when little white drops of paint fell on his black rubber shoes. “I liked that pain, so I started humming his songs,” he added.
He would hum one or more Sanu songs as he answered questions, such as Chura Ke Dil Mera (After Stealing My Heart) or Mera Dil Bhi Kitna Pagal Hai (How Mad is My Heart). 99% of the time when I sing, people tell me I’m lip-syncing, Hussain added. People tell me when I sing on the microphone, “This is not your place; you should be on a big platform,” trust me.
Hussain claimed that despite encouragement, he had been unable to break into the professional singing world and that his attempts to succeed as a playback singer in Pakistan’s film business had all been in vain. “I sing Kumar Sanu’s songs. But if you write [songs] for me, I’m ready to sing them,” he said, urging film and drama producers in Pakistan to give new and emerging musicians a chance. “I desire to be promoted and supported.”
“But I am lagging behind as I don’t have the means … I don’t have the status,” he said. “I have the voice, but people prefer status, that looks at him, he is wearing VIP clothes or he is a famous personality.”
Then, Hussain turned back to his work, sanding off paint from a wall, readying it to apply a fresh layer as he hummed the lyrics of a famous Sanu song:
“Ay, Kash Kay Hum Hosh Mein Ab Aanay Na Paaein, Naghmein Tayray Pyaar Kay Gatay He Jaein (I Hope That I Never Regain My Consciousness So That I Can Keep On Singing Songs Of Your Love).”