A follower of Nepali music, film and television will surely have come across Asif Shah’s name, one way or the other. From singing the popular “Pahilo Maya” and half a dozen other songs with The Unity band in the 2000s, to acting in music videos like Kali Prasad’s “Insta Ko Photo”. To directing music videos, shaking a leg in the famous “Kutu Ma Kutu” song, to starring in the movie “Dui Rupaiyan” and another called “Karkash,” Shah has had a distinguishable presence everywhere. His popularity on television has only increased as a two-time host of the popular reality show “Nepal Idol”.
But when you ask the 39-year-old what he does for living, “I’m an ad director” comes the prompt reply. “That comes from the top of my head when someone asks me about my profession,” he adds. “Although I don’t share much on social platform about my ad films, this is what I’ve mainly been doing of late.” Shah co-owns G21 Productions with his brother Asim Shah and has made hundreds of television commercials for brands including Ncell, Coke, Sprite, and Himalaya Herbals.
Shah’s TV career started in 2001 when he got selected as a presenter for a local channel. “It was by fluke,” he says. “A couple of my friends were trying out and I was giving them pointers. They asked me to come along with them just for fun, and I was the one who landed the job, not them.” That interview would kickstart Shah’s almost two-decade-long career in media. “I guess my destiny pulled me in,” he says.
Within two weeks of starting as a presenter, Shah was also producing his own shows and directing them, while also honing his presentation skills. He went on to work with some of the biggest television channels in the country and at the same time started the G21 production house. With G21 Digital and G21 Productions—separate entities—Shah began making music videos and films as well as TVCs.
A presenter and producer interested in music directing music videos is only natural. But Shah’s ad-making interests came from the inspiration he drew from TVCs when young. “I remember watching a TVC of an Indian product called Savlon. It was simple, subtle, and brought home the point, and at the same time I knew it was not a high budget production. I realized creativity matters more than big budget in TVCs.” Shah’s love for TVCs over actual programs inspired him to start a career in ad-filmmaking.
As for his Nepal Idol stint, Shah says that it was an offer he could not resist. He was offered a chance to host the second season of the international franchise when he was on a hiatus from the screen, and he decided to take it. Asked if the time dedicated to Nepal Idol hampered his other professions, he replies in the negative. “It helped me, in fact,” Shah says. “It was about time I made it back to the small screen, and with Nepal Idol’s popularity, people started recognizing me more. My clients, agencies and even the celebrities I endorsed for my ads started recognizing me more.”
Shah is all praise for the Nepal Idol franchise, and claims AP1 television’s endeavors brought about a revolution in Nepali television. “Nepal Idol came at a time when the TV audience was dwindling and people watched Nepali channels just for news,” he says. “It proved that if TVs had good content, people would still watch it. This had a positive impact on the whole industry and locally produced shows started scaling up.”
Although he doesn’t want to call himself a singer, Shah’s love for music has also resulted him in continuing his passion. He has recently released “Bato Biraye”, which is already a hit, with a million views on YouTube. “I will continue with Nepal Idol as long as it remains my passion and for now, we are also planning to expand G21 Digital’s scope,” he says. “We will start operating like an international record label and give artists and musicians more platforms to showcase their music.”