Friday, September 4, 2015

Pepsi Unplugged - EID Edition



Thanks to Hasan Rizvi for the Invite.
Images Provided by BodyBeat.




Karachiwalas recently dusted off their record collection and prepared to board the Pepsi Unplugged edition that would take them on a journey through time. They headed out for an evening with Ali Azmat – (singer / songwriter extraordinaire, formerly of Junoon – the Rock sensation from the 90’s), undeterred by the storm forecasts, rain or the lowering sky. Here they could relive the musical heydays of yore, and meet the legendary performers who rang in the new age of Sufi rock. The moment that marked the silver jubilee of the artist was hosted by Hasan Rizvi (CEO - BodyBeat) who is also the brainchild behind the venture.

Pepsi Unplugged is a relative newcomer to the scene, and its mission to revitalize the parched landscape and bring back live music has won them many admirers. Designers, socialites, media tycoons and artists dazzled at the red carpet extravaganza hosted by Anoushay – few had stuck to the color scheme however maybe because a purple/yellow combo is not that easy to pull off. The invitation only affair also featured giveaways (Diamond rings and tickets to Paris), surprises (cast of ‘Karachi Se Lahore’ along with a sneak peak at the footage) and a dress-code (purple & yellow). The celebrity catwalk included Maheen Khan, Rubya Chaudhry, Deepak Perwani, Wajahat Rauf, Shahzad Shiekh, Tabassum Mughal, Nadya Mistry, Naeem Haq etc.


Because of the confined space and informal setup, the powerhouse performance felt like a joyous studio practice run. Though the venue had been switched from small cafes to spacious hotels, the large ballroom was filled to capacity. Tantalizing dessert platters and appetizers were on hand next to a seemingly endless supply of Pepsi to distract fans as they waited impatiently for the arrival of the man of the hour.



Ali, accompanied by his merry men (Omraan Shafeeq, Gumby) performed a sample of Junoon’s hit numbers including ‘Molla’, ‘Sayonee’, ‘Na Re Na’, ‘Jazba Junoon’ and threw in an odd experimental rendition to the mix. The selection represented the best of Pakistani music establishing the timeless appeal of the classics and the presence of an appreciative audience starved for local fare. If half the guests were found glued to their phones or engaged in taking flawless selfies, it was because of the sponsors who promised shiny trinkets to the most dazzling smiles in the house.

Social media had been harnessed to create a buzz and fans were directed to use twitter #hashtags to promote the slew of patrons, upload pictures, and win a few gems in the process. The highly sought after Paris trip was awarded to the couple in yellow & blue since the best dressed category was somehow amended to anyone wearing Lipton colors, leading to raised eyebrows and dissatisfied grunts. Celebs who mistook smoking hot for smoking like a chimney in close quarters were another reason for their discomfort. The next invite should add the no-smoking clause to the list of ‘no-nos’ and perhaps throw in a punctuality reminder and set a new trend.

But the prospect of winning glamorous prizes or losing the Parisian trip of a lifetime, iffy security situation, needless delays or involuntary smoke inhalation took a backseat to the platform that breathed new life into a genre in constant danger of being stifled by extremist voices. That day was a celebration and a pledge – to keep the musical caravan on track and the nation’s rich musical legacy in view.

The haze of insecurity and shrinking space for artists makes such gatherings crucial for the survival of the arts. With the Pakistani cinema in revival mode - the music industry needs to regain its footing. And forums that can unleash the surge of creativity must be supported to fill the void in our cultural narrative and ensure that its unique voice gets heard. Ironically, this is how many of the successful stars got their start – performing in small venues to a handful of swooning teens before fame came a knockin’. As established stars with record deals and loyal fan clubs - these sessions are milestones and give local musicians a reason to cheer. They also reset the bar for the stars waiting in the wings and show them what greatness is supposed to look like.

This was the 5th event of its kind; the first few showcased Noori, Jal, Komal Rizvi, Fuzon, Zoe Viccaji and Club Carmel. The next one has set its sights on Lahore. ‘Pepsi Unplugged’ plans to extend its reach to Dubai in the coming years taking our musical heritage to the next level. Bringing international musicians to Pakistan is reportedly on the cards and while the idea seems ludicrous in the present backdrop but recent successes like Nida Butt’s 2 day music festival - ‘I Am Karachi’ that featured dialogues and live performances by 60+ artists offers a ray of hope.

PR: BB Events & PR

Quarter Preview: ‘MANTO’


The Good Times GT Magazine (Friday Times) published the official images sent with this write-up, posting the coverage here.

Manto is all the rage these days.

The writer who orbits the South Asian literary stratosphere recently marked his centennial anniversary and now appears as the subject of a new film. It has been directed by Sarmad Sultan Khoosat, who also plays the title character and scripted by Shahid Mahmood Nadeem. Babar Javed produces. Media men & women invited for a first look in August had high expectations.

Contrary to what many thought, this was not a curtain raiser but a quarter preview, and the attendees found themselves at the screening of an extended teaser of ‘MANTO’ - the movie at Nueplex Cinemas – Karachi. The private showing also unveiled trailers of upcoming serials courtesy of GEO Films Production. The figure of Manto himself stays in shadow till 11th September – a day red flagged after 2001, but one that has always been significant for Pakistan and observed as the nation’s founding father's death anniversary. The filmmakers now hope to use the writer’s cinematic debut to change the negative connotations associated with the date.

The screening showcased a musical medley paying tribute to Shiv Kumar Batavi and Mirza Ghalib, and unveiled videos featuring performances by Javed Bashir (‘Kon Hai Yeh Gustakh’), Ali Sethi (‘Aah Ko Chahiye’), and Meesha Shafi (‘Mehram Dillqa De Mahi’). The segment also provided tantalizing glimpses of Sarmad Khoosat’s tormented portrayal of the scribe’s post Partition years – focusing on Manto’s fallibility and undeniable genius. It was a heady brew that underscored the interpretive approach used to stage the period piece and the courage needed to train the spotlight on his pet demons.

Saadat Hasan Manto (1912-1955) was an outlier, known for his dalliances with the bottle and an insouciant disregard for convention. History books paint him as a tragic figure, shrouded in a haze of controversy in his trademark white Kurta – his career eclipsed by ill-health, poverty, and run-ins with the law both in Pre-Partition India and later a newly independent Pakistan. He gazed into the abyss, and often took his readers for an excursion through his polarizing literature. Despite leaving ruffled feathers in his wake, his status as a symbol of resistance earned him many admirers across the divide.

By chronicling the free fall in a biopic, the scriptwriters return to Lahore of yore as seen through the protagonist’s cynical eyes and weave his writings within a compelling soundtrack. This is not an origin story, nor does it pretend to be an escapist fantasy, as evidenced by the inherent darkness and the use of color palettes that capture the melancholy hues and visceral overtones leaving the viewers dazed and a little shaken. Of the four musical presentations, only one by Zeb Bangash & Ali Sethi (‘Kya Ho Ga’) offered some droll humor to lighten the mood.

The large turnout at the event proved that interest in his legacy never waned. The star power was represented by Marina Khan, Aijaz Aslam, Shanaz Ramzi, Hira Tareen, Savera Nadeem, Gohar Rasheed, YBQ etc. The red carpet was also visited by intellectuals like M. Hanif (‘Case of Exploding Mangoes’) and H.M. Naqvi (‘Homeboy’).

M. Hanif whose name also appears in the credits has reportedly penned one song adding to the powerhouse supporting cast, most of which was present at the launch. The MANTO team took a bow but left the speech-making / Q&A session out. They included Sania Saeed as Begum Manto joined by Saba Qamar (Madam Noor Jehan), Nimra Bucha (Manto’s muse), Nadia Afgan, Savera Nadeem, Azfar Rehman, Hina Bayat and the elder Mr. Khoosat. Humayun Saeed and Faisal Qureshi had cameos. The audience noted the clever makeovers and abstract storytelling that transformed Mahira Khan into a Madari and depicted Shamoon Abbasi brandishing a Kirpan.

Sarmad’s risk-taking approach established the artistic parameters ‘MANTO’ aims to explore and hinted at the seismic shifts within the industry that bode well for Pakistani cinema. Whether he has succeeded in breaking new ground will be decided in a few weeks. Painting the portrait of a man of Manto’s stature is a high wire act and requires dexterity and vision. The narrative will reportedly sidestep the politics of the era but the grim subtext might be hard to ignore. His twilight years present an opportunity to look back to a moment in time fondly remembered for its tolerance and sunny optimism. It will be interesting to see Manto’s Pakistan on the wings of his unfettered imagination and debate upon his relevance within a contemporary setting.

As Sarmad Khoosat, whose previous directorial ventures include HUM Tv’s critically acclaimed ‘Humsafar’, moves into serious territory, choosing to bring Manto’s special brand of irreverence to the 21st Century along with him is a dramatic opening gambit. MANTO plans to open nationwide by Fall of 2015.

PR & Event Management by Phegency PR & Events
Red Carpet hosted by Anoushey Ashraf