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.
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.
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.
Congratulations Asim Raza winner of Best Teleplay (Behadd)