When you get preachy, no one listens: Shehzad Roy



LAHORE: Shehzad Roy has been in the news lately and for all the right reasons. Working on his debut film with acclaimed satirist Anwar Maqsood, campaigning for educational reform and releasing a music video which harks back to his romantic hero days, he has his hands full.

Talking to The Express Tribune, the singer-cum-activist — who charmingly oscillates between combating socio-political issues and being the quintessential 90s hero material with his romantic songs — speaks about his projects in the pipeline.

His latest campaign video is called the Sirf Bandhi Hai Kamar or #ReformMatricBoard and it is not something ordinary. It satirically takes jabs at our society that unwittingly shuns critical thinking within its education system. While Roy has received a fair share of criticism for it, generally more praise has come his way.

“I was happy to see the likes and shares on Facebook. Malala Yousafzai and former Guns N’ Roses drummer Matt Sorum tweeted about it and it got picked up internationally,” he said. Roy feels satire is the best way to talk about social problems in Pakistan. “My album Laga Reh in 2008 was when I started this and it became a commercial hit. Satire is a great way to discuss things that people would not listen to otherwise because when you get preachy no one listens.”

Roy has worked on a series of campaigns through his NGO Zindagi Trust with the purpose of educating the people. Some of his well-known songs loaded with awareness messages include Chal Parha and Qismat Apney Haath Mein but this video had a particular aim; to eliminate rote learning in education.

“We are already working on the ground in public schools where they have changed policies but this campaign aims to test students’ analytical skills by changing the way the questions are asked in the examination,” shared Roy.

Besides the support garnered on social media, he has found like-minded people inside the education system itself. “There are many inside the system who want reforms and upon speaking to them, I realised that they have the same agenda. With my video, I hope to give them a voice to make a difference.”

However, there are some who miss the old Roy who sang about love and relationships. “My fans wanted something like my old romantic music so that’s how Jind Jaan came about,” he added.  Zoe Viccaji collaborated for the song, whereas actor-model Iman Ali has featured in the video that he plans to release later this month. However, this does not mean Roy will leave his socio-political predispositions behind.

“I don’t think it’s necessary to release something all the time. When I was inspired to release a romantic number, I did it. I have a lot of recorded material and this was from that,” he said.

As for his upcoming film, he said, “I never thought I would do films but then I thought that movies have two-and-a-half hours to talk about a topic as opposed to the two odd minutes of a song. That’s why I thought it was an interesting medium.” His upcoming cinematic venture will hence unsurprisingly be a satirical take on the state of affairs in Pakistan. “I am also working on some other social campaigns and releasing them in a month’s time,” he added.