And They Called Him Mooroo...
‘I am very open and easily moved by stimulants by the external worlds’ - Taimoor Salahuddin
The legend goes that there was once a boy who performed miserably in school. He evaded all attempts that went into 'disciplining and civilizing' him. In him, resided a slowly budding lust; lust to create, to explore, to sing, and perform. His lust for the arts was suppressed academically at school and personally at home. As he grew older, he realised he is not cut for the traditional 9-5 corporate life. He realized he would rather pursue a career that satisfies his inner artist than submit to a job that would pay bills instantly. He rebelled and did what takes massive courage - he believed in himself and unshackled himself from the conventional.
Today, they call him Mooroo, the multitalented YouTube giant who forever changed how we consume the digital space. Sitting on the wealth of 953k YouTube subscribers, 324k Instagram followers, over 500,000 likes on Facebook, Mooroo’s influence goes beyond these large numbers. A musician, actor, filmmaker, and above all, a YouTuber, Mooroo is revered (yes, that’s the intensity) for his eccentric, relatable, and unique vlogs which takes his followers through his experiences, projects, makes them laugh, shed a tear or moves them. Above everything, it is the originality of his content which sets him apart. What connects him to his audience is the relatability - Mooroo confesses to being a sloppy, undisciplined student who refuted traditional education and pursued his love for music, films, and creation. Fast-forward to the present, he is considered one of the most commercially successful and loved YouTubers of his time. Read on as he talks about being Mooroo and what does it take to influence in the digital age.
An ice-breaking question – how would you introduce yourself and the work you do to an elderly stranger?
I would use words that they understand. For instance, I won't say that I am a YouTuber because it's possible that they won't know what YouTube or Instagram is. What I would say is that I am a filmmaker and a musician because these are age-old things. I will refrain from mentioning the platform, I will just mention the art and craft that I do because that is universal across times and everybody understands these things.
You have talked extensively about performing miserably in high school and beyond, academic wise. What was your creative escape at that point in time which turned into your passion today? …On the same note. Looking back, how did this truly begin for you? Which project became your claim to fame?
Yes, I was quite a bad student as far as academics are concerned and faced issues discipline-wise as well. I was reacting to not being encouraged to do the things that I am really good at, which was acting and playing music and all these performing-art things. They were discouraged in an academic way in school, in a more personal way at home. So my creative escape during this time was to watch a lot of movies, read a lot of comics, and play the guitar which is the kind of thing. I do now. I absorb, I learn from other people and express myself through my voice and the guitar, and a paper and a pencil.
There was no particular project but we had a band which would play songs and provide entertainment - that was our calling. Ultimately people really valued us for that. As a young boy who is looking for female attention, a lot of girls would give me attention which was one really encouraging factor. It wasn't fame, but just a means to get a little attention at that time.
I think I became a singer first as people used to ask me to sing in Antakshari. Then to aid my singing, I got a guitar from my childhood friend, Dona, who was a great support. But being a musician didn't seem like a viable profession to my parents. I was always very fond of filmmaking and acting too. I would do all these imitations of comedians and actors. For me, filmmaking seemed to be a place where my music, my acting, and other talents could all come together under one umbrella. And since filmmaking is a craft and being a musician is also an art form, these two things came first. When it came to the business aspect of things, YouTube came around as a platform.
Ultimately I became a YouTuber because I did all of these things. If I was just a musician I would still be on YouTube, but I am a filmmaker as well so YouTube provides a great visual medium to spread your word. Distribution in art comes first, you realise what kind of an artist you are, that comes first and then the commerce of it comes later. When it came to considering which medium I was gonna use for the commerce aspect of my art, YouTube was around. I was born at the right time and so I became a YouTuber.
Address a FAQ one usually gets, doing what you do – does YouTubing pay the bills? What would be your advice to an aspiring YouTuber or content creator who wants to get started?
YouTube has been paying my bills for the past 4 to 5 years. I get sponsorship deals, YouTube adsense revenue, I make money off Instagram as well. But I am basically a social media influencer and I leverage my influence on various social media. I am on Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook all of the end up giving me revenue. Since I have influence, I leverage that influence to get money from sponsors to market products and sometimes social messages from NGOs. When you have influence you leverage that to get money. For all aspiring YouTubers or content creators, I would just suggest them to create, and create on a daily basis, set deadlines and start churning shi* out. And don't worry about whether it's great or not, because it's a process and you get better by doing it. So don't be too precious and keep throwing our content based on deadlines. That's the best advice I can give you, keep uploading.
Do you enjoy being an influencer? Also, do you think with the sudden influx of influencers in Pakistan (including the ones you can’t stand), there should be a code of ‘influencer ethics’. I mean, this influence should come with responsibility.
I don't think of myself as an influencer but I do enjoy being it. I think if I can point someone in a direction that is more productive for themselves and it ends up helping the society, there is nothing that gives me a better feeling than having helped someone. Or having played a positive role in someone's life or in society. As an influencer your capacity of doing that increases. It gives you a good feeling.
This leads to the second question, what about those guys who are using their influences in what I would deem to be a negative way. I am a firm believer of freedom of speech and I believe YouTube should be a free platform. I think these platforms have teams to monitor content. Facebook will delete a video with hate speech in it and so does YouTube. We have seen this happen in India as well on very big and popular videos. I think influencer ethics is not something I can go and teach every influencer and I don't want everybody to adhere to my principles. The world is a free space and everyone should do their thing best. A certain bit of regulation is required because it is such a massive medium now which has so much outreach. I don't feel it's my responsibility to police other influencers over their content, rather YouTube as a platform which is hosting media should do it.
What would you add to the code of ‘influencer ethics’?
I would not have a code of ethics. But looking at my personal code of ethics, I often gauge the impact of my content by going through the comments section under it. For instance, if I see too many hate comments angled towards an individual, or a race, an ethnicity, then that's just instigating hate. I want to see comments under my content that are thought-provoking. My code of ethics includes making the sort of content that inspires people to be thinkers.
What potential does YouTube and digital creation hold in Pakistan? How can the government endeavor to support this as a career trajectory for its youth?
Internet penetration is increasing in Pakistan at an exponential rate. We see how India has undergone a digital revolution in a way that YouTubers are now bigger celebrities than TV celebrities. Everyone is now looking at their phones and not on the television. Even the guy parked at the traffic light is looking at his phone screen. We are consuming content at a much faster rate than was being consumed in the previous generations. YouTube is the biggest platform for hosting videos in the world- the potential is massive. It has reached a potential where people have made massive careers out of it.
The government needs to figure out ways to regulate content as opposed to banning every single platform that can come to Pakistan and provide a career trajectory. I think they are doing this now with TikTok, and I think this is the right way.
The worst controversy that found you?
I think there was a misunderstanding that happened a while ago. It's called ‘the spider controversy’. You guys can read up on that if you want since I already had my say on it. Good luck, haha.
Your go-to response to brands/agencies who approach you for unpaid ‘collaborations’?
No one approaches me for unpaid collaborations anymore! My response is to laugh at their faces. Are you joking? I laugh. Haha!
What inspires your creative processes? Particularly, your music. Share inspiration for your next project.
My creative processes are inspired by life, literature and things that I absorb. Whatever is happening in my life. My music is inspired by the emotional upheavals which exist in my personal life mostly. I try to express them through music which is a healthy way of venting out all emotions that are stuck in me. I am very open and easily moved by stimulants by the external worlds.
What is the dream, Mooroo?
I am living the dream. I am doing the sort of projects that I am currently involved in. And fortunately getting paid for it.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Areesh Zubair