KOCHI: ‘Lock up your daughters’ is how a magazine introduced the new kid on the block in the Asian pop music scene - Abbas Hasan. Proclaimed as the next Jay Sean, he was recently signed by the Rishi Rich productions (who launched the likes of Jay Sean and Juggy D) and was chosen as ‘Bachelor of the Year for 2010’ by the Asian Woman Magazine. What more could a 23-year-old ask for, it would seem. But Abbas Hasan is quite nonchalant. “It’s flattering and fun, just part of the package of being a singer, I guess,” he laughs. Obviously his music is all that really matters to him.
But what on earth is a French Asian pop singer, who has never been to India, let alone Kerala, doing here? Well, Abbas is here for a ‘filmy’ reason, he will be seen doing the lead role in an upcoming Malayalam movie - Mazhavillinattam Vare, a debut directional venture by lyricist Kaithapram, where his heroine is none other than Neelathamara fame Archana Kavi.
Canadian-born Abbas recently made headlines when his debut single ‘Sona,’ topped the charts in the UK. His Indian/Pakistani roots and childhood in Paris helped in widening his musical horizons, he says. “In my family we grew up to celebrate our heritage. I’ve watched a lot of Bollywood and am fluent in Hindi, Urdu, English and French. I grew up listening to everything from Indian classical and Pakistani to, of course, rock and pop.” So how would he describe ‘Sona?’ “I don’t want to pigeonhole it to one genre and would like to call it pop, because pop can be anything from Michael Jackson to David Bowie. But I guess whatever I do will have an eastern flavour to it.” His favourite musician is A R Rahman. “The way he fuses the east and the west is amazing.” And how did he get to meet the one and only Rishi Rich? Abbas moved to London, the UK being the hub of Asian music. He was giving performances and doing a bit of modeling to support himself when one day he got a call from Rishi Rich. “When we met, we knew we had to work together.”
And how did the Malayalam movie come about? “I was working on my new album when a Malayali photographer friend Joe Paul told me about the movie.” At first he wasn’t too sure about it as he was busy with his album. “But as soon as I found out about the concept I got really interested in it. It’s a love story told through cricket, but most importantly it’s about not believing in borders and boundaries. As a global Asian artist, I think that’s what our generation is all about. The movie really reflected me. And Kaithapram has really put his heart and soul into it.” Kaithapram was on the lookout for a Pakistani actor to play the lead in his movie when Abbas was suggested to him. The original choice was cricketer Mohammed Asif but he was later dropped due to matchfixing allegations.
So how does he find the Malayalam industry? “It’s been two months now and I’ve come to love Kerala. Working here is very different; it’s a bit more chaotic but it’s more like an organised chaos... The good thing about the flexibility is that people are able to be more creative.”
Abbas cannot even pronounce the title Mazhavillinattam Vare properly but apparently he speaks a lot of Malayalam in the movie as his character Yasin Mubarak has roots in Kerala. “That factor also attracted me, Yasin is treated like a foreigner but this is his home. The experience has been similar for me.”
And his co-stars? “Working with Archana Kavi has been great. I watched clips of Neelathamara and think she is a great actor. She has really helped me with the pronunciation, too.”
The movie will be released in Hindi, Tamil and Urdu later. As soon as he is done with the movie, Abbas will be returning to London to work on his album which will be released this year.
So will he be returning to Kerala and expand his already growing fan base? “I’ve met some really interesting people here so I won’t be surprised if I’m back,” he laughs.