Memories That Last - Zakir Alladin

You’ve been in the entertainment industry for the last 25 years. How did it all begin?
I had an influence of activities provided at home during my childhood that changed the way I looked at things. I was always encouraged to participate in music and theatre, right from my school days. I was in fact a part of my school, The Hyderabad Public School’s, first ever band. I was the lead singer and guitarist in it. All this gave me an idea of what the entertainment industry was all about. I continued to pursue music and theatre even in college, and then I went on to becoming part of the Dramatic Circle of Hyderabad. Here my interest lay in front of the stage and I saw that they used to use sound effects and music methodology that was out-dated. So, I introduced a real time method way back in 1991 wherein I would sit with the script and follow each line with the sound effects. Everyone does that today, but back then nobody had access to any instrument, which since I was part of a band I had access to.

I went on to finish my schooling, left Hyderabad and got involved in other things, but I was in a band all through, so the love for music was always there. Somewhere down the line, when I came back to Hyderabad it was like I was back to where I had left things. One fine day The Dramatic Circle of Hyderabad decided to host a 15 day-long festival titled ‘Sanskaar’ which involved music, dance, art, and theatre. We had the best artistes of the country participating in it. My job in the festival was to be involved in the technical aspect. Hyderabad had no technical expertise at that time, so we hired Roger Drego—the best in the field—from Mumbai for the same, and I assisted him in everything he did. I worked with him for the 15 days he was here, and during this time he saw my interest in the sound and music business so he asked me to come to Mumbai to work and learn from him. So I did just that, and then came back and started my company.

What would you credit to you getting into this field?
Certainly being part of a band and the Dramatic Circle of Hyderabad. It created an interest in art in me, and therefore it became a passion. I didn’t get into the field looking at the money involved, rather, for the love of the art. It was while working with these professionals that I realised that I didn’t want to be someone who just ran the rat race. I wanted to do things differently, so I decided to do it for a price, but at the same time, do things because I feel like doing it. It was a challenge back then—nobody had the right equipment, expertise, or funds. But we still managed to get work done and make a difference. That in my opinion is great!

What was the breakthrough event in your career?
Sanskaar was fun; I loved it. But the high point in my career was an event I did for the Indian Air Force, Bidar Station. They came up to me one day and said ‘We want to launch and we want you to help us launch.’ Normally you launch cars, a laptop, a store, but here the Chief of the Bidar Station called me to meet him and took me to the hangar and showed me a fighter jet and said ‘This is what we want to launch.’ The Defence Minister at that time, Mr Anthony was going to come to launch the fighter jet, the first indigenous fighter plane made by HAL in the country that was being inducted into the Air force. And we were given the opportunity to launch it! It was a big event, and a master experience! Initially your expertise lay in audio services but it later went on to becoming a full-fledged entertainment company. Tell us how this happened.

We started off with sound and then went on to adding lights, and soon we realised that we needed to add video to our expertise, so instead of investing in AV supplies, we decided to outsource it to professionals. This way we made the entire industry grow along with us. We trained ordinary people and gave them jobs and now there are numerous people all across the world who once worked with us.

How different is the industry right now since when you started?
It has transformed completely. Today, training and equipment is available, the clientele has changed, and we have the Hi-Tech City that never existed earlier. There’s so much more business and revenue; everything has changed. Every single IT Company has a rewards and recognition program where they need us, product launches, annual days and family days, all where they need us event companies. So there’s plenty of work for everyone.

How do you collaborate with other professionals in the same field?
There aren’t too many professionals in this field. Thus, a lot of us often collaborate on projects wherein each of us does what we’re good at, and together we present fabulous shows. I have collaborated with Meher Aria, Dinaz Noria, Imran Khan, and several others through the course of my career. Times have changed; people who were once insecure of a competitor are now joining hands to work with each other. That’s the only way to grow.

Hyderabad has become a preferred destination for several big festivals recently. Do you think there is a market here?
Of course! There are lot of interesting things happening in Hyderabad as opposed to the rest of the country, and that’s happening because of the support of the government. They have realised that after people log out of office they need quality entertainment. That’s the only way to keep the city on par with the rest of the world. The government is creating cultural spaces that can be used by everyone. In fact, we help design such spaces. We did so for Lamakaan, Apollo Hospitals, and are in the process of making one of our own in Secunderabad, too.

Coming back to theatre, it is almost a dying art. What are your thoughts on this?
Actually, it was a dying art, but isn’t anymore. Over the last 10 years I’ve seen at least seven to eight theatre groups emerging in the city. They may not be famous but they’re still performing, whether in a small or big way. It has certainly grown from what it was in the ‘90s. There’s so much happening in the city today—stand up comedies, plays, etc.

What do you do when you’re not working?
I spend a lot of time listening to music. I listen to almost every genre—right from Western classical to Hindustani classical to EDM, Rock and even Jazz. I listen to music for around 15-16 hours a day. Whether I’m working or sleeping, the music always plays. Apart from that I spend time with my two kids. I try to take them away from the run of the mill methodology of upbringing. I also enjoy travelling and broadening my horizons. I believe it teaches you things that no book can.