Zaid Ali aka Zaid Ali T aka the internet’s favourite desi humourist, is late and apologetic.
I meet with Zaid two days before he’s scheduled to make an appearance at the Hum Style Awards, HUM TV’s first stab at an award show dedicated solely to fashion.
With a 5 million-strong following on Facebook eager to devour his next video (which he’ll likely script, direct and star in as per usual), perhaps Zaid’s earned the right to be fashionably late – or am I simply swayed by his youthful charm?
He is young — only 21 years old. Almost too young to be flown into Pakistan from his home in Canada especially to make a brief appearance in a show that’s going to be beamed all around the world.
Yet here he is, a testament to the success of his formula, which is to make fairly straightforward videos poking fun at the often hilarious tics of Pakistanis and the desi community abroad. His video “When a girl calls you bhai,” released on Facebook in December last year, earned a whopping 15 million views and half a million likes, to give you an idea of his reach. And though he’s been accused of stereotyping South Asians and stealing jokes, his fan base keeps growing every day.
In person Zaid is slightly shy, not much like the exuberant persona he adopts for his videos. It’s a reminder of how his work is, ultimately, a scripted performance to make you laugh, not a peek inside his own world.
During our interview he explains what he’s getting up to in Pakistan, what his family thinks of his work and more.
“I literally just came back from a meeting about a movie, they have my role and a script ready, I just have to finalise everything in this week. I feel like, since most of my fans are from Pakistan, it would be better to start locally. Also, films in Pakistan tend to be much cleaner than Hollywood or Bollywood movies. See, whatever fame is written for you it’s by God. So my perception is that, ‘do everything that’s clean and leave the rest up to God.’ Whatever is destined for you, you’ll get it.
So that’s why I wanted to start with Pakistani cinema. Who knows, I might not even have the potential to be an actor. It’s just something to experiment with and see if people like it.
I mean, the only two conditions for me to do a movie are that it has a message and its clean. And well, it doesn’t even necessarily have to to have a message, maybe it could just be humorous, but the reason I want to make it clean is that I think the one thing cinema is lacking is that you can’t watch a lot of movies with your parents. Pakistani cinema is pretty good in this respect though.
And one thing I’m known for is bringing families together. My videos are clean and all generations can relate to them, and I feel like that’s the best sort of content to provide people with.” Says Zaid.