Friday, April 11, 2014

OP-ED: Stargazing at the Awards


Published in Daily Times / 11 Apr 2014


So which one of them is Pakistani?
Some of us were having a hard time putting a name to the music.
All of them,’ said the person sitting next to us, a little reproachfully.
The musical performances? oh that, none of them, he said cheerfully.
He did not seem shocked.


We had gathered that day to witness the 2nd Servis HUM Awards, celebrate the showbiz industry with its requisite fashion parades and indulge in some star gazing at the EXPO Centre, Karachi.



The show had been designed to honour the best of Pakistani music, fashion, film, and of course television. Guests glided across the hall in awe of the décor (flawless) and set pieces (stunning) while keeping an eagle eye on the red carpet for a Fawad Khan or Hamza Ali Abbasi sighting (rare).

Timely adverts running on OSN ensured that a regional audience awaited the telecast with bated breath along-side the rest of HUM fans. The ceremony was not LIVE but Twitter would be abuzz with activity ensuring that #humawards2014 kept trending and the cyber-world stayed in the loop.

Two Pakistani films, ‘Waar’ and ‘Main Hoon Shahid Afridi’ were due to be honored, and the lineup included efficient PR wizards busy sending out WIFI passwords, a parade of celebrity hosts engaged in banal exchanges, and flamboyant performers dancing into the wee hours of the night.




The list of surreal moments included Zia Moheyuddin on stage receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award & delivering a one line speech, a mama in law being thanked - probably a first, a well deserved tribute to the phoenix inspired rise of the local film industry by Samina Peerzada, and a forced ‘selfie’ that claimed to be unique. Someone will win an IPHONE 5. Someone else would equate HUM with Harrods.

The first winning speech put things in perspective when it alluded to the challenging terrain, a land where Basant & You Tube stay banned. Such festivities tend to act as ballast in a strange new ecosystem and allow the outside world a glimpse of life beyond the cringe worthy headlines.

Since the piece de resistance - Rahat Fateh Ali Khan was a no show, the lavish canvas, notwithstanding its ambitious design, would lose some of its luster. Sketches (best video), Overload (best band) would bag the coveted trophy restoring the faith. And Nauman Ejaz would joyfully accept his award for one drama while thanking the team from another. It happens.

The first HUM awards had been called out for suffering from a deplorable excess of Indian influences; the 2nd attempted to silence critics by adding at least one Pakistani ditty to an otherwise Indian inspired soundtrack. The Rahat void would be filled by Shehroze Sabzwari leading a dance troupe to Indian music, a comedy bit with a faux Bollywood producer, and veterans Bushra Ansari (recipient Excellence Award) & Javed Sheikh recreating Indian masters. More on that later.

Inside, the actor community looms in view; they stood next to up & coming sensations, most on the same patriotic wavelength, and collectively hailed the second coming of Pakistani cinema. For them the venue provided a wonderful opportunity to showcase the nation’s creative genius and peddle that soft image.

Someone later remarked that the local fare does not lend itself to oversized musical extravaganzas. Others would argue that the national treasury is brimming with talent and one wouldn’t have had to look very far for inspiration. There was Alamgir in the house, Pakistani bands among the nominees, and a wondrous collection of medleys (old & new) to choose from the vault. Their presence made such cultural encroachments, pointless. The crowd, however seemed dazzled by the gravity defying dance numbers – and the performers did put their heart and soul into them.

Using Indian imports as the building blocks of a Pakistani narrative would trigger a cyber-debate soon after. Live updates ala social media noted the vacuum, sardonic commentary on print media articles, ostensibly from the Indian side of cyberspace, were unforgiving. To be fair, Bollywood did not hog the entire spotlight. An Egyptian Sufi dance (the kind seen at desert safaris) and an intro choreographed to the backdrop of ‘Sway with me’ appeared on cue, infusing some Arabic / Latin soul to spice up the presentation.




The HUM Award prides itself for being a trailblazer, putting Pakistani drama on the map, keeping social calendars filled, tapping into the social media movement, and bringing eager looking bloggers on board. They also let the people have a say; viewer’s choice determined the best actor/drama/onscreen couple category.


The HUM Network deals in art and culture on the side, spearheading the bi-annual Bridal Couture Week (BCW). It is considered to be one big happy family, as the trophy bearers would remind the audience. That day had multiple themes on display - a tribute to the glorious past, a preview of coming attractions heavily laced with something borrowed, and a compelling revival in the works. Some worked. Some didn’t. Each added a layer of optimism to the saga they call HUM.

The End

Congratulations Asim Raza winner of Best Teleplay (Behadd)


Friday, April 4, 2014

KARACHI DIARIES: 6th LADIESFUND® Women's Awards 2014


First Published in Economic Affairs (Apr 2014) P-36


They conquered Everest in their spare time & crafted empires; their names were featured in Forbes ‘30 under 30’. Somewhere along the way they had reset the bar. Their contributions had not gone un-noticed.





The people who had made the list included trailblazers, trendsetters, risk-takers & crusaders, seen at the 6th LADIESFUND® Annual Women’s Awards. An event to salute an unlikely band of heroes who left a legacy of courage & compassion also acknowledged exceptional women on the rise.


LADIESFUND® launched by Dawood Global Foundation (2007) & headed by Tara Uzra Dawood, celebrates these achievements by adding powerhouse women and their noble causes to their wall of fame. It also makes its core mission - Educate 1000 Girls, the lynchpin & encourages the entrepreneur within our ranks. The talented Alycia Dias, who performed the anthem & walked away with a musical scholarship, would be joined by other hopefuls, awarded with fellowships, grants or monetary support to kick-start their fledgling careers.

The ceremony, held at Mohatta Palace (Karachi) home of Fatima Jinnah, opened with an Indonesian Cultural Welcome Dance, but its glitzy tapestry would be inlaid with sombre undertones. Women, who make empowerment as a motif, do so at great personal risk. The ‘Khushhalibank Idol Award’ awarded to those who had fallen in the line of duty like the families of brave polio workers (Anita Zafar Jumani & Akbari Juman). There were sympathetic sponsors on hand to take care of the special needs children they left behind.

The audience would catch brief glimpses of Pakistan’s impressive philanthropy record and its largest orphanage – SOS Children’s Village which has 2000 projects in 133 countries. Outside Europe it is reportedly the largest self financing charity.

The (late) Parveen Rahmen, director OPP (Orangi Pilot Project) the biggest poverty alleviation scheme worldwide that helps 3 million people and serves as a model project would be posthumously awarded the ‘Courage Award’ along with (late) Zahra Shahid Hussain (PTI). While their struggles underscore the volatile landscape & successes often get eclipsed by tragic headlines, these are the voices capable of overriding the prevalent narrative of despair.




There were a few brave men on hand – including Faisal Qureshi (PTV host - Perspectives) who had graciously agreed to host (but had to leave midway), & British / Indonesian Council Generals who acted as presenters.




People’s Choice Award (2014) Woman of the Year (mountaineer Samina Khayal Baig), Trailblazer Award (Khalida Brohi - founder Sughar program that empowers village women & honor killings), Momentum Award (Angie Marshall (award winning makeup artist who styled 3rd runner up Miss Universe 2011).