Skip to main content

A Book, a Social Networking site & 2 Photographers

Thanks to Tapu Javeri for the Twitter Invite.

BOOK REVIEW: Dou Rukh / By Arif Mahmood &Tapu Javeri
Published in Daily Times / October 15, 2011
Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal


Two of the people in the room strive for the same, elusive goal — to crystallise intangible fragments of the soul, to craft safe harbours for frenzied energy; to coax secrets out of ciphers. They may wander the same planes but have different agendas. And only when they are done plumbing the depth of human emotion can the rest experience a world draped in shadow and light.


Their separate ideologies run parallel in Dou Rukh (two sides) — a coffee table book that showcases the work of two giants — Arif Mahmood and Tapu Javeri and the exhibition of original photographs that accompanied the launch. With 16 willing subjects — 18 if one counts the cameramen who posed for the shoot, and more than 30 images, these two collaborators briefly transform an ordinary surface into a veritable pantheon.

A Twitter invite wrested from Tapu Javeri can enable one to access the star-studded opening night extravaganza and witness the portraits come alive — starting with the mysterious lady on the cover. A few words from Arif Mahmood can help clarify the complex forces at play.

Arif is an award-winning Karachi-based street photographer with a slew of shows and publications to his credit. Tapu Javeri is a dominant force in the world of fashion and art photography. Pushing boundaries is his favourite pastime — according to an old interview.

Their objective, one learns, is not to document Jekyll and Hyde in action, which come to think of it is an equally fascinating endeavour, but to help the audience gauge the men behind the camera and their differing techniques. Together, these maestros have settled upon a simple theme — crafting two versions of the same story to stage a spectacle using the same ingredients, which is why one subject shows up twice.


The personalities chosen include veterans from the arts — some are already legends in their field, others are on the ascent. Dou Rukh offers something besides the ‘most wanted’ from celebrity-ville. A chosen few outside of showbiz make the cut. The social worker might feign indifference to the socialite but both will find themselves sharing the same space. As both mosaics overlap and diverge, pairing revered icons with beloved stars lends that perfect inimitable flavour.

IVS gallery featured the actual photos displayed side by side to provide an immediate sense of their whimsical style and distinctive artistic sensibilities. The book has been divided in two portions. The blank page preceding each image is for effect — says Arif.


But that picture hanging next to the monochromatic portrait of the qawwals — Farid Ayaz and Abu Mohammad by Arif Mahmood gives one pause. Has an exquisite piece of art lost its way? How does Tapu’s (odd looking) rendition relate to Arif’s (clear-cut) vision? “If you see the exhibit,” says Arif helpfully, “then you will get it” — forcing one to confess that they did, they have, and it did not help. Tapu Javeri’s delirium-inducing piece gets approving nods but continues to confound. One could have spent a lifetime trying to decipher its meaning. But there is no need to tax the poor overworked brain. The magicians are more than willing to reveal their secrets. It is just a face — blurred — a brilliant symphony of motion.


Shakeel appears happy that the hitherto undiscovered aspect of his character has been so effectively rendered. This duet is merely a vessel to serve up the contrasting colours and savour ephemeral sentiments. Whether it is the fraught subtext of Tapu Javeri’s Shakeel or the colourful flamboyance that is Arif Mahmood’s Marzi, Dou Rukh leaves a lingering sense of wonder in its wake.


Markings; Rs 1,200

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

What Pakistan Wants from Afghanistan...?

Published by Global Affairs / July 2017


In the aftermath of the deadly attacks in a diplomatic enclave and a funeral, Afghanistan’s fate now hangs in the balance, while experts mull over the merits of potential troop surges and worry about the endemic corruption, plummeting morale and ensuing chaos. Afghan President Ghani’s statement that his nation suffers from an ‘undeclared war of aggression from Pakistan’ delivered at Kabul Process meeting sums up the problem.

Interestingly, a week before, he expressed the exact same sentiment – only the words were ‘undeclared war of aggression from non-state actors.’ Later his Twitter feed regurgitated the passive aggressive plea from the speech that by turns call for dialogue and apportions blame to its neighbors.

What is it that Pakistan wants is the question foremost in his mind. He also wonders what the Taliban want.

The first question is easily answered. The Pak Army COAS wants Afghanistan to look inwards. Probably at the safe havens …

Pakistan’s Neutral Stance on Qatar

Written right after the Qatar embargo

Published Global Affairs Jul 2017


Qatar recently found itself in hot water based on comments attributed to its leadership – comments that had been categorized as fake news. As a pretext it served its purpose. The oil-gas rich nation has been placed in a diplomatic stranglehold though it renounced charges of funding terrorism and being a destabilizing influence the region. These may be pressure tactics meant to put Qatar in its place, cut it down to size, make it tow the GCC line whatever that might be at the moment. The definition of terror in this case is open to interpretation. Qatar fights ISIL alongside coalition partners. But its support for proscribed groups like Muslim Brotherhood for instance and relationship with Tehran keeps it in the doghouse.

Washington remains ambivalent. The American President endorsed the move. The Secretary of State cautioned against boycotts. But GCC nations seem clear-sighted. The small state houses US CENTCOM, t…

BOOK REVIEW: Frontline Pakistan: The Struggle With Militant Islam (2007)

Author: Zahid Hussain

PUBLISHED IN THE POST JUNE 14, 2007

Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal

Frontline Pakistan: the struggle with militant Islam goes for the jugular with an insiders look at a deformed culture borne of a dated ideology, fueled by vested interest and driven by intolerance; and a nation’s complicity.

Not surprisingly, the legitimacy granted jihadists by ISI-CIA ran out soon, as did the sympathy for their jihadist actions formally perceived as heroic. Once used to counter the threat of communism, the rapid shift in their objectives that placed Pakistan’s national interest on a collision course with its security rendered them an anachronism.

This led to a parting of ways with the ISI; consequently, the deadliness of operations and depth of penetration in society seen in the context of 9/11 forever breached the line between liberators and terrorists.

Veteran journalist Zahid Hussain, Pakistani correspondent for the "Times of London", "The Wall Street Journal", …

The Importance of Being Pakistan

Published in Global Village Space / July 2017

Implications of a Modi – Trump style ‘meet and greet’

As Mr. Modi descended upon Washington, armed with Kashmiri shawls, tea, honey, and personalized invites for the first family to visit India, the U.S. media hastened to find parallels between the two nations. Democracies both (biggest / oldest), led by men with a degree of social-media savvy, men indifferent to public opinion and sporting unique greeting styles - hugs from Modi, handshakes from Trump.

Seen from afar, the show stopping performance yielded significant results, strengthened defense cooperation and secured 22 shiny new Guardian drones. Commentators noted that contentious issues like H1-B work visas and climate change etc were reportedly left out in the cold while detractors brooded over the symbolism that signaled the arrival of a new world order. As with all these visits, Pakistan wasn’t far from India’s thoughts and opinion makers now wonder at the extent Modi can shape…

OPED: Radd-ul-Fassad – An Urgent Revision in the Wake of Mashal Khan's Lynching

Published Global Affairs / June 2017

Written in the immediate aftermath of Mashal Khan's lynching

On December 2014, 148 people, mostly school kids were murdered by terrorists in the APS (Army Public School) school massacre. In April 2017, a university student was lynched in Mardan. One tragedy marked a turning point. Another opens a Pandora’s Box.

APS happened while Operation Zarb-e-Azb was underway. It shook the nation to its very core; and pushed the armed forces to expand the scope of its offensives. Military courts were set up in the aftermath. A death row inmate (Qadri), once lauded by clergy and lawyers for killing a Governor, was finally executed along with scores of militants.

And soon another operation would come into effect after shrines, rallies and public places were targeted in a resurgence of terror in 2017. If the first was driven by vengeance, the second came from desperation. Pakistan’s survival was at stake – unless it tackled the darkness head on. But the dark…

OPED: Why the World needs to see Pakistan’s Dark Side

Published by Global Affairs / June 2017


Because the dark side does not get enough exposure. Though this is where all the good Samaritans, the creative giants, crusading angels and intellectual powerhouses reside. It is where genius flourishes hoping to break free of type casting. It is where Oscar winners and Nobel laureates go once they have scaled the summit and conquered cultural biases and social disparity.

A vat of vice and wickedness amid a sea of green turbans?

But their victories are somehow viewed in isolation. They are seen as outliers - their great accomplishments relegated to the shadows in favor of unflattering headlines beamed across the globe that slyly remove the context and reduce the country to one giant misogynistic, intolerant, vat of vice and wickedness amid a sea of green turbans. While the worst of humanity hogs the limelight – our most prized assets go unheralded. And tragedies like Mashal Khan and mafias in religious guise along with shady men with offshore acc…

BOOK REVIEW: Pakistan: Beyond The ‘Crisis State’ / Author: Maleeha Lodhi

Thanks to Liberty Books for the review copy

Published in Daily Times / Saturday, June 18, 2011

Reviewed by Afrah Jamal

Published under the title: 17 Reasons to Hope

“History will be what we make it. If we go on as we are, history will have its revenge and retribution”— from the movie, ‘Good Night, & Good Luck’

A region known for most “terrorist sightings”, a place feared for harbouring medieval mindsets next to progressive thinkers and a nation shunned for having an affinity for nuclear toys. By turns a cautionary tale, an indispensable ally and an international pariah, Pakistan does not fit into any mould — for long. But its name crops up whenever things go awry.

Pakistan: Beyond the ‘Crisis State’ is a compilation of articles put together by Maleeha Lodhi that countermands the grim prognosis. When Ms Lodhi, who has served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the US and UK, acknowledges that “resilience has been part of Pakistan’s story from its inception, obscured by the single issue lens…