Taimoor Salahuddin, more famously known as Mooroo, has arrived with a bang without creating a ruckus. He has become one of the most bankable names in Pakistan’s pop music industry and has done so rather seamlessly, it seems.
His soft vocals and mellow musical melodies give his listeners a break from the chaotic world that they live in. ‘Kahani Purani’ and ‘Mariam’, two of his extremely popular original songs, have the ability to instantly transport a person to a far away land, where there is no violence, no aggression; a place where people probably speak softly, as softly as Mooroo sings.
But Mooroo tells me that he has had a very aggressive and rebellious past, something one would be shocked to hear. “I know right, because my music is so soft and mellow,” he chuckles heartily as we settle down in his living room. His pet Persian kitten roams about lazily, while his Labrador, Jude, occasionally hides my shoe playfully. How the cat and dog co-exist so peacefully is another example of Mooroo’s karma.
“I used to be a terrible student,” he takes the narrative back. “I got awful grades; I barely passed school. I used to get into a lot of fights. Totaled a car once.” It makes one wonder what Mooroo was rebelling against. Was it teenage angst or something else? “It was a little bit of teenage angst. But I had no interest in the subjects I was forced to study. Science and mathematics just weren’t my thing. I wanted to study art.”
Mooroo’s family did not support the idea of their son becoming an artist or a musician. “They would enjoy my music, but then they would be quick to remind me that music can only be a hobby. So I acted out.” The singer-songwriter then found himself giving a tough time to his parents in order to pursue the career of his dreams. “I still don’t know who or what I am. Am I a singer or a writer, I don’t know. But I knew back then that I wanted to pursue the arts.”
Eventually, after many fist fights, failing grades and angry outbursts, Mooroo finally got a chance to study filmmaking. “My parents gave in and decided to let me try my hand at filmmaking. I was also shocked but excited that my parents were giving me this chance; I couldn’t s**** up my grades this time. I had to give it my all.”
Mooroo then became the best student there ever was. The friction between him and his family finally decreased and Mooroo now spent all his time studying. “All my friends who knew me from my childhood couldn’t believe that I had become so studious and hardworking.”
Perhaps his friends won’t believe this either that the grown up Mooroo also spends all his time working. He’s one of the most dynamic artists of Pakistan as he writes short scripts and music, has a beautiful singing voice and has mastered the technical aspects of filmmaking as well, such as editing, cinematography and direction. In fact, Mooroo is famous for making Facebook sketch videos in which he plays two different characters, one as himself, and the other as the crude and relatable house-worker Amanullah. These videos are also shot and edited by him.
One would think that Mooroo is trying to save money by doing the jobs of five different people. “That too, but I usually have a very specific vision for whatever I write. With other people, sometimes I get irritated because they aren’t able to deliver the words the way I want them to. So at that point I go like ‘yaar lao mein khud kar leta hoon.’ That’s the same with editing as well. I eventually end up doing everything myself.”
Which is why one will always find Mooroo either writing songs, or working on short scripts or editing, or snapchatting or vlogging for his fans and followers on social media. While Pakistan is very slowly moving towards the digital age, Mooroo is one of the few local artists who is very tech savvy and is available on almost every other social media platform.
In an earlier interview, I had asked Mooroo how he finds the time to manage all this work, to which the singer replied, “I don’t do anything else in my life other than work.”
So now, I probe the topic further and ask Mooroo how much human interaction he has on a daily basis. “I think maybe twice or thrice a week.” That is an interesting statistic; for someone who reaches out to hundreds and thousands of people daily over his Facebook and Snapchat accounts, Mooroo encounters actual human beings only twice a week. “I like to stay in my own zone. I even feel weird answering phone calls; I prefer to reply with audio notes on Whatsapp instead.”
He explained further that speaking to people has an impact on him and his emotions. “If I’m trying to write a song that is supposed to be sad and somebody starts talking to me about something that makes me angry, then it takes me away from my work. Now, instead of being sad, I am angry because of someone else. All of the lyrics that were coming to me are now gone. That’s the case when I’m writing scripts as well, or when I’m editing.”
Mooroo asserts that he only answers phone calls when he is absolutely doing nothing. “In my free time, I prefer to watch movies instead of going out and socializing with a lot of people. But then again, watching movies is also work for me because that’s where I get a lot of my ideas from. It’s like research.”
Does Mooroo feel that the digital age is reducing human interaction? “I think Denzel Washington said this earlier that oh we have all these computers and social networks to keep us connected but are we really becoming more social? Actually we are becoming more anti-social now. Earlier one would call the other to say ‘Happy Birthday’ and now there’s a button that you have to press that does the job for you. But for me it’s just a tool. I still have the same five or six friends I made in school, with a few additions recently. We all have a group on Whatsapp and we stay in touch over it. So for me, it’s just a tool. I never thought of it as a means of connecting with people. It was always for work.” But didn’t Mooroo earlier say that social media was taking him away from meeting people? “Work has. And this is work.”
While one would think that Mooroo’s work isolates him from others, the other side of the story suggests that things are not as bleak as they may appear. “Sometimes I get messages from random people who say that they were able to relate to what I was saying. I also like asking questions from random people regarding my work so that I can understand the human psyche a bit better. For me, it’s like a knowledge database and it helps me in making my work better.”
It seems that Mooroo is always either working or thinking about working. When does he take a break? “My mother tries to get me to go on a vacation but I feel like I had certain goals that I wanted to achieve by this age but I’m getting older and older so I need to triple down on my efforts to get there. And I’m not there yet.” And where does Mooroo want to be? “I should have made a feature film by now. I should have done more work. Should have had two music albums.”
This explains why Mooroo seems to be running the race against time in order to prove to his own self. “There’s a certain age for artists in which they peak. A good filmmaker makes his best work in his thirties, forties and fifties. After fifties, they sort of start to decline. So I think okay, let’s spend all of this time producing the greatest work I’ll ever create and then spend the rest of my life taking it easy and chilling with my friends. That is if they still want to chill with me after I vanish from their lives for nearly thirty years,” chuckles Mooroo again.
As the cool Karachi breeze comes flying through the window, suddenly it appears that Mooroo might have finally slowed down for a few minutes for the sake of a very candid conversation. And for someone who seems to have trouble connecting with people in real life, Mooroo had no trouble in showing me who he really is.