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Mohammad Ali: 'Finding my voice'

As a little boy I loved listening to the radio. I was fascinated by this mysterious box that was so small yet packed with different voices.

Image Credit:Ruqya Khan
Mohammed ensures that his radio ads bring a smile to the listener's face.
Friday

Get to know Mohammad Ali, executive director, The Kreative Company (TKC), Dubai.

As a little boy I loved listening to the radio. I was fascinated by this mysterious box that was so small yet packed with different voices.

One steady turn of the knob and you'd be attuned to a different frequency, a different thought, a different mood…

In my heart I cherished the dream to hear my own voice on radio. Life presented me with the right opportunities and I made the most of what I had. I have grown from being a presenter to a voice-over artist, general manager and creative head for different radio stations.

Now I manage a creative consultancy of my own. Some call it fate, some say it is due to hard work.

I wouldn't argue with either of those reasons, because I know that chasing your childhood dream is no easy task.

Testing, testing…

A voice vocation became a part of me early on. I auditioned for All India Radio (AIR) while I was in college.

Initially I covered the university campus and student news on
Yuv Vani, a service of AIR, which provides an enriching and novel radio-experience by encouraging youth participation. This show has been around for more than three decades, but it still holds a firm ground of its own.

It came as a breath of fresh air in our reckless college days. It was a great learning experience for me and it made me realise that radio is not all about goofy quotes and DJs.

Soon I started doing various shows for the commercial radio service, Vividh Bharti. On the sidelines I was voice acting with jingles, voice-overs and dubbing for radio, television and films. A few notable voice ventures?

I was TV news anchor in Mahesh Bhatt's Zakhm, the character Thorne in the Hindi-dubbed The Bold and The Beautiful, BBC's docudrama Gadar and Bhimsain's comic series Vartman to name a few.

On air

Despite earning a good name in the media circles in India, I kept my hobby separate from my career. When it was time to begin work, I chose sales as my foothold. I worked on shifts with Zodiac, the pioneers of ties in India.

I managed their in-house stores across the Taj and Oberoi chain of hotels. I met many high-profile individuals and learnt from them. I developed my people skills, and that helped me immensely. Moreover, I had the liberty of time and worked hard juggling my services between studio, store and stage.

Then in 1993, I joined RadioStar 107.1 FM as their
prime-time DJ, and later as full-time general manager.

Changing stations

Coming to the UAE called for a total shift. This was in the late '90s when FM radio was still beginning to take baby steps. I was appointed the creative head of commercials at Hum FM. I was excited about moving to an international market.

I had heard a lot about this place and knew that I'd be catering to a large population of people who spoke my language.

I uprooted myself to find ground in a new country. I left behind my well-established career and home. The decision wasn't easy, but I took it up as a challenge.

The experience was wonderful for many reasons. I grew as an artist; I loved the work I did. It gave me room to explore new areas of communication. In the studio, we designed advertisements and shows that were a cut above the rest.

Fine-tuning

I was very happy with what I had achieved, but I wanted to cross greater frontiers. I had more than 20 years of workmanship so I went solo with The Kreative Company (TKC). We provide creative consultancy in fabric painting concepts and works, and specialise in creating audio images and recorded content in any format, for any medium. TKC works in Hindi, Urdu, English, Arabic, Malayalam and other regional Indian languages.

Radio stars

Between then and now, media has changed. It is now more deadline-based and offer-oriented. Media has grown phenomenally with high quality creatives and visuals ruling
the day.

People in this field do not have the luxury of time; content has to be churned out fast. It has to be crisp and clear with no room for touch-ups.

I have learnt that creativity knows no bounds. Whether you are independent or not, there should be personal freedom in your work.

My leads have always been result-oriented. I feel, in this part of the world, radio is an important part of a media plan. A sound or radio creative has to be specially designed; the difference between various mediums of communication must be respected.

Off air

Theatre has been a good friend. As an artist, I have always loved the stage. I was involved in drama all through school, college and later as part of a Mumbai theatre group. In the UAEI had a chance to perform on stage. The most appreciated roles that I have done so far have been in plays like Munshi Premchand's Bade Bhaisahab and Asghar Wajahat's Jis Lahore.

On one hand, while theatre drains your energy, on the other it energises you. I enjoy the process of bringing a character to life. The way you differentiate sets your performance apart. Two people may perform the same role but their performances will not be identical because each artist has unique mannerisms.

The spot

Condensing and packaging a complete concept into 30 seconds of attention gives me a thrill. A successful campaign is one that forever stays in mind. An advertisement should speak beyond the words in the script; people should remember every bit of the few seconds they hear.

An advertisement should bring a smile to the listener's face or tears to his eyes. It should leave room for thought, arouse curiosity… This is the kind of work I do.

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