• Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Arts and Culture

All about Aaliyah Qureishi

Jawan, the action entertainer headlined by Shah Rukh Khan has introduced singer turned actress the actress to a wider audience

Aaliyah Qureishi

By: Asjad Nazir

BOLLYWOOD blockbuster Jawan has swept across the globe like a giant tidal wave. Apart from breaking box office records, the action entertainer headlined by Shah Rukh Khan has introduced singer turned actress Aaliyah Qureishi to a wider audience.

The naturally gifted talent, known under the musical moniker Jhalli, has followed up a winning performance in Netflix series Eternally Confused And Eager For Love with an impactful appearance in the high-profile film. This also follows up winning musical projects like her six-track EP Why Should I and the recently released song Don’t Come Back. With striking good looks, multiple talents and an ability to take on diverse challenges, she is an exciting newcomer who has become one to watch.

Eastern Eye caught up with the 23-year-old you will hear a lot more about to discuss her music, influences, Jawan journey, living in Los Ange – les, future hopes and creative inspirations.


What first connected you to music?

I’ve been singing and writing songs for as long as I can talk. I was in my school choir and that really developed my love for mu – sic. To be able to sing in harmony, with other voices was a beautiful and moving experience – it made me want to do it for the rest of my life. I also used to put on little performances for my parents, where I would sing and dance. I think I knew my dream really early on in life.

How would you describe your sound as an artist?

Put simply, I would describe it as, pop. Although I like to play with different genres and sounds, I always ensure that there’s some ear candy in my songs, whether it’s a catchy hook, melody or really polished production. I think that’s what makes them pop.

Who has been your greatest musical influence?

I have so many. In terms of singers, I really like soulful, power – house vocalists like Asha Bhosle, Farida Khanum, Rekha Bhardwaj, Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Amy Winehouse, Miley Cyrus and Lana Del Rey. In terms of beat production, I draw from all the many genres I love listening to, like classic rock, indie rock, jazz, blues, hip-hop and pure pop. In terms of lyric and melody composition, I love Julian Casablancas, Alex Turner, Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande and Hozier, among many others.

Was acting always a part of the plan? I always loved to act but recognised that it was a hard industry to get into. So it wasn’t until I got my foot in the door through the Netflix show Eternally Confused And Eager For Love that it really seemed like a possibility. That’s when I started auditioning with an intensity and happened upon the Jawan role.

How did you feel landing a role in Jawan?

I felt like the luckiest person in the world. I have always been a huge Shah Rukh Khan fan (like everyone in the country). My favourite movie growing up was Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. I must have watched Main Hoon Na 17 or 18 times. So, to work with SRK was a dream come true.

In Jawan

What was the experience of working on the film?

It was both magical and challenging. Since it was my first big film set, I had to get my bearings right very quickly. Then to share screen space with the legend SRK himself leaves no room for error. But I enjoyed every challenge and it helped me grow both as an actor and a person. It was amazing to see the level of preparation and detailing that goes into a single shot.

What was the most memorable moment of your Jawan journey?

The shooting was for two years so there’s many to pick from. As of two days ago, my favourite moment was getting invited to (his home) Mannat by SRK sir and getting to party with him, dance to our own songs and celebrate the success of the movie. He’s so much fun to dance with, really the life of the party.

What about on set?

My favourite moment on set was probably sitting and talking to SRK sir in between shots and absorbing all the sage life advice and acting advice he has to offer. And sharing my badaams (almonds) with him on set. We both love snacking on badaams when we feel hungry on set.

How much does the blockbuster success of the film mean to you?

It fills my heart with gratitude and the belief that anything is possible. Being an outsider in this industry and this being my first film, I had no idea what to expect. But the love and passion that people have shown for this film, make me grateful to have attracted such a fun and meaningful project into my life. And I’m excited to be a part of Indian cinema history!

What is the plan going forward, will you prioritise acting or music?

Both. Of course, I’ll continue to sing, write songs, produce and release my own music. When a good project comes along, I’ll act in it. When people ask me to choose between the two I really can’t. It’s like choosing between children. Acting gives me the joy of co-creating someone else’s vision and bringing alive their character in my own way. Music gives me the joy of expressing my own vision and talking specifically about my own life and experiences. They’re both so deeply creatively satisfying for me.

 What can we expect next from you on the musical front?

I just released my dream pop song Don’t Come Back. It’s a really fun break up song, so I invite people to check it out. Other than that, I’m working on some cool collaborations and have a song coming up with one of the Jawan girls, so keep an eye out for that.

How much has living in America shaped you as an artist?

I would say it had a huge impact on me. There is so much respect for independent music there. Indie artists are not afraid to take risks and do something weird or unusual. That’s what inspired me to adopt the name Jhalli instead of using my birth name. I liked that it’s attention grabbing, although unusual. I also played a lot of live gigs with my band all around LA, so it increased my confidence and stage presence to now play big festivals like NH7 and open for huge artists like Ritviz.

With Shah Rukh Khan

Do you have a dream role as an actress?

Yes. It might sound strange, but I would love to play a psychopath or serial killer. I am obsessed with criminal psychology and think it would be a really fun and powerful experience. I would also like to explore more comedy roles, because I think that is something that comes naturally to me.

What music dominates your own playlist?

Everything from country to blues to ghazals to Bollywood. Right now, I’m digging the Jawan songs, especially Chaleya and Zinda Banda. I’m also listening to a lot of Doja Cat and Coke Studio bangers like Tu Jhoom. So very mixed and eclectic. And of course, my own song Don’t Come Back is playing on repeat.

 What inspires you as a creative person?

Anything and everything. With music I can get an idea from an inspirational quote, sound of a drum loop or a strong emotion like love or sadness. Sometimes I even get an idea mid conversation and have to leave the group like a weirdo and record a little voice note on my phone, so that I don’t forget.

What about acting?

With acting, I really like observing other actors because everyone has a unique approach and philosophy. I also just like observing people in general and trying to understand their psychology without judgment so I can apply it to a character if necessary.

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