Chall Bulleya, Mekaal Hasan Band’s latest video, introduces Saligia, otherwise known as the seven deadly sins: superbia, avaritia, luxuria, invidia, gula, ira, acedia…
The opening sequence of the video shows a ‘do not disturb’ sign that is duly checked by the hotel maid who moves on. Inside we encounter visuals of a clock over which time is passing quickly, a pair of aged feet with crumbling toe-nails worse than that of the fabled hobbits’ which belong to a man that seems to have remained in bed for a very, very long time. The remote drops and he gets up and we see his haggard face and the reflection of the television screen on it. Enter: the music of Chall Bulleya, Mekaal Hasan Band’s (MHB) latest video currently doing rounds on the airwaves, marking the launch of its second album (after a hiatus of five years), Saptak. In this exclusive scoop to Images on Sunday we take a look into the video and speak to Mekaal Hasan.
The band has previously released several videos from this album on the airwaves which include Jhok Ranjhan and Huns Dhun, both directed by Zeeshan Parwez. After launching the album-launch video, Chall Bulleya (directed by Bilal Lashari), it intends to release their semi-animated video of Waris Shah, also directed by Zeeshan Parwez, soon.
MHB has a history of releasing videos that have also attempted at conducting its share of social commentary. The first video Rabba (directed by Maryam Rehman) spoke about the alienation of an individual in an increasingly globalised world. Huns Dhun on the other hand, shed light on the repatriation of the Afghan refugees in Pakistan back in 2007.
MHB’s current video is perhaps its most glamourised video to date. The cast includes quite a handful of names from the local industry, namely model Aaminah Haq, musician/television actor/director Ahmed Ali Butt, film actress Meera, film actor Moammar Rana, film actor and musician Fawad Khan, designer Kamiar Rokni, television actor and talk show host Juggan Kazim and models Feeha and Rabia Butt among others.
The video is based on the early Christian concept of the seven deadly sins, otherwise known as Saligia. The word Saligia has been named from the first letter of each sin in Latin, namely superbia (pride/vanity) avaritia (avarice/insatiable appetite for wealth), luxuria (lust), invidia (envy), gula (gluttony), ira (wrath) and acedia (sloth/apathy or extreme inactivity). The list of the sins was coined by the fourth-century monk Evagrius Ponticus, which was further relisted by Pope Gregory I in 590AD. They then made their appearance in Dante Alighieri’s literary masterpiece, The Divine Comedy, immortalising the concept of Saligia in modern culture.
Although the concept of each room in a seedy hotel housing guests — each of which have their own story to tell and all connected via the hotel maid (Juggan) whose job it is to interact and serve them — has been done to death, the manner in which it was executed by Bilal Lashari breathes new life into it. The guest in the opening sequence of the video, who doesn’t get out of bed (“that man was actually sleeping. It was 3am when we shot this,” added Mekaal), represents the first sin: sloth. The visual comes in at a time when the vocalist (Jawaid Bashir) is singing the verse Chall Bulleya, chall othey challiye jithay sarey anney (Bulleh Shah, let’s go to a place where everyone is blind). “In the sense that no one is better or worse than anyone else, where everybody’s equal,” explained Mekaal.
Vanity as a sin comes in when the maid is shooed away by the narcissistic Aaminah Haq, coming in on the verse Na koi sadi zaat pehchaney, na koi sanu manney (No one recognises your lineage or gives you extra respect for your material position in life). The mirror she is looking into shatters, she hears a gunshot and screams and we see her make a phone call.
In the next room, Fawad Khan and Kamir Rokni are engaged in the third sin, Wrath. They are embroiled in a bloody fight in which Fawad ends up murdering Kamiar. This comes with the verse Tu to kaway tay, tumya javein, te main main kawan to churriyaan (Where one person is adamant about getting his own way but the moment another suggests otherwise, there is a conflict).
Moammar Rana along with Feeha and Rabia Butt display lust. This is pretty straightforward as we see the threesome engaged in acts of intimacy, with nothing shown outright. This segment is not signified by a verse from the song, instead there is a flute solo by Pappu Saheb. According to Mekaal, “there are no lyrics for the Lust part but the flute in Greek mythology has always been associated with it.”
A four-armed Ahmed Ali Butt embodies the next sin, Gluttony. He is seen gorging on food as if there is no tomorrow. The added arms almost seem real while the song goes, Ek karakar tukkar wajey, tata howay chulla.“Tukkar used to be the horn used in olden times to call an assembly. Blow the horn and call everyone, tata is for the chullla, heat it up so everybody can get together and eat. Avey javey, har koi khavey, razi ho gaye Bullah. Bulleh Shah’s happiness lies in the thought that no one is going to go hungry,” elucidated Mekaal on the lyrics for the segment.
The next one is quite interesting. In the manner of the life of the late Anna Nicole Smith, Meera is shown leaving her aged and dying husband to show off her jewels and to bath in a tub full of money. She depicts the sixth sin, Greed. Shown over the lyrics Bulleh ashiq goya Rab da, hoi malamat lakh, Mekaal said that “what we’ve shown here is that for Meera, as the character she is playing, money is her god.”
In the ending sequence Juggan is seen going into her room which houses screens showing all of the guests she has just tried serving. She is the voyeur and representative of the last sin, Envy. Throughout the video, we observe her moving from one room to another, trying to pick up on what her guests are doing and as the video progresses, she seems to be tempted to indulge in the sins herself. She tries to listen to what was happening in the room where lust was at work, she steals an orange from the glutton, etc. Back in her room, she looks at the camera and for the briefest second gives a small smile, at the end of which she displays the darkness in her. Shot and put together like a film, Chall Bulleya is a video with many layers to it, which can be discovered each time it is watched.
Although the lyrical content of the song preaches against these sins, the video ironically shows the exact opposite. “Because we’ve shown how people are not like that. How they’re so self-obsessed, so into what they are doing that that is the only state of happiness that they can find,” responded Mekaal.
For Chall Bulleya, MHB’s made the switch from Zeeshan to Bilal… “we haven’t shifted,” interjected Mekaal, “Zeeshan’s already done Waris Shah. He’s done a wonderful animated video. He’s very good at capturing intimacy and quiet moments. Bilal has an extremely fine eye for detail and for capturing things on a larger-than-life level but still making them very detailed. In this video there is no personal interaction of the viewer. Everything is very removed and yet the song is about not being that.”
Has the band ever been tempted to act in its own videos as do other musicians? Mekaal responds with: “F*** that s***. Get people who can act!”