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Emirati singer Adel Farooq takes on Bollywood

Emirati singer Adel Farooq takes on Bollywood

The singer and actor, fluent in Hindi and attuned to Asian culture, is working hard to break into the industry.

By Mohamad Kadry

Published: Tue 23 Jun 2015, 10:01 PM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 2:46 PM

Have a listen to Adel Farooq's music and you might never realise that his ethnic background is Emirati.

Singing fluently in Hindi and Urdu, Farooq’s affinity for Asian cinema has driven him to pursue a career in Bollywood. With an album and hit television series already under his belt, the dream of joining his favourite stars on the silver screen is closer than ever. We catch up with the rising star as he attempts to branch out into acting.

Now that you’re pursuing an acting career, will you still focus on making music?
I will return to the music scene in the second half of 2015 as I recently contributed a song to a Sufi album, which will be released soon by Sony BMG Music Entertainment. Currently I am focusing on brushing up my acting skills.

What has it been like for you trying to break into the entertainment industry?
In simple terms when it comes to the entertainment side of things, it’s been a little horrendous. When I’ve sung for audiences, the feedback has always been positive. But I’ve always struggled with getting airplay on radio. Very few Hindi stations have played my songs. I’ve called up stations saying “Listen, I’m an Emirati singing in your language. I’m the only one that does it; there’s no other Arab doing it”. But I’m always told that they only play blockbusters or music by artists from their own social circles. It’s been a constant struggle.

Are you getting more industry attention now then when you first started out nearly a decade ago?
I’ve kept working my day jobs, from banking to events, but along the way I’ve also performed with the top lot of Bollywood including Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, KK as well as the Pakistani band Strings. But I don’t feel like I’ve been given enough exposure. I did a cover of the song Teri Meri Kahaani, and the composer loved it. People were telling me it was better than the original and even my friend Farah Khan was promoting it on her social media pages. But I believe local artists need more support in order to gain recognition. There is so much talent here, from all nationalities, and they need to be given the chance to showcase their work.

You made your acting debut in the hit Hindi television series Parwaaz. What was that like?
I actually joined the project to record the title track for the series, but then I was asked to join the cast. I had never done it before. One day the director asked me to meet with him and offered me the villain’s role. I figured that if you do a villain’s role properly, people will never forget you. From Heath Ledger as the Joker to Al Pacino in Scarface, it leaves an impression with fans. So I thought “Why not?” The role was larger than life. The character was very suave, like an underworld don with slicked back hair.

As a singer, how did you prepare for acting?
I like to tell people that I’m a singer by choice and actor by fluke. It was initially intimidating because you get a little camera conscious. But I’ve always had a confident personality and this enhances in front of a crowd. The director and my co-stars told me that I was a natural in front of the camera thanks to my menacing demeanor, so it was a wonderful experience. The butterflies were still there but I think they should always be there to keep you sharp and focused.

What’s your plan for Bollywood?
My plan is to keep singing, and now that I’ve tasted blood with acting, I would love to take it up further. I’m looking forward to exploring opportunities.

Why do you think Bollywood is so popular with Middle Eastern audiences?
There has always been a special affinity between the Arabs and the subcontinent, so over the years Bollywood has become a part of our culture as well.

People who know Shah Rukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan may not know who Brad Pitt is. I think we all love a little bit of colour and laughter in life.


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