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Thursday, February 02, 2023 | Daily Newspaper published by GPPC Doha, Qatar.
 Muhammad Asad Ullah
Muhammad Asad Ullah
Muhammad Asad Ullah is one of the brightest new crop of journalists on the Doha scene. With a penchant for showbiz stories and a rover's eye on fashion. He's the whiz kid of the team with experience of both print and digital media.
Momina Duraid
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Duraid – Pakistan’s entertainment tsar

Being able to translate ideas into actuality is one thing, but talent coupled with extensive knowledge, ambition, and drive is another story. In her work, as a producer, she portrays women the way she sees herself: strong, powerful, and in control. Speaking with her, you know this is only a glimpse of what’s to come, and thank goodness because Momina Duraid is what Pakistan entertainment industry needs to tell its narrative, and a story to behold. There’s this edginess on what one of the biggest producers of Pakistan’s entertainment industry is going to be like, considering the powerful scripts and screenplays she rolls out. But then you meet her, and she’s wearing a powder yellow ensemble, happily sipping green tea, seemingly overexcited to tell you all about her journey. The woman, Momina Duraid is anything but mysterious or brooding, and you realise that the dichotomy - the hard and the soft, the dark and the light, the difficult and the easy, the approachable and the intimidating - is the ground from which all of her creativity grows that has been a powerhouse of drama serials, doing well not only in Pakistan but famous amongst masses in neighbouring countries as well. Momina sits with Gulf Times to talk about her journey and where she intends to venture in now that she has been leading the industry. Talking about the world we are connected to: fashion, design, photography. There are many examples of people who have changed completely the course of their lives just by grabbing the very opportunity that came their way. Momina’s story is no different. “Well, you can say that it all started by chance. It is something that I never thought I’d be doing. But I got married into a family where my mother-in-law was in media and she used to produce small and one play at a time under the banner of Moomal Productions. For me, before marriage, I always wanted to pursue social sector — with eyes on United Nations, World Bank and organisations like these. I was working with banking sector initially, but I was on a break from my job when my mother-in-law asked me to help her out with finances of her production house and stuff. It all started with that and then because I had a marketing background and knew how brands work, there was this project that she asked me to pitch and make presentation for and it all somehow worked out. I got interested in the project itself because it was about women who after adversity and problems in life rose above it all and became something. So, it was like stories of real women, and the genre was something that I had always been interested in. I used to research on the stories, and how they could be translated on the screen. And when HUM TV happened, I came all out to support Duraid. For the first three years, because my mother-in-law and Duraid were working on HUM Network, I had to oversee the production aspects and I still remember telling them that you have to find somebody else for this job. It was just sheer destiny. The first project that I made for HUM TV did really well, won nominations in every award show of that time. The motivation was not to come in the entertainment industry but to actually support my family and husband in this venture. It was just that. And after that, whichever project I did — it did well. I accredit that to my interest in social reform as well. Because every story that I told had some interesting element or edge to it, something people could relate to.” In times where media industry wasn’t considered a respectable profession, Momina came forefront to change the perception of the people with the stories she had to tell. “Coming from a Pashtun background, I had a totally different perception about media. It wasn’t considered very respectable profession and subconsciously I think I had this thing in my mind, one of the reasons why I had never considered media as a profession. Slowly and gradually, with age, experience, and the effect of your narrative on audience — you just realise that media is basically social reform and a huge responsibility,” Momina adds, “Every dialogue that you approve for going on screen is affecting mindsets. And the day you realise that, you realise what a sharp sword you have in your hands. Media controls the narrative and the moment you realise that it’s a completely different game altogether. I used to get disturbed a lot by mindless entertainment, and so I got to a conclusion that out of certain number of plays that are released every year — atleast 20% or 2 dramas out of 10, I’m going to make for myself, not caring about whether they bag ratings or not. And somehow those two out of ten got the most rating. It wasn’t planned. When we did Udaari (2016) which was about child abuse, we had to make sure that its commercially entertaining yet putting out strong message ahead at the same time. So sketching that balanced line is a huge responsibility.” It is quite a fact in film and drama industry alike that once one particular project is a hit and beaming ratings, other producers, and directors also jump on the bandwagon for coming up with similar content. And the drama serials coming out of MD Productions have been raising a bar for the audiences and makers alike. What’s the mantra of giving back-to-back hits? Momina responds, “There’s no mantra. The only mantra is to be sincere to your work. And then you let it go and let it shine. In a project that has your heart and soul, it goes places. After so many years, now though when I get the script — I just get an idea that whether it will connect with the audience or not. But the line between hit and super hit is destiny, that you don’t know. You can know the basics of what the market wants but nothing really more than that. The script is the foundation of it all then how you translate it to the screen is what matters.”   Drama serial Daastan (2010), based on the partition of the Indian Subcontinent and adapted from Razia Butt’s novel Bano, starred Fawad Khan and Sanam Baloch in the leads. The play was so magnificently laced together, that it was as if plucked and sculpted to unravel empathy, pain, loss and last but not least, love. Talking about one of her mega hit serials, Momina says, “Daastan is the play that made me decide that this is the industry I want to stay in. I was an ardent reader from childhood. I had read Bano, a novel by Razia Butt on which Daastan was based, in my childhood sometime. I was searching for Razia Butt, and somehow managed to meet her. We just went to see her for a little while but ended up spending an entire day with her. She kept on suggesting me different novels but was not agreeing on giving me Bano. But, I wanted Bano, because I had fallen in love with it since childhood. So, she said me that Bano is my heritage, and if you couldn’t successfully translate it on screen, then what. And I told her to just trust me because I have myself an emotional attachment with it. She gave me the novel and said that this is a debt on you.”    “Somehow there was a huge responsibility on my shoulders but also a dedication to make something that could do justice with it. I was so involved in the project that I went all out to Karachi Lighthouse, which is a second-hand market in Karachi, to get a hands-on on the clothes that people used to bring there from the 40s and 50s era to get the feel of it. So Daastan made me realise what you can do with media and influence people. Because lots of people living abroad, who saw this period drama, left the places they had settled in only to come back to Pakistan.” added Momina.   Ever since Dirilis: Ertugrul stormed on to national television in Pakistan, the audience had been infatuated by the historical Turkish production.There have also been plenty of debates on how Pakistani producers need to create similar local content since it’s such a hit with audiences. The argument had also been raised that a private Pakistani producer couldn’t possibly afford to invest in a series of Ertugrul’s stature. “Our industry is a powerhouse of talent. But, can we make another Dirilis: Ertugrul, or another historical play. Do we have the capability to? Yes! Do we have the budgets though? No! If we would try to make such projects on our own, in the budgets we have, we will not be able to make that level of brilliance and do justice to it,” Momina admits. “And if we have the right budget in collaboration, then definitely. There’s nothing wrong in actually making something that could cater to both the markets, conditionally if there are no budget constraints. Ertugrul had run on HUM TV before, when nobody knew about it really here in Pakistan, and when the PM had not tweeted about it. The tweet sort of made people go and look out for it, but it’s the content that made them stick to it. We had also picked it because we thought that it’s a good project.”   Dirilis: Ertugrul narrates the story of the leader of the nomadic Kazi tribe who laid the foundation of Ottomon Empire. Asked what kind of historical stories, closer to home, excite Momina Duraid as a producer she says, “We should get into historical plays. It’s a visual medium now and the youth is basically going to learn and pick up from it. For the longest time, I wanted to do a play on the love story of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Rattanbai Jinnah. But I also know that it is a very controversial subject for the masses. How many people would be able to take that, that’s an issue. People tell me not to go that route. You live in an environment where there are certain limits. So, to do justice to historical stories like this is a tough, very difficult job.” Momina has actively been recruiting new talent, unearthing and spotlighting faces with potential for the entertainment industry. Mahira Khan is one fine example and her casting in Humsafar (2010), a TV serial on HUM TV, a whole another story. “I rather like to work with new people who put their heart and soul in their work than people who have become complacent. Because the day you’re complacent and you start thinking that you’re just doing perfect and can go and enact without rehearsals or script pre-reading — that day the magic in your work starts fading,” Momina said. “Whenever we introduce someone, we try to place him/her in a character that’s made for him/her. The right fit for the right character.” It is a clear indictment that well-connected parents of a certain background can use their influence to further a child’s career, it is hardly a scandalous or new revelation. If you’ve got famous parents, your chances in the film industry appear to improve exponentially. But only till your debut performance. Pakistan entertainment industry, like any other entertainment industry in the world gives a chance to new talent based on personal connections, family collaborations or friendships. Momina explains that a star kid has more difficulty in making people realise his/her talent because from day one he/she is compared to their parents. “There’s so much responsibility on the star kid to live up to certain expectations. You can get the first project being a star kid but next project and the one after is all because of one’s talent,” she said. In the wake of the global Covid-19 pandemic, cinemas closed, release dates postponed, film festivals had been cancelled and production came to a halt. How will the industry recover, and when it emerges from this crisis, will it look completely different? Momina says, “Pakistan entertainment industry has been affected more because we were at an infancy stage already. So, we had not even taken off yet. But now we’re very hopeful for everything to go back to normal soon.”

Bridal Couture Week 2021
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BCW21: Traditional silhouettes and gilded bling returns to the ramp

Can a digital or virtual experience ever replace the real thing? Over the past year, many designers, not only in Pakistan but worldwide, have been forced to at least try. And over the year, only a few brands managed to produce new collections, choosing to create films, podcasts, and playlists instead, until February. The trend of virtual fashion show seems to slowly fade away now as the world is trying to move back to the ‘normal’ with added masks-on and Covid-19 SOP’s in place. But until there’s a Covid-19 vaccine available to all, flexibility is the key. February was a small, careful step towards resuming a ‘normal’ fashion week in Pakistan as Bridal Couture Week took place in Lahore with suppleness for the audience and media to attend live or follow what’s being showcased on the ramp via social media coverage of the event thanks to its strong PR Team. Arousing fashion week from Lahore this season it was, in one way or another, about ardour through originality. The sturdy, clear- cut voices that obtruded in the melee of shows were from designers who dared to be themselves and thus offered clarity with choices. Bridal Couture Week holds the reputation of bedecking trends and doing quirkily well commercially for the designers; encapsulating their latest bridal wears trawled over for months. However, this season where it was about everything bling, cascading stars and traditional silhouettes, it also took a slight slump with collections that never should’ve been made – or in another, never really allowed on the catwalk. Everyone is inspired by everyone, but simply taking the plagiarism route in the creative industry is not so creative after all. The puff this time around started long before the scheduled date and lineup was announced majorly because of the two reasons: one because it was the 10th year anniversary of the fashion week and second perhaps, why not because physical catwalk was laid out in the country after a long, long time. Zooming in on the fashion, here’s what we loved from BCW this season.   Fahad Hussayn: He’s got the moves, he’s got the motion! Classic wedding wear will never go out of style, indeed it is the mainstay of most designer. Fahad featured classic heavy bridal with intricate work, but he updated it with his choice of motifs, interesting colours and the highlight of the show, very flowy silhouettes. There wasn’t a stitch out of place, the detailing of the layers, even the ones barely peeking though was tremendous. There were silk pieces digitally printed, re-embroidered with yet more intricate details, gold and gota embellishments, and tilla work not just on front panels but stretching right to the back (just because). The effect is both folkloric and refined. The one shawl that particularly grabbed the attention was the one adorned by Waleed Siddiqui. Who knew black, ferozi and gold could make such a wonderful combination, so festive and caterwauled luxury in every sense. Fahad caters to mass appeal and knows how to put on a show. Fahad’s comeback after announcing bankruptcy last year is one of the best things to happen to Pakistan Fashion Industry and that’s because such designers lay down a pathway for others to follow and following such details and theatrics is nothing but a visual treat, for the one wearing his clothes and the ones looking at them.   Ali Xeeshan: The way Ali Xeeshan mixes colors and fabric together is artistic. Molded in golden wires with tilla and succha work in the earthly hues and fiery sky, Ali Xeeshan’s ‘Numaish’ was a chimera of bright vibrant colours with intricate embroidery and work along with the latest techniques of laser cutting, and block printing. Satiny gold, silver and pink yet edgy patterns, and peacocks assembled a glorious impact on the ramp. Aiming to let the colours do the talking, the collection featured cuts and silhouettes with contemporary touches on tulle, cotton net, tissue trials and brocade tailoring cholli and lehngas. His collection aimed towards discouraging the practice of giving dowry. A child bride came out walking with model Hasnain Lehri, tugging a trolley laden with dowry behind her. In another visual, Hasnain Lehri was the dulha walking out in a makeshift car prop, surrounded by the female bridal entourage. Ali’s bridals are immediately recognisable and they does it with flair. Neon green saree and blouses and popping blue and pink lehnga choli were statement pieces. Loved how the block colours meshed so pleasingly. Va Va Voom!   Zaha Couture Zaha Couture featured modern Pakistani bride in shararas to gowns and harem pants, it mused in the shades of silver, blue, white and very delicate pink. We’ve seen Khadija Shah doing wonders, playing around – and this erroneously wasn’t the best she could come up with on the ramp in terms of experimenting with the silhouettes, cuts and couture. However, in terms of playing safe and presenting a commercially viable collection it was quite a head turner with a straight 9. Apart from exquisitely crafted bridal womenswear pieces, they also featured some menswear creations that blew in royal grace feels to it. Khadija seems determined that she doesn’t want to change the heavy textured bridals she does. Consisting of chiffons, silks and floral patterns, the collection and workmanship was lovely and intricate and so were the dupattas with the tassels. The peacock feather pattern in gold making its way on the gharara and slightly coming out from the open long panelled shirt was visibly edgy!   Alishba and Nabeel: It was probably Nabeel’s first runway showcase after his fall out with long time partner Asifa Imran. Did anything seem to affect his designs? Absolutely not! Rather they took on a route of absolute delicacy and femininity. The use of thread work with motifs placed down the front of the kameezez provided linearity to the silhouettes. The ensemble was rich in culture Alishba and Nabeel were displaying as they offered modernity with pastels they had chosen for this collection. The piece that their showstopper Hira Mani wore featured traditional embroidery techniques with real craftsmanship, net dupatta and an inspiration drawing out from the Victorian era. Oh that royal pageantry.   Faiza Rehman: Her haute couture outing for BCW was entirely devoted to the precious dignity of such beautiful but quiet clothes, pieces sculpted and pleated and constructed in such a way that they could literally never exist in prêt-à-porter . . . or at least with any notion of proper fit. The palette was blush, celery, rose, tea, and every interpretation of nude one might imagine. There was a deliberate dryness to the proceedings—literally, in the choice of fabrics (matte duchesse, double-face, crepe) and handwork (macramé, wood bead embroidery, ribbon embroidery) and also traditional kamdani, naqshi and dabka work. These are serious clothes, Faiza seemed to be saying, made by the finest hands and meant to be appreciated by women who are beyond the flimflam and easy glam of our times.   Haris Shakeel: The collection by Haris Shakeel unfolded like a fairy tale on the ramp with the rainbow of colors – a treat for the eye. Pairing contrasting hues with a dash of finesse, Haris remained no bashful to experiment through his collection and presenting nothing obnoxious for the fashion critiques. The collection featured cuts and silhouettes with contemporary touches on tulle, cotton net and brocade tailoring cholli and lehngas for women and floral embroidery jackets for men.   Munib Nawaz: Munib’s this year collection at BCW was one of the most impressive yet. Munib re-imagined bridal wears as separates for 21st century which didn’t stop him from being cheeky enough to send down a bright yellow menswear ensemble paired with old school gorgeous pink and teal heavily detailed lehnga choli for womenswear teamed with equally pretty dupatta (you gotta look at the pallu details!) – and he made it work out! Such wonderful contrasting, bright hues. So very lively. In plethora of duplication (referring to certain plagiarist wannabes) Munib held his own understated signature that borrowed the best of tradition and left the volume behind. Men’s wear included sherwanis and suits – as usual with the cuts that only Munib offers in the industry — quirkiness that resonates with his relates to his personality so well. Va Va Voom Munib! We want to see more of such designs coming from your side and setting trends.   Umsha by Uzma Baber: Whirled with gold and embellishments, the Umsha by Uzma Baber opened their showcase with heavily gilded off-white ensemble. Putting the ramp on fire from golden and maroon tones, the fashion powerhouse of the country played well ending up on the pastel hues. The collection best exemplified the designers who are on ball with what they are doing…The silk blouses with jacquard lehngas, embroidered gowns, peplum cuts, long jackets and mandarin collar jackets – you name it, they showed it; enhancing the feminine appeal of the collection. Umsha’s attention to details was so microscopic that it’s hard to pull a copy of its work.        

Italian ambassador Prunas with teen entrepreneurs Aimee Jade (AJ) Monti and Fatima al-Ansari.
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Undeterred by Covid curbs, teens fashion out a statement

When the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic took over the world and ground everything in the country and the world to a halt, two Doha-based teenaged entrepreneurs started their own fashion project — born of a need to do something constructive during the lockdown. What followed was the introduction of a collection of abayas specially made for teens in the region. With penchant for ethical fashion, the Qatari-Italian duo, 18-year-old Fatima al-Ansari from Doha and 16-year-old Aimee Jade (AJ) Monti from Rome, aptly called their fashion project the “DOME” Fashionistas, intermingling the craft and design sensibility unique to the places they come from. In an endeavour to help build an Italy-Qatar bridge, the Qatari Business Women Association (QBWA) and the Italian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) have partnered in supporting the project. The result of this collaboration, DOME’s first collection “Dream Big 2021”, is dedicated to a niche of young teenage girls looking to add more colour, patterns and everything quirky to the otherwise standard black abaya. Speaking recently at a press conference and introducing the young entrepreneurs, Alessandro Prunas, Italy’s ambassador to Qatar, said: “We are pleased to encourage fashion projects between Qatari designers and Italian SMEs (small- and medium-sized enterprises) which can supply the craftmanship and the finest materials, from clothes to shoes to jewellery and accessories.” “This particular project involved three companies from the region of Abruzzo and Marche, where craftsmanship still plays a big role and artisans are the backbone of the economy,” the ambassador said. “From the refined jacquard silks and the innovative denim fabrics to the rhinestones used for the decorations on Aimee’s abayas, the materials are all made in Italy.” “Italian fashion designer Eliana Casaula was a mentor to our young designers via Zoom, and supported them to develop the ‘Dream Big’ Collection. I hope this initial co-operation will lead to a bigger exchange between Qatar and Abruzzo and Marche,” Prunas added. During the event, both al-Ansari and Monti, who were wearing their own designs, spoke about their dreams to pursue careers in the fashion industry. They visited local abaya productions and analysed various abaya companies to develop a trendy product suitable for the local culture. Much effort had to be made to maintain quality whilst taking inspiration from butterflies, mermaids, Japanese flowers, and social media emojis, and incorporating them on the abayas in form of ironed-on patches, sourced and shipped internationally. The logistics of local tailoring, mesh of fabric from Italy and Qatar back and forth, also took time. It was a tedious project – but certainly worthwhile from the social and commercial perspective. The capsule collection featuring six abayas, with more available on made-to-order, serve as an apt homage to traditional cuts but standing out for its originality.

Valentino Haute Couture
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Valentino: Storming runway with effortless couture

Couture embraces worlds. If the skill of extravagant flourishes of drapery can be pulled off anywhere in fashion, it ought to be in haute couture – the highest order of dress making. The haute couture season is always wanting someone to let loose with feather, wildly clashing colours and an unbridles sense of fantasia, though without going down any tiresomely stereotypical princess route. Although such extravagant satin bows, taffetas and silhouettes flowing down forming perfectly tailored ensemble with floor sweeping trains are a fantasy but tossing it around and convincing modern women to approach it is a totally different business. For more than five decades, Valentino has been storming out its couture collection season after season and what really protrudes the brand on the couture map of the world is their wearable approach. Making haute couture wearable is the key. If there’s anyone who can make a basic white poplin shirt a moment of couture when paired with long skirt, narrow in the front with flared train in the back, it has to be Pierpaolo Piccioli, Creative Director of Valentino — a new take on casual couture. Nearly a year in and Valentino caterwauled its response to pandemic with the showcase of its Haute Couture Spring Summer 2021 collection — Code Temporal — virtually. The oozing allure and grandeur of Valentino Haute Couture 2021 kicked-off lambently with the brand illustrating its latest collection and awe-impelling fashion ruffles plodded over for months. The show opened with ivory perforated cape heavily decorated with braids, carres and bows. This was effortless, but not bashful on making Valentino woman feel special when paired with silk cady trousers. By outfit three, a superb bourette draped dress in chocolate brown that was reminiscent of the quirkiness but perfect for a young woman of today, it was apparent that Valentino was going to break up the references with a few gorgeous pieces untied to any narrative really — nothing figurative, what followed after was fearless layering, turtle necks, pastels and silhouettes that transformed from chic daily wear to heavily gilded voluminous gowns. Ivory silk caped dress, tops or the off shoulder bright pink coat could bear a glancing resemblance to some iconic red carpet appearances — but it doesn’t really matter. What does is that silhouettes looked so young, relevant and neatly crafted and the delicate workmanship. In the way the pleats fell, the way the sheer fabrics seemed about to reveal something while keeping it hidden. The sense of precious heritage artisanship was also evident in the handworked embroidered pieces. Evening dresses stood as a master class in the flawless refinement that has been the trademark of Valentino since 1959. One in particular, a strapless draped aquamarine bustier dress entirely embroidered with a mesh of iridescent silver sequins had a timeless vibe to it that any woman would cherish. With sequins being the order of the day, gold, silver or magenta, the voluminous silhouette that really made a statement was the closing copper organdi dress. It moved and swirled so smoothly that it was nothing but reminiscent of a gothic ‘fairytale’ narrative. What the designer seemed to have in mind this season was the sense of weightlessness from pandemic, hence the parade of light, fluttery, oh-so-feminine clothes. Apart from the really worked out couture pieces, the large, voluminous and extravagant had been flipped this time for other pieces in the collection. Layering of hoodies, sweaters, board shorts, and shirts paired with capes and lattic-worked coats dominated the runway. Minimalism, elegance but taking the daring route with popping colours for menswear was evident. If the ensemble was entirely beige a dash of neon or bright pink was added to make the look standout. A runway show is undoubtedly an icing on a multi-layered cake and the applause the cherry on top. There are so many ensembles and ideas that a showcase where everything is perfect is almost impossible, unless its Valentino! Valentino is one of the masters of couture — a brand who knows what draping is all about. It can crop silk chiffon around a bod and into flying panels, quivery ripples, and filmy, flippy hemlines like no one else. And his finesse with beading on tulle—say, on the front panel of a grege cotton resille dress embroidered with silver pearls and rhinestones — makes others' attempts look coarse by comparison. Delicacy as a signpost of technique was also obvious in a top embroidered with champagne metal sequins. Fragile gold-and-crystal boots were a sterling accessory. But equally, there were outfits that seduced with their straightforwardness. For menswear, wool and cashmere camel coat with rose application and rust leather and wool coat embroidered with a net of bows (paired with menthe green turtle neck) was outstandingly chic, something anybody would love to recreate and wear. There was a fearlessness in the fact that so much of it was so casually chic, in generally like the button-up shirt running up the crepe organza and silk skirts or down the savage popping colours turtle necks. But Piccioli's signal achievement has been to turn such casual separates into something new, irresistible and haute. What the designers seemed have had done was the way they have managed to take the foundations of haute couture—the incredible, time-consuming, numbingly detailed techniques—and applied them to their own curious vision of basics. There could not have been a more perfect collection that this to the most fashionable day of couture.

CANDID: u201cI think itu2019s human nature to feel resentment to things youu2019re not included in,u201d says Meesha Shafi in response to criticism from certain quarters about the show.
International
‘Coke Studio has placed Pakistani music on global map’

Earlier this month, two songs from two different studios – Coke Studio and Velo Sound Station – were released and both created a sensation amongst the listeners, garnering millions of views in just a few hours. Both sound tracks, Na Tutteya Ve and Boom Boom feature Meesha Shafi as the lead vocalist, touching the base of two completely different genres and language.  Where Na Tutteya Ve is in Punjabi language and a female anthem, featuring six other female artistes, Boom Boom (remake of the iconic sound track by Nazia Hassan) is a club banger, the first of its kind to be released in mainstream or commercial music stream. The past decade has been extraordinary one in the life of Meesha Shafi. Even if you have only casual knowledge of Meesha’s music – there may be hardly anyone in Pakistan who can’t sing all the words to Jugni, a Coke Studio Season 3 release in 2010. Meesha has become not only one of the most successful female recording artistes of this decade in Pakistan, but also an unrivalled power broker who has prevailed in a volatile Pakistan music industry and brought today’s music overlords to heel with her powerful female vocals.  This December, Meesha have had the number-one, number-two songs in Pakistan and a couple more released along the same timeline. “It is sinking in. I have felt this feeling before, but this time it’s on a different scale. It gave me a reminder, a nostalgia, that I had experienced this kind of love and success before when Jugni came out. At that time, it was a kind of my mainstream debut and it feels like this beautiful starting and ending sort of punctuated my ten years in music,” Meesha said in an exclusive interview with Gulf Times. She feels that music coming out of Pakistan has taken a turn towards experimentation over the last decade. “Listeners have changed, music has changed. As an artiste myself, I have explored a lot of different things, stylistically. The way I sing, the way I use my voice and play with different genres – making it audio-visual experience now for the last few years has come into play.” After Jugni, having a theatre background Meesha ventured into acting with a few projects in the Pakistani drama industry and also making appearances in Hollywood and Bollywood productions. However, she didn’t pursue it later as keenly.  “I didn’t pursue because sitting in Pakistan, like 95% of the scripts that are being written just do not resonate with me. I am selective towards substance,” Meesha adds, “The script writing has gone down unfortunately. I think in our dramas they are romanticising, turning it into a badge of honour, that you’re a good woman if you are putting up with the mistreatment, abuse and injustice. I don’t agree with that and I don’t want to be a part of that narrative. I think it’s an unhealthy direction to be following.” Since 2007, Coke Studio has rapidly become one of the most influential platforms in musical media whilst winning praise from everyone who’s familiar with it, including from fans across the border in India. However, some people from within music industry form a strong opinion that such platforms stagnate the music industry. Meesha responds, “You know the idiom ‘sour grapes’? That’s it! I think it’s a case of that. I’m not saying it in a judgmental way but very factually… that I think it’s human nature to feel resentment to things you’re not included in. Don’t view things from a bitter perspective,” she adds, “Myself included, there are lists of names of artistes these very platforms have been responsible for transforming the lives of. It’s undeniable what these platforms have done for folk and regional artistes, folk instruments that we have in our South Asian heritage that were never really used previously in mainstream music. It’s not fair to say that it’s doing nothing for the artistes. Such platforms have created a complete eco system where every season new artistes are introduced, from absolutely unknown to indie, and mixes them all up. Coke Studio has especially placed Pakistani music on the global map.” Talking about Na Tutteya Ve and its resonance with female empowerment in Pakistan, Shafi says, “It’s an anthem of equal rights, female empowerment and saluting the resilience of women. I’m very close to it and feel very passionate about right and wrong, moral values and what our responsibilities are as a society and as artistes. I’m very happy that (the current) season opened with such an anthem which is a work of radical-feminist poetry,” she adds, “Female empowerment in Pakistan is heading where it needs to head, gaining momentum, especially (where) younger women are becoming more and more aware about what their rights and what is not okay no matter what. And that kind of mindset is irreversible. I’m noticing that even men, their awareness is expanding and they’re cautious about what’s right and wrong. This generation is not in the mood for nonsense and it’s not gender specific. I’m a parent now and where I find myself in a situation which is not right, I don’t just want to sit and take it. Because then my kids will follow the same example. I think Na Tutteya Ve was a strong statement that even such a big mainstream show is bringing in such conversation to the forefront.”

Lakmu00e9 Fashion Week (LFW) went digital this season, nobody knew what to expect from the first digital fashion weeku2014other than that everything was going to be radically different from what weu2019re used to u2013 but however it succeeded on delivering a pleasing fashion experience.
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Lakmé Fashion Week: bringing traditional glory back in spotlight

The future of the fashion calendar has been uncertain for almost a year now. It’s been nine months since Covid-19 took over the world like a storm yet each day offers new challenges for designers and their teams to overcome amidst a health pandemic, an economic depression, and a global social justice movement. Planning for the next season is no longer a business as usual, but small steps are being made. The fashion industry at large, worldwide, has been reckoning itself at every level and business’s most visible touchpoint, the fashion week, has undergone a radical reformation of its own. Fashion weeks have gone digital. In the centre of all this, are the fashion councils and fashion week organisers because how the online content rolls out and who it reaches out to depends on them.  For people like myself, consistently working within fashion industry at home and abroad, attending fashion shows had been a norm before the coronavirus came along. We would wax lyrical about shows that we loved and collections that were so well constructed and others that never should’ve been made – but we would also whine about having too many events to attend – and that too a schedule of one show after another, one event after another, sometimes dates coinciding, overlapping, late late hours and the inevitable delays. While writing about gruesome collections is never fun, there is a certain high that I get when I talk and review clothes that are utterly beautiful, a show that is standout or a brilliant new designer who has all the makings of becoming the next big shot. It was only when live fashion shows came to an abrupt halt and the months yawned on that we began to miss them. But it’s the new reality of fashion industry, atleast for now: a digital-only fashion week – without the chaos, the buzz, the gossip that sieved out from the plethora of backstage dramatics, the models, the designers and even the hits and misses of the red carpet.  Lakmé Fashion Week (LFW) went digital this season, nobody knew what to expect from the first digital fashion week—other than that everything was going to be radically different from what we’re used to – but however, it succeeded on delivering a pleasing fashion experience. Zooming in on the fashion, in literal sense on our screens, here’s what we loved from Lakmé this season. Manish Malhotra He remains everyone’s best friend and they are there for him. Manish Malhotra is loved, cherished and there’s no way there’s Lakmé without his spot. For the previous few collections, Manish had taken a different route — that caterwauled more bling and glamour and less old-world charm, heritage and traditional wear. However, this very time Manish managed to balance out his love for bling with traditional bridal sense, which was a little overdue. Manish’s pieces featuring lehnga choli, dupattas and angrakhas meshed in cotton, silk, and velvets was an example of how to draw upon history and tradition and come up with heirloom pieces. Featuring chatta patti in contrasts popping colours, zardozi mixed with crystals, Mughal motifs in resham embroidery and Bollywood’s own Kartik Aryan wearing an ensemble nothing but a heavily worked piece. His pieces are not just for wearing but keeping and passing on to your next generation! Gaurang Shah Gauang’s ‘Taramati’ was all about the timeless classic that has passed through the history of subcontinent gracefully draping women, belong to all bands of Indian society: Sari. Be it women who faced the carnage that defined Indo-Pak Partition, or high society soirees or modern-day cocktail parties – the sari remains a staple in nearly every woman’s wardrobe — in jacquard, jamawar, fluid chiffon, slinky silk or crisp cotton. Ever reliable, the pairing of yards of fabric with a short blouse simply never goes out of fashion. With its many folds and pleats, Gaurang retained the grandeur of a sari: employing chinkari, kasauti, block printing, embroideries, gota work, and hand-woven techniques on gorgeous banarasi, and jamdani weaves the thread embroideries were sometimes so detailed that they looked like print and a mélange of flora and fauna flitted about Gaurang’s canvas: clusters of flowers and asymmetrical shapes and designs. Woven in beige, green, yellow, rich purple, pinks, these are timeless pieces and you want to keep them for years over years in your wardrobe! Raw Mango by Sanjay Garg: One wonders what it must feel like to be the person behind a brand as ethnic as Raw Mango; to be accustomed to accolades and a perpetual stream of rave reviews. Does he still feel a high when applauded or is it now all in a day’s work for him? For while I have lauded this hoopla of talent to the skies before when he showcased his collection here in Doha during Shop Qatar last year, his festive collection ‘Moomal’ this season has me talking about it all over again.  As the name suggests, the ‘Moomal (love)’ was a throwback to his love for Rajasthani craftsmanship and traditional silhouettes. Minimalistic with popping colours, the collection featured multi-coloured long blouses, kurtas with choli cuts, graphically constructed cholis, typical Rajasthani necklines – exquisite hand-worked dupattas, the old-world voluminous gharara, resham worked onto dupatta borders… the whole shebang. As always, there was a riot of colors in the collection; the festive ghararas in just the right shades of pink and green; light yellows, peaches and then bolder royal purple and a shade of red … basically impeccably finished and so, so lovely Pankaj and Nidhi: Day 2 of Lakmé Fashion Week 2020, dubbed ‘Sustainability Day’ dedicated to highlighting designers that follow conscious and ethical practices in fashion. Far more coherent then anyone else on this day was Pankaj and Nidhi Ahuja’s ‘Talisman’, featuring the designers’ quintessential play of three-dimensional embellishments with fabrics made from 100 percent recycled plastic PET bottles paired with flowing chiffon and knits. It was playful and relaxed, yet daring and sporty with billowing shirts and lowers that allow for effortless slouchy elegance – bell bottoms, balloon-sleeved cropped blouse highlighted with sequins, puff-sleeved blousons, belted full-flared maxi, bralette with a long skirt, slim pants and button-less jacket – and hues that give the outfits an added breezy look against the predominant pastels.  Péro:  It was easily one of the best collections of the day. The collection was a symphony in cotton, gingham checks, linen stripes, and gauze-like solids falling in impeccably crafted layers, worked with intricate details that you immediately wanted to examine up-close. Printed flowers gave the ensembles a perfect chic appeal. Aneeth’s creative touches of handcrafted upcycled and hand embroidery was added to the footwear as well. There wasn’t too much of embroidery everywhere, which is an absolute delight because fastidiously crafted pleats and cuts fell into place perfectly not leaving an inch for anything extra. The huge sombreros worn by some of the models added flavour – you could almost see those layered skirts twirling on a hot night under the Spanish moon! Amit Aggarwal: Amit brought out nonchalant swirling lehngas, saris and separates evocative of festive yet unpremeditated and it was an utter breath of fresh air, swooping into luxury-wear’s fabric-infested landscape with cheeky colour blocks and the metallic Kanjeevaram sari border — mixed with polymer in interesting collages. The designer always presents something out of the box and one tends to associate this with him. His collection was inspired by cosmos and its stars, and well, it was extremely artisanal, the lineup was testimony to Amit’s finesse and eye for fashion. What a collection, Amit. Now, with this line, he even exemplified how has always meant to be for an industry that’s fickle – and he definitely plans to do so by sticking to his unique signature style rather than going down the hackneyed but lucrative embroidered route. What a relief. Disha Patil: Disha Patil’s ‘The Labyrinth’ held one transfixed; such was the sophistication of her craftsmanship, the finesse of her cut and the elegance of her silhouette. It was a beautiful collection, traversing a palette that varied from ivory, pastel pink, white and grey. One can more or less predict some of the elements that are bound to be a part of a Disha’s show: beadwork, paillettes and sequins, and hand embroideries galore. With ‘The Labyrinth’, Disha spun them together to introduce new silhouettes and also, creates looks that were strongly reminiscent of her earlier hits. Bridals are Disha’s forte and, in these times of generic heavy-duty wedding wear, she has a particular signature of her own. Her brides came resplendent in layered lehngas, the dupattas sometimes attached to the cholis or capes. The painstaking effort showed, as did the sophistication of Disha’s ethos. Kunal Rawal: Speaking of cool, it’s simply what Kunal will always be. The men wore the classic suits that Kunal cuts so well while the female models wore fierce jackets and skirts in grey and black. There was a lot of black on black sequin work, cutwork and silver beads. Even the models looked happy getting dressed for Kunal’s show. His menswear especially was replete with sharply cut jacket and embroidery. Having seen designers try to make menswear and blacktie fun for the audience rather than wearable for their clientele, this was the collection that delivered on all aspects. The jackets had filigree without compromising on the one thing that black tie is truly about: cuts. Sonakshi’s jacket, twinkling with silver embellishments, was an absolute statement — a sleek, modern take on traditional wear. 

Thermal Scanners at HIA installed by Bayanat Engineering.rnrn
Qatar
‘Qatar market bounced back at Covid-19’

It has been a golden decade for tech companies. Over the last ten years, tech companies built and grew that now dominate the entire world today, somehow one way or another. Where some spurred mobile commerce, created powerful marketing techniques, invented new forms of content and built dynamic, influential consumer brands, others went a notch-higher — of taking over the charge of security and safety of the people and in today’s time reinventing and placing strategies to help governments and institutions in curbing the spread of coronavirus. One of the reasons why while the rest of the economy is tanking from the crippling impact of coronavirus, tech-based businesses are holding steady — even thriving. There are two paths to becoming powerful in technology — start a new tech company that transforms our society or secure a powerful position in an established tech giant — either of it is not a laidback choice. Since technology is evolving everyday with new discoveries made and introduced, it’s quite a sweat to keep an eye on new trends, discoveries and innovations. Hasan Ezzeddine, General Manager at Bayanat Engineering, speaks to Gulf Times about leadership, entrepreneurship, expansion of HIA for thermal scanners, security and FIFA2022 and how tech could be implemented to avoid a disaster and a massive event like Beirut blast. Bayanat is a Qatari leading solutions provider for aviation and Engineering government sectors including Traffic Management, Military Defense, Airside and Terminal Systems with the deployment of a wide range of Communication, Navigation, Surveillance, Meteorological, Passenger and Operation Management, Lighting, Security and Information Technologies. With ever evolving technology, how do you keep up with the new innovations and technologies? Technology is evolving every day, we have close connections with our partners who keep us up to date, as well as we are always on the lookout for news and participating in world leading events. Some major events that we yearly participate in, include World ATM Congress, Meteorological Technology World Expo, and Global Air Traffic Management. The important aspect is to be on a constant lookout for our main competitors – that is a great stimulus for learning. We always try to be the best in what we are doing, and have the best partners supporting us with our projects. In addition to that, Qatar always requires latest and most advanced technologies, thus our clients are our biggest motivators. You deal with Operation Management as well as Security and Information Technologies, how do you think both can be employed to avoid any disaster like the Beirut blast that happened last month? Security and IT is a great tool, but this tool has to be implemented and used by responsible people in order to be practical. Beirut is a great example of the need for having an adequate risk process to accommodate managing major operations which is the case in Qatar. You’re working with HIA for thermal scanners and security. How effective is the technology and how do you think it can help in curbing the spread of Covid-19? Human Body thermal scanners from Cantronics have no human error, most accurate and reliable solutions, our Canadian partners have produced an effective product. I believe it is a great and essential solution in the current state of affairs and will be a necessity due to high accuracy. It helps monitor higher volumes in less time. Is Bayanat also providing an opportunity for young graduates/researchers to be a part of the team to come up with cutting edge technology that can be a breakthrough, like a Digital Incubation Centre for instance? We are open to innovations and excellence as well as new talents. We currently are working on the project with Qatar Aeronautical Academy, which potentially can grow into partnership. In addition to that, we are working on our website, which will be not only informative, but also educational both for professionals and non-technical readers – it can be used as the case study based on detailed project descriptions as well as weekly articles about specific topics to the industry. In addition to that, we are willing to co-operate with educational institutions for educational trainings and giving opportunity to graduates. How has Covid-19 affected Bayanat, considering you don’t have any other competition in the market as of now? ‘Every Cloud has a silver lining’. In Bayanat Qatar, we follow this quote and act accordingly, Covid-19 is an unprecedented world event that had all individuals trying to adapt in our sector. Moreover, Qatar market is so strong that it bounced back almost directly with all the measures put in place. What are the airport advancements we’re looking forward to as we progress towards FIFA 2022? (Hamad and Doha) HIA and DIA expansion as well as security and safety enhancements are undergoing. Example would be FOD Xsight, Mlat Expansion, Qatar Flight Information Region programme, and Meteorological advance systems. Any advice for the young entrepreneurs? On how to sustain themselves in a market that’s quite volatile right now in general? As an officially certified individual with RMP, PMP, LEED AP, Solar energy ,etc , I advise the young generation to be willing to gather the knowledge from learning and work hard while putting in the extra hours and effort in order to achieve your goals. For how long have you been living in Qatar? And how do you think Qatar has evolved with its adaptation of new and advance technologies of worldwide recognition? I moved to Qatar in 2010 and since then I’ve grown and learned so much in Qatar aviation and transportation industry which can be easily be ranked as top five worldwide. Thus, the urge to be number one in the world is a catalyst to bring the most advanced technologies and utilise them in our line of business. Furthermore, Hamad International airport has been one of best in world for the past five years in addition to Qatar Airways.    

HEAT SENSORS: All live objects emit infrared energy or heat. Unlike regular cameras that record light reflected by objects, thermal cameras use heat sensors that can record heat generated by the body of a person or an object to create a 2D image with differing temperature levels.
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Temperature measurement

As airports around the world restart operations, providing important connectivity and essential operations, their primary focus is on protecting the health and welfare of passengers and staff, as well as to minimise the opportunities for dissemination of coronavirus disease. The entire aviation ecosystem is adjusting to the complexities of the ‘new normal’ and responding to the needs and expectations of passengers is crucial in rebuilding confidence that air travel is safe. It won’t be erroneous to say that aviation will be a key engine driving the long-term global economic recovery from the effects of Covid-19.  As the cases of coronavirus spiked up in Qatar, various technologies and preventive measures were put into place to curb the spread of the virus, including mandatory wearing of masks, Ehteraz application for contact tracing, social distancing and mandatory temperature checking at all entry points of any building or work place by hand held devices. The hand held devices are the most affordable option available in the market, but not with the most accurate results. This isn’t the first time thermal scanning is being used to screen higher body temperature related to infections that can cause an epidemic. During the 2002-03 outbreak of Sars virus, airports in Singapore and China deployed them and have been using them since. Similarly, here at home, Bayanat Engineering Qatar had it first installation of Cantronic body temperature scanner in August 2017 in Hamad International Airport, which was during the Swine flu and Ebola pandemic, for various reasons, including the level of accuracy, convenience, and efficiency.  Comparing to the hand-held thermometers, that can only scan one person at the time  — scanners that are well in use now, can scan hundreds of people per minute. In addition to that, the storing mistakes and battery levels affect the performance of the hand held monitors. Human factor also plays a big role — with the scanning system — even if the dedicated person is not at his post, the scanner creates a sound and a visual notification (with the picture of the person with higher temperature), which can help to decrease the possibility of mistakes is shared with the authorities. Furthermore, scanners have the possibility to integrate with third-party health monitoring systems/software’s (for example Ehteraz) which can be beneficial for the various sectors.  All live objects emit infrared energy or heat. Unlike regular cameras that record light reflected by objects, thermal cameras use heat sensors that can record heat generated by the body of a person or an object to create a 2D image with differing temperature levels. When a person stands before the cameras, on the computer screens the hotter objects are highlighted with a different colour palette than the rest. These cameras can be calibrated to detect abnormal body temperatures. Every pixel of the image has a temperature associated with it, so a higher resolution camera scan offers more detailed images. Speaking to Community about the Cantronics body scanner at HIA, Zameer Basha Shaik, Project Manager at Bayanat Engineering, said, “ I feel that the Cantronics body scanners are very accurate, reliable and user-friendly, especially at enormous crowd monitoring in the public areas. It’s a bit challenging during a busy time slot to monitor each person without disturbing their movement. With Cantronics, we can overcome all those issues. I say it is the industry best system and adopted by one of the best organisations.”  Hassan Ezzeddine, General Manager at BEQ, added, “Bayanat Engineering Qatar continues to improve the safety measures at Hamad International Airport and Qatar. Body temperature measurement systems reduce the human and technical error with the level of accuracy up to 99.99%. The systems already have been implemented in various institutions including the airport, along with oil and gas, government, semi-governments and private sectors across Qatar.”

STARRING: Clockwise from top left, Yasra Rizvi as Jugnu Chaudhary, Sarwat Gillani as Sara, Nimra Bucha as Batool, and Mehar Bano as Zainab.
Community
Striking the putrid core of patriarchy

A series in real sense, with extra-ordinaire writing, direction and acting coming out of Pakistan. Churails (meaning witches) is the first Pakistani series that has been especially commissioned by an Indian streaming platform, ZEE5, in this case. ZEE5 brings it to its platform under its popular Zindagi brand. Created by Pakistani-British writer-director Asim Abbasi, Churails is an unapologetic bold, unabashed story of a bunch of gutty women vigilantes who take it upon themselves to teach abusive men — and through them, a deeply patriarchal society — a lesson they wouldn’t forget in a hurry. The series is set in the backdrop of Karachi. Sometimes fantastical, and sometimes a little too real in its statement, the show tackles a wide range of women’s issues — touching upon domestic violence, forced and child marriages, abortions, the feminine beauty complex, racism, and more — with a plot that’s fun and irrational but true at the same time. The show follows the lives of four women: Sara (Sarwat Gilani), a trophy wife of a politico who realises her marriage is a lie. Jugnu (Yasra Rizvi), is an alcoholic and ‘badnaam’ (disreputable) socialite whose wedding planning career comes crashing down with a glitzy chandelier. Zubaida (Mehar Bano) is a girl from an uber conservative family, who dares to dream to become a boxer and gets involved with a guy where even looking at one is considered prohibited and Batool (Nimra Bucha) a murderer who has just come out of her 20-year imprisonment for killing her abusing husband with a hot iron. Four ‘Churails’ but one story — perfectly intertwined with the accounts of other characters but never really missing the plot of its own; seamlessly pacing with an intriguing background score and music — each episode better than the last. In the first episode, mostly for the sake of plot, but also because of the various abusive men in their lives, the four are brought together by the writers of the show. Sara is a traditional happy go-lucky wife hosts smashing dinner parties, warding off inquisitive mediapersons whilst looking comely while doing so. Her veneer cracks when she stumbles upon hints of his husband, Jameel’s disloyalties. But instead of taking the stereotypical damsel in distress route, she banishes him to the guest bedroom forever, confronts him, and blackmails him into giving her property, on which she sets up ‘Halal Designs’ an undercover detective agency guised as a burkha boutique; an unlikely adventure — coming together with Jugnu, Zainab and Batool — a business through which they avenge ‘wronged women’ — the limited definition of which is laid out by Sara — women with cheating husbands.  And then they’re joined by nine new like-minded bunch, two devoted male allies and seven supporting stock characters, all driven by appeal of money, but fuelled for bringing up a change in the society.  In a blink, one case after another, without really consciously thinking about it, the Churails ends up snowballing into a mini feminist movement that draws attention of many, especially men — forcing their closure.  For the first few episodes, it’s all Ocean’s Eight, daring and style for the breaking barriers avengers. Their facade is a boutique store. The confession-booth setup to conceal their identities even has a strategic hole for them to hold the hands of nervous clients who arrive with cash and difficult details. By the third episode, it starts to dawn upon both the characters and the viewers that it’s never as simple as becoming burqa-clad vigilantes in South Asia – or anywhere for that matter. Cops, politicians and mobs crash the party. By the fifth episode, the honeymoon phase is over. By the seventh, a larger conspiracy comes to light, and the story zooms out to reveal their little planet in a big universe. The narrative takes stunning twists and turns in the lead-up to the finale, uncloaking disruptive secrets and a monumental scam in the process.  For all the actors: lead, supporting or the ones making the cameos, it’s a crisp, quirky and bold performance and it’s a celebration of brilliant Pakistani filmmakers and writers and their expression.  But to recognise how unique Churails is, it’s essential to understand a recent trend in Hindi cinema. Where recently released Bulbbul, produced by Anushka Sharma, used a gothic period-horror tale to disguise feminist narrative of wronged women. Churails goes a step further. You cannot box Churails as a story of women empowerment or feminism, but its a bold statement — that women are capable of anything, they’re unstoppable, irresistible, powerful and they can run the world on their terms because they’re the ‘Queens of the Godamn jungle!’  Yasra Rizvi, Nimra Bucha, Sarwat Gillani and Mehar Bano defines the acting prowess at its best. And Asim Abbasi outdoing himself as a director after Cake (2018), everyone hitting the notch. Similarly, Director of Photography, Mo Azmi — who is also a co-producer — gives fabulous frames, with bright colour palettes and frame compositions. Churail Churail, teri kahaani khatam (Witches! Your’re done now!) — The title track of series is catchy, jazzy and quirky, sung by Zoe Viccaji and Taha Malik and lyrics by Osman Khalid Butt.  Yasra Rizvi is a delight to watch, her movement from theatre to television to series is so evident with the finesse of character adaption and the way she moves on the camera. She’s sassy, spunky and spirited — free spirited, nothing redundant and she’s got the best lines to spout, and she does it wonderfully as well. Nimra Bucha is mesmeric and magnetising. Her eyes shoot daggers with the capacity to kill and so is Mehar Bano’s. Zainab’s a tomboy with a feminine approach that many girls could relate to, and Mehar Bano portrays very well in detail, especially in a sequence where she knocks out her kidnapper in a red dress. It won’t be erroneous to say that Sarwat Gillani is one helluva actress and she has been so underrated. With Churails she caterwauls what a hoopla of talent, emotions and expressions she is! The show is a fitting reminder of the need to promote exchange of arts and culture across India and Pakistan.

Ashwa
Community
QNTC virtual fashion show: embracing the new normal

The fashion industry is reckoning itself at every level and the business’s most visible touchpoint, the fashion show, is also undergoing an entire revamp of its own. Faced with the necessity of translating fashion to a digital format, the Qatar National Tourism Council, following the route and level set by London, Paris or Milan Fashion Week’s digital edition, and in collaboration with United Development Company (UDC), recently organised Qatar’s first virtual fashion show — and it did live up to its puffery, with a few first-time glitches of course, like no background music in the YouTube live but that’s completely understandable when everything at large has just started to shape up. Mapping out how to marry the pomp and circumstance of a fashion show with the high-speed chill of the internet is still unknown, although fashion critics worldwide do review collections based on pictures or high-quality videos, but missing the catwalk physically is just an expected notion; it seems absence does make the heart grow fonder. The coronavirus came along just when spring was unfolding upon the country, and none of the events — including the plugged Fashion Trust Arabia — set to showcase the latest seasonal trends and bring about some new fresh air of fashion connoisseurs could take place. We missed the buzz, which may have been hard to find in recent times. We missed the fashion on the catwalk and off it and the opportunity to meet with the fraternity, for three or four days in a row. We also missed the excuse to get dressed up and go out for the night.  As a fashion critic, I personally missed pulling all-nighters, assisted by big cups of coffee that I usually get from a café near my house while on my way back from the fashion infused night, reviewing one show after the other. While writing about the gruesome collections is never fun, there is a certain high that I get when I wax lyrical about clothes that are utterly beautiful, a show that is standout or a brilliant new designer who has all the makings of becoming the next big thing. While we wish that the coronavirus ends soon and we’re back to sitting side by side, gazing at the catwalk, one day after the other, there is also honestly so much that organisers are putting in to bring fashion weeks and shows home, and they are also successful at some level. The biggest pro to digital shows: the timings. This one’s a no-brainer. One of the most irritating aspects of attending a fashion week is that the show, officially supposed to start at a sedate 8 pm almost always begins an hour or a half later, with quite some breaks in between but digitally it’s all in a one go — no waiting, just fashion. So, where we miss the catwalk in physical, the digital takes over and caterwauls its lead and pros. Here’s what went down the catwalk, or this time if I must ‘our laptop screens’! Liwani The show opened with a checked gold yellow power suit with black lining, followed by a cheeky number of green silhouette over-sized top paired with a bright pink tights, a trimmed frill chiffon tulle cocktail dress in baby pink and then a couple of high-street menswear pieces. Nothing seemed to be cohesive, neither a particular theme for the collection was put forward. But individually every look had something edgy and if paired separately would make an outstanding outfit. Using cotton, denim and a variety of silks to create structured silhouettes in primitive basic colours it was a high-street retail collection and if you intend making a statement, these pieces will make you stand out all right — only if you get your styling and aesthetics game on!  Per Lei Couture Per Lei’selaborately pieced tailoring and body-hugging tafetta spliced onto nude tulle—also did star turns. The pace picked up even further in the last piece in which nude bedazzled top with lemon yellow skirt morphed-together fluorescent chiffons and a statement belt in a hotly contested dash around the room. It was modern, sleek and all about silhouette frills that caterwauled feminine appeal. It was here more effortless-looking couture outings – that is, managed to keep supersize volumes down with some ready to wear twist. Va Va Voom! The Project The most powerhouse collection of the day! They maintained its signature loud and brash style, bringing novelty and even bigger lustre to their trademark with bigger bling on their edgy outfits on the ramp and oversized fabric on menswear that was allowed to turn, swing and flow just like a silhouette is supposed to. Whether he/she is clad in denim or leather or a little buzz of feathers – the collection was all about standing out and shining, like anything in the world. Neon dashes here and there with capes on layers, block colours, fuss free and a little PVC body fitted statement — this has to be the winner. The bubble wrap coat was loud — the modern twist to the otherwise boring outfit. The Project is here to stay and is very welcome! Ashwa It’s a haute couture season. There were many dreamy dresses in this collection: a trio in golden bling chiffon that wrap around the body, tethered by discreet micro-pleating; a black on black gown who’s inner lining was just enough in length to see the embroideries in detail — constructing shimmers on the legs; and black white and grey sequins silhouette that didn’t cinch at the waist too much and still had a perfect flow to the fabric. The power pink with the cape was a proof that there was a deliberate bling the proceedings — literally, in the choice of fabrics and handwork and guess what, it worked. The entire collection seemed to be painstakingly embroidered with tiny silvery-gray caviar beads, well when I say it, I mean it – it was just the start of how embellishments are done with the notch glamorous presentation. Youssef al-Jasmi For his haute couture collection, it was all crystals and blings in general that intrigued this Kuwaiti designer. Bling bling and tightly fitted full length gowns was a proof that nothing can hold him back when it comes to handwork and zip-line pieces; some fully embellished and some in simple choice of fabrics paired with metallic threads — nothing revealing, no deep necklines, over the top backs and hemlines of old-school agendas. The result looked like some sort of exotic fish-in the most flattering possible way. Months and months in the planning, we’re sure, and the statement full length radiating silver gown was decorated with crystals to catch the light and arrayed in the exact same pattern – fabric fizzling around the perfectly tailored couture.  Shades Open, closed, fitted, flowy, oversized abayas with little intricate colour details here and there, sometimes collar, sometimes checks on sleeves and the lining of hijab; the collection was fuss free, embellishment free, naturally neutral and utilitarian. The favourite piece ought to be the black and white one — for how effortlessly and in block white paired with black and formed a statement. A busy sophisticated route for the modern women of Qatar.

FIRST IN THE MIDDLE EAST: Runway Debris Monitoring System (RDMS) by European company Xsight at Hamad International Airport.
Community
Safety first at HIA

Foreign Object Damage (FOD) is any article or substance, object, particle, substance, debris or agent alien to an aircraft or system especially on the runway during the take-off or landing of the plane, which could potentially cause damage. External FOD hazards include bird strikes, hail, ice, sandstorms, ash-clouds or any other object left on the runway. Where the old days of aviation were rough and ready with pilots landing on grassy runways, dirt or gravel — the risks of being damaged by debris of all sorts were high. However, today’s aviation industry has made great leaps forward in terms of the technology it can bring to all facets of the operations and safety of the airplane and its passengers.  While there has been increasing awareness of dangers faced by FOD, there has been solid effort put together by the airports to take effective measures. The solution lies in continuous, 24 hour remote scanning of runways, using precision millimetre radar, combined with advanced day/night optical technology, and instant FOD alerting to airport operators. Bayanat Engineering Qatar is currently working with Xsight Europe in order to implement the FOD detection system for the safe runway of Hamad International Airport, in order to ensure the safety of the passengers, crew and planes. Runway Debris Monitoring System (RDMS) by European company Xsight at Hamad International Airport is the part of the airport’s plan to elevate its safety measures and acquire the latest and most advanced runway technologies. RunWize, the Intelligent Hybrid Dual Sensor based Ruway Surveillance and FOD Detection System, has been implemented on the airport’s two parallel runways, one of them being one of the longest in the world at 4,850 meters in length. The device uses both a camera and a radar, and is installed adjacent to runway edge lights. When it spots debris, it uses a laser pointer to guide an airport worker to its location. In contrast, pilots often report runway debris to the tower, but their description of the location is less reliable, because it is often given as they speed down the runway at over 100 miles an hour. The proposed Xsight sensors are designed to be very similar to edge light in how it is installed and maintained. No special runway closures are required to install and maintain the system. System installation and maintenance can be performed during the standard runway maintenance window provided by HIA. Hasan Ezzeddine, General Manager at BEQ, said “As one of the prime partners for HIA, we supply latest advanced technologies and the installation and maintenance to upgrade existing capabilities of the aviation sector towards achieving the supreme operation performance. We ensure the availability of the leading product for our customer with outstanding end-to-end execution. Our commitment is to the deliver the outstanding service to provide and improve leading safety standards.” Talking to Community about the international airports that have already employed this technology, Sajeev Rajedran, Project Manager at BEQ, said, “Airports including Boston Logan international Airport, Suvarnabhumi International Airport Bangkok, Seatlle-Tacoma International Airport, Beijing Capital International Airport and now Hamad International Airport have implemented this technology. It is imperative to highlight that Runwize is the only automated FOD detection system that has been commercially installed in a US Aiport.” Explaining about its working and how crucial this system be for the safety of the airplanes, he adds, “If there’s anything on the runway that even about 5cm, these can detect. It’s a dual function and it can turn 180 degree and cover quite a surface. There are two runways — so it cover 100% of the runway and the taxiways. It’s very efficiently installed on the edge lights, so technically we don’t need a huge infrastructure to place it on the runway.” The project has been underway since January. “Because of the Covid-19, now since the runway is not being used so frequently, it has given us space and time for implementation and upgradation,” says Sajeev.  Since it’s a new technology, for the first time being implemented in the Middle East, does it require an additional manpower to monitor and check? Sajeev responds, “No, one of the advantages of this is that it doesn’t require any additional monitoring team. It’s linked to the airport’s traffic control and maintenance tower and whenever it spots a debris it just notifies the team there. There are ten work stations and the radars pops up the information at the work station if there’s anything worth reporting, with an image of what has been spotted and at which location. At night, because visibility might be low — these radars use a laser to help find and spot the debris on the runway. It also has a mobile application and tab that makes it convenience to notify the concerned people regarding runway,” he adds, “We have placed around 340 sensors on two runways which provide like maximum coverage. When the airport expands, we’ll expand as well. The radar offers four systems, including FODetect, ViewWize, SnowWize and BirdWize. So, if there are birds on the runway and you select BirdWize option, the radar creates a sound itself to scare off the birds from the runway. So, nobody needs to go and manually do something. It is interfaced with all the current data and system of the flights and report. Flight numbers along with the record of flight is also recorded, which is good not just for the runway or the airport but the plane as well.”

ROYAL MEETING: Hassan with Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Kate Middleton, during their official visit to Pakistan last year.
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“Staying relevant isn’t easy”

While many designers are defined by the fashion industry, there are some who end up defining the industry instead. Hassan Sheheryar Yasin, shortened to HSY and mostly called Sheru by the fashion connoisseurs in Pakistan, can lay claim to that title. The rock’n’roll edge, bald, usually sunglasses, followed by body guards often seen in shirts with ‘I love HSY’ emblazoned on the front, when on fashion week duty, is one of the most recognisable figures in Pakistan; always at the top of his game in an industry known for its short expiration dates. On a one-track mission to create Pakistan’s most iconic brand, Sheru has dedicated more than two decades of his life to his work — and criticism, personal sacrifices have all come alongside meteoric success and worldwide recognition.  When he started out as a young designer fresh out of Pakistan Institute of Fashion Design, Pakistani fashion industry was not what it is now. There was scarcity of fashion shows, models, moral patrol on the lead and hardly any off-beat designers coming out who were about luxury at large or couture. Hassan with his love for fashion and work made it all happen and soon starting directing fashion shows and shoots.  Few years ago, Hassan brushed past me just centimetres away, walking along a narrow runway before he stopped to meet a fellow fashion journalist, sitting opposite in the front row, during the finale of his fashion show in Karachi. There was ongoing audience applause and it should’ve been an uplifting moment, but for me it was of curiosity — of knowing what goes in the head of the virtuoso who directs the models on the runway and creates a space of most engaging shows—i.e., the ones with the most energy: atmosphere. In all that hoopla of busy fashion schedule, I never really got the time to sit with Hassan and talk about his creative space, until now.  If ever there was an award for a multi hyphenate man in fashion, Sheru would no doubt make the shortlist. A darling of the entertainment industry alike, he’s no bashful for taking the stage and dancing at an award show as the lead, hosting a prime time talk show Tonite with HSY for four seasons and now venturing into acting with film Ishrat Made in China, amidst the centre of designing clothes and inspiring people.  In an exclusive conversation, Community asks him if he ever envisioned himself as one of the greats, he pauses, laughs, and tells that at the risk of sounding immodest, he did. “Staying relevant is not easy especially in an industry where new people are coming in and replacing old ones, in an instant. I constantly push myself to do something better every day, to leave a legacy behind,” he says. A studio that speaks for itself HSY recently established his new studio in Karachi, a grandeur that speaks for itself, encapsulating the heritage and value of traditionalism in a 150-160 year old house. Chandeliers, wooden floors, richly textured world of HSY with his stylish orbit bridal collection on the display, and neat bouclé men tweed jackets, the braided leather- and chain-handled racks — renovated spark with the hues of keeping originality intact. As the doors of his studio open, you can see Sheru discussing about his incalculable future projects with his team. Before sitting and putting forward a dozen questions about design, I comment on the glamour of his studio. “A studio space for a clothing brand that believes in luxury I believe should also ooze that kind of vibe. People should come in and feel that they’re buying a lifestyle, not just a product. This is an old heritage house that was built about 150-160 years ago and we had to renovate it brick to brick and floor to floor. But, I strongly believe that a brands legacy should be what it left behind. We all make clothes, everyone has won awards but that’s not legacy. Legacy is leaving something behind,”he adds, “We didn’t touch the outside façade of the property, neither did we touch the interior with modernity; we just fixed it how it was and just brought it to life.” What about futuristic approach to design and design space? Fashion has long been a community driven by passion, artistry, joy, and invention, though, of course, around it has evolved an industry of perpetual motion, always moving, faster, faster, faster… with a pulse on everything that’s happening around the world and bringing international elements to their creation and space. However, Hassan thinks otherwise in terms of borrowing trends and elements from Milan, Paris or New York at large. “Running towards a future that is not borrowed from Milan, Paris or New York but Pakistan is important. So many people want to feel that they’re part of the Ellie Saab world, we’re not. We’ll never will be. We don’t have finger on the pulse on what’s happening in Lebanon. We don’t have Beiruti women, we don’t have the Parisian lifestyle. We sell to a woman who’s in Sialkot, who’s a beautiful woman in Peshawar, who’s a rich powerful woman in Multan, who’s an incredibly important social worker in Gujranwala. They’re the clients. She’s a Pakistani. The question is will she feel comfortable here or will she comfortable in a studio that’s too western for her taste, with flickering lights and just bedazzled mannequins,” says Hassan. Pakistani Bridal Wear and Couture In times of Ready-to-wear (RTW), the only thing that merits a one-on-one between designers and customers is bridal wear. Bridal wear still remains the cornerstone of the Pakistan fashion industry. It is desi fashion’s high point; it is to the subcontinent what couture is t the west. Although Hassan is referred as the King of Couture in this part of the world, he has come in terms with the narrative that couture is only for a specific niche in Pakistan, and graceful inclusion of only certain elements of couture with bridal for this region be more successful for mass market. He says how he’s non chalant to fashion reviews now who bashes him when he shows a collection that doesn’t feature an off-shoulder, a round cut or a big flared skirt. “I get to hear ‘Oh Hassan! It’s stale, its stale!’ Who is actually wearing what you’re asking for? Which women am I targeting? I live by the rules that are set by the world of Pakistan. If I’m doing an international show, it’ll be a different collection, but when I’m in Pakistan — it ought to be a Pakistani collection. A wearable collection people can actually buy,” says Hassan. “I don’t take fashion off the streets that too of Milan or Paris with off-shoulder cuts and puffy sleeves,” adds Hassan, “I can’t print crabs and taxis and big flamingos on my outfits. I always design keeping two things in mind: can my mother wear it and can my sister wear it. You know when Brooke Shields called us in for a dress, I told her that the motif will be very Pakistani and she was like why else would I be calling you.” Figuring out what’s coming up the next season One of the most talented and outrageous fashion designers of his time – with eccentric and poetic fashion moments that no one will ever forget – HSY’s bride-to-be and her family tells him exactly what’s coming next season. He’s smart to pick up the consumer behaviour and market response. “When my client comes in with a sample colour she wants, I know that’s the colour trend that’s going to take over Pakistan the next season and grab it immediately.” The first time HSY became aware of fashion “I didn’t know I wanted to be a designer until 29th July, 1981 when I saw Princess Diana getting married. I was a little boy in London with my mother who she took along with her to stand way back in line to get a glimpse of the procession. She held me up on her shoulders and I was lucky to catch a glimpse of the Royal Carriage with the beautiful Queen of Hearts as it passed us by. It was a magical moment. She inspired me like she inspired countless others. I remember telling my Mom ‘Princess!’ and she was like ‘Oh God! Now he wants to be a princess!’ and I was like ‘No, I want everyone to dress like a princess!’ That’s I guess the first time I thought of designing clothes,” Hassan recalls. However, it wasn’t as easy for men to join a design school and pursue fashion designing back in the 90’s. “Initially I went on to be a lawyer, because fashion designing wasn’t considered a man’s job and then when I was 17, I got into an accident and lost my eye sight. But when I gained my eye-sight back, I realised that there are so many things we’re not thankful for and that’s when I made up my mind that I have this gift of eye-sight and I’m going to make beautiful things. That’s when I convinced my mom to send me to the design school.” The Royal Affair The fashion maestro was one of the few people from the country and fashion/entertainment fraternity selected to meet the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Kate Middleton, during their visit to Pakistan last year. Remembering how his life had come a full circle from when he started dreaming of the things he has achieved today, he said, “I recently met Prince William and Kate Middleton when they were visiting Pakistan and it was a big moment for me. I told them how his mother inspired me to be a designer. I told them I want to be the king of people’s heart just as how Diana said in her last interview that she wants to be the Queen of People’s Heart. On the same year, I was celebrating my 25 years in fashion, it felt like I had come full circle. The son and daughter in law of the very same person who sparked my desire to be who I am were standing right in front of me and acknowledging my work. More than that I am happy now that I can now go and tell my sister’s children and their children that to dream is not a bad thing.” Twenty-fives years of fashion revolution Fashion shows we see today are not the way he envisioned them a decade ago, he along with his team of models had to undergo scrutiny just to organise a meek fashion show built on wooden planks at a community garden of some designer’s house. Fashion has changed immeasurably in Pakistan. Some years it felt like every season was starting anew, with droves of creative directors coming and going; more recently it has seemed like every week was a new beginning—or ending—in the fashion world, with brands, stores, and ideas sprouting up on social media as brick-and-mortar spaces we thought would exist forever closing their doors. Nothing about the medium is the same as it was back in 90’s. Some years were marked by specific collections or designers, while others were about unique items, trends, or cultural shifts. How Hassan thinks fashion industry has evolved, he responds, “Everything has changed and nothing has changed. Good craft is still king. Good designer aesthetics is still the most important thing. Attitudes have changed. But to sum it up, it’s still the customer that’s calling the shots. Things have become better in terms of acceptance. Boys working in fashion acceptance, girls working as models in fashion acceptance and fashion weeks acceptance. We have done fashion shows from scratch and was it good for me? Yes! I learned a lot and taught a lot.” HSY on being relatable “I’ve been around for the industry or 25 years now and I’m a people’s person. I post on Instagram more than any other designer does to make myself accessible to my people. I share when I’m sad, and I share why am I sad. That has been my strategy forever. To be someone people can relate to. I hope I’m not going over the line, but today if you take me or any other designer to a passer-by, his/her chances of recognising me are much more than anyone else. Not because I’m famous but because they’ll know I’m one of them. I even go to schools and share my success story with them. On how I didn’t come from a privileged background but still made it. I’m not going to be around forever, sure I look really young, but one day I’ll go and I want my journey to be more than that he made beautiful clothes. I want people to remember that he inspired the youth of Pakistan.” A tale of two cities Fashion has historically been a tale of two cities in Pakistan and there has been an intense competition between the two. A fashion industry of its own sprung up in Lahore with most organised structure — PFDC — under Sehyr Saigol and just how smartly a bridge between Pakistan Institute of Fashion Design and PFDC was created, a Karachi council Fashion Pakistan was also formed. Lahore was PFDC’s territory and FP, Karachi’s. For some time it was as if the councils owned their territory and became insulated. However things have been stirring up for the past few years. Hassan thinks that designers in this day and age should play a national game, rather than city divided approach. “There’s no New York or Miami, there’s no Milan or Rome, there’s no London and Bristol — as its American, Italian and English fashion, it should be only Pakistani fashion. Together we are a stronger breed and separated we are a fighting silly bickering designers who forget that the game is fashion not competition. Competition is not in which city you’re in but how good your product is. PDFC has done a good job and so has Fashion Pakistan. Yes, there’s a certain old guard that feels like politics but if you look at the new young designers, each just wants to show.” HSY’s ‘My Pakistan’ Time and again we come across various celebrities, who devote considerable time to different philanthropic activities. They lend support to social causes but also go the extra mile to spread awareness regarding issues like education, health, vocational trainings etc. Hassan collaborated with Network of Organisations Working for People with Disabilities, Pakistan (NOWPDP) to provide hope, empower as well as create opportunities for differently-abled designers. “The idea behind this project is to empower differently-abled design students and provide them with a platform to creatively express their ideas, thoughts and whatever comes to mind when they think of Pakistan through art using different mediums. What we’re going to do out of these drawings is that we’re going to make tunics out of these and sell them, and the entire proceeds of the design are going to go to the student.” HSY in Qatar I did a show in Qatar few years back and the entire thing for me was pretty good. Since I had a couple of Lebanese friends in Doha, it all came together well. Also I love flying via Qatar Airlines, it’s one of the best in the world.  

Though there have been more and more discussions about mental illness and the disruptive effect it can have on peopleu2019s lives, there is still a major stigma surrounding it
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Gone but not forgotten!

Depression has never been a joke and as much as celebrities worldwide may seem to have it all, what people don’t realise is that many of them suffer from mental illness due to their ridiculously hectic and micro-managed lifestyles, not to mention the constant criticism and hate they receive from the Internet, blogs, fans, even co-stars. Too often headlines announce the premature death of a celebrated actor, boxer, designer, politician and writer to musician and entrepreneur leaving the world in shock. Even darker so, sometimes the death comes at the person’s own hands. Suicide is not a new concern, especially not in celebrity circles. These tragic deaths are also not limited by lines of work. But whenever such news breaks the Internet, the comments and messages of condolences from peers start pouring in, they storm the timeline with typically one thing in common ‘Sorry we couldn’t be there for you!’ and it’s the cycle that goes relentlessly unless another person’s name is struck off the list.  As macabre and heart-breaking as these suicides are, for their family, fans, peers, and co-workers they serve as an important reminder that even if you think you may know everything about a person, underneath the surface they could believe that their life is worth nothing. The fact that these people – the aristocrats of their professions, in terms of skills, wealth and fame – decided to take their own life, is what needs to be assessed. The question most people ask is this, “Why would they want to take their own life, when they had ‘everything’?” But did they have everything, or does it even matter what they had or didn’t have in material possessions and fame? How many lives will be lost before the ten-letter word is addressed? How many names do we strike off the list before we understand that the society is plagued by a pandemic much worse than a plague.  Though there have been more and more discussions about mental illness and the disruptive effect it can have on people’s lives, there is still a major stigma surrounding it. This stigma can cause people to hide their pain and try and deal with things behind closed doors. While many people, including celebrities, have decided to come forward and be transparent about their mental health struggles, discussing the issue does not always mean that one can overcome it. Celebrities do come out and talk about mental health issues, use their platforms to share their battles, about their emotional strives but sometimes all it takes is holding a hand, or a hug and checking up on the other person, despite their smile, despite their flawless social media posts to let them open their heart and soul to you and what has been bothering them, underneath the hoopla of all the pretences. The list that includes the suicide of American actress like Marilyn Monroe, a designer like Kate Spade, Divya Bharti, the young Bollywood actress who rose to fame in the 90’s, just added on another name to it: Sushant Singh Rajput. Such times, such reflections only prove that being successful does not prevent a person from feeling unfulfilled or unhappy. Rajput, who started as a TV actor, made his Bollywood debut in 2013 with director Abhishek Kapoor in Kai Po Che! (I have cut), based on a novel by Chetan Bhagat. Rajput played former Indian cricket team captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the 2016 film MS Dhoni: The Untold Story. Among his other movies are Kedarnath, Sonchiriya (Golden Bird) and Raabta (Connection). He was last seen in the 2019 Netflix film, Drive. Celebrity from the aura that he carried with himself, playing the character of a perfect ‘good life’ for the world against the magenta walls and a leather scuff sofa in his living room that one could spot in his various photoshoots, Rajput wasn’t really living the ‘dream life’, when it was a cut from a scene during the shoots, it really was a cut for him, he wasn’t what he portrayed to the world, else I’m sure he wouldn’t have taken the step, he felt was right, because he couldn’t find any other outlet. He was a human being, underneath all of the images of him. He was himself underneath all of that. Sushant did give a subtle voice for help, in his interview with DNA talking about loss of his mother and how acting only keeps him busy, distracted and get away. How nothing excites him anymore…Every one of us is suffering with something or the other. And there’s nobody to talk to because people don’t listen...and those who do are more eager to give an opinionated answer instead of just listening.  I do not wish to write rest in peace. In a world that doesn’t let you live in peace, rest in peace sounds like such a pretence. 

GROUP: Awardees and Advisory Committee of HUM Women Leaders Awards 2020 with Dr Arif Alvi, President of Pakistan, along with the dignitaries.
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The Present Is Female: Celebrating the women leaders

As part of International Women’s Day celebration, Karachi recently witnessed the  celebration of iconic women at HUM Women Leaders Award 2020, an initiative to recognise and honour the contribution and achievements of women from Pakistan and around the world, writes Muhammad Asad Ullah In 2020, the wage gap may still exist between men and women — and even more so between different racial groups — but with internationally recognised movements like #MeToo and Time’s Up maintaining momentum and more women involved in careers defining change than ever before, women are also more powerful than ever.  A FEMALE CULTURE runs far and wide across the landscape of every field in the 21st-century today. It’s there at the top of the mountains, in major media houses, it pervades the uprising of fledgling, self-made independents and generations of established entrepreneurs, a multifaceted critical mass of women steadily working to change the perception of the country and represent their heritage for the better and projecting strength of patience and justice. What’s remarkable is the way they still talk about feelings, their swift ability to understand the time we live in, and their quiet but steady turning of the world toward the overthrow of bad and old institutional behaviours. For a long time, women were taught to ‘act like men’ to get ahead at any work or business for that matter. They put on shoulder pads and masculine suits, played by the rules, and acted out qualities that seemed to make for successful leaders like authority, firmness and not being ‘too accessible.’ But it won’t be erroneous to say that a new breed of women leaders like Sultana Siddiqui, CEO of HUM Network, herself is upending those old rules, embracing traits like empathy and collaboration to get things done, and refusing to suppress the qualities that make them who they are. Some may call these ‘feminine’ qualities, but others prefer to call them the traits of well-rounded leaders. As part of International Women’s Day celebration just around the corner, Karachi recently witnessed the celebration of iconic women at HUM Women Leaders Award 2020, an initiative to recognise and honour the contribution and achievements of women from Pakistan and around the world who are change makers in their respective fields and a symbol and source of hope, courage, determination and inspiration for women across the globe.  Dr Arif Alvi, President of Pakistan, along with Samina Alvi, First Lady of Pakistan; Paul W Jones, Ambassador of US to Pakistan; Imran Ismail, Governor Sindh, attended the awards to pay homage to the powerful women inspiring everyday. With the spot-on script, and hosted by Mira Sethi and Sanam Saeed the evening was a wonderful mesh of many elements.  Speaking on the occasion, the President, said, “We may have done much for women, but not as much as we should have done. When I used to be student there used to be a one-fourth quota for female students during admissions while three-fourth of the students were male. But the Supreme Court put an end to the quota system during the 1980s and now we see 80 percent or even more female students in our universities and professional colleges. And yet there are not as many women seen in professions as are passing out of the educational institutions because society expects to see the woman in the role of a mother or homemaker. So we don’t see this cream of our society in the pillars of our society.”  He added, “If women wish to work after marriage institutions should create part-time jobs for them and open day-care centres for their children in order to facilitate them. Media also had a responsibility in showing women in positive roles instead of stereotyping them.” The awards also remembered the Pakistani women legends and leaders of the past, including Fatima Jinnah, one of the leading founders of Pakistan; Benazir Bhutto, first female Prime Minister of Pakistan; Fatima Surayya Bajia, Urdu novelist, playwright and drama writer; Bano Qudsia, Pakistani novelist; Professor Anita Ghulam Ali, educational expert in Sindh, Pakistan; Dr Ruth Pfau, German-Pakistani physician who moved from Germany to Pakistan in 1961 and devoted more than 55 years of her life to fighting leprosy in Pakistan; Asma Jahangir, Pakistani HUMan rights lawyer; Madam Noor Jahan, Pakistani playback singer and actress; and Arfa Karim, the youngest Microsoft Certified Professional. Then one by one, the pictures and stories of the awardees were flashed on the screen. The only man awardee of the night was Omar Aftab, a globally recognised campaign strategist for women’s and child health, economic and social development and his work for social justice and HUMan rights and campaigns such as the Pink Ribbon and White Ribbon. HUM Women Leader Awards 2020 did not disappoint with the glamour and the sizzling power packed performances. And of course with the attendance of Pakistan’s A List showbiz celebrities, models and actors, after all it’s HUM and it knows how to pull off a show full of glamour bringing everyone under one roof, including Mahira Khan, Hina Bayat, Sania Saeed, Zeba Bakhtiar, Javed Sheikh, designer Bunto Kazmi, beautician Musarrat Misbah, and Fouzia Aman among others. It was a night of racy performances – some of them a lot of fun, like Hania Amir’s rise to dance with an ensemble and Sajjad Ali along with his daughter Zaw Ali spreading their vocals together for the first time. Hadiqa Kiani’s conquest of the stage was also a lot of fun; she always knows what she’s doing and does it well — takes you on a journey of her own with that husky voice.

Hareem Farooq I have come to the conclusion that I always have the same resolution; to be a better version of myself! And spread as much kindness, joy and love as I can in peoples lives. No better way to eliminate hate than love!
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Pakistani stars reveal their New Year resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions are tricky. They’re easy to make, but a lot harder to keep. At the start of every year, we are bombarded with articles and adverts that extol the ‘New Year, New You’ mantra, whether this involves becoming vegan, using less plastic, giving up fur or investing in your beauty regimen and a gym membership. The global appetite for self-improvement doesn’t appear to be crumbling anytime soon. Call it the triumph of hope over experience: It’s a new year, full of promise and anticipation, and though your brain knows that the resolutions you make might get broken along the way, your heart impels you to list those promises anyway. Because being positive is all that matters and it is one of the only things you’re going to have besides you when everything else seems bleak at some point of time. Which we wish never happens. You outshine always!  My New Year resolution is to have a fashionista year – full of surprises, glitter, paparazzi and pizzazz runways. Is it the same for celebrities who actually live such life anyways. We find out as Pakistani stars share their New Year Resolutions exclusively with Community. It clearly shows that all of them are very sceptical about making drastic resolutions, often seeing them as ‘a load of nonsense that is recycled year after year and quickly left forgotten.’ Instead, they prefer to approach the New Year as a time to realign one’s priorities, starting with the very basics and sometimes just about facing what the year throws at them and deal with it with an uncanny strength and belief.

Imran Ashraf
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Actors of substance who ruled the television screens in 2019

In the plethora of drama serials on air every year, it’s quite strenuous to get your work noticed. Sometimes the anger roars. Other times it seethes. It can be silent or eloquent, mighty or impotent, righteous or nasty. Or almost invisible. Whatever goes into a performance — talent, grit, wit, strength, inspiration, exhaustion, luck — was part of actors’ performance that was seen and appreciated by masses this year. Much great acting takes place in drama serials that actually aren’t all that good, in terms of budget I mean. Over the period of time Pakistan entertainment industry has realised that it’s not the star power that brings the good rating and fame to any serial but the substantial content and characters. Where unconventional characters and storylines are gaining popularity for their relativeness with the audiences, there is so much feeling that needs a story right now, when all kinds of people are mad — in real life and in the movies — for all kinds of reasons. Some of those people are played by the 8 actors selected for this year’s Ruling the Television Screens piece, especially by the women. When we finished with our list, we noticed that women out numbered men. We thought about adjusting the balance but decided not to. Female anger is a potent political, social and creative force nowadays. The portrayal of a strong lead female character rather than any damsel in distress is carving out a frame for actors to showcase more of their versatility, and perhaps our critical antennas picked up on that. Pakistan entertainment industry is well on its way and there’s quite a reason to expect progress in the years to come: Hira Mani, one of five women to make our top 8, was relatively less known just last year. It’s time to show some love for the scads of performances that you’ll be sorry to have had missed, if you have. Here’s a selection of the very best. Imran Ashraf in Ranjha Ranjha Kardi Imran Ashraf really is defining acting prowess with unconventional roles in the real sense of the world. His character Bhola in Ranjha Ranjha Kardi hit home for many, and created awareness about mental health. Imran has raised awareness around disorders like ASD, ADHD and Asperger’s Syndrome via Bhola.  Normally, when Imran’s character loses it, it’s because he’s right in a world that’s wrong, and the anger is meant to identify and then destroy the injustice. Imran is at his critical best when the serial needs his face to do what a screenplay can’t. His expression — a rictus of embarrassment, confusion and guilt — belongs in a gallery. It’s a masterpiece of confusion, comedy and a social satire.  Ahad Raza Mir in Ehd-e-Wafa and Yeh Dil Mera Ahad is a very fine addition to the entertainment fraternity. We’ve seen him put his acting skills well to use and make audiences sway with him. If you feel like you’ve been seeing a lot of Ahad Raza Mir lately, you’re not wrong: The pro actor released his two drama serials in three months – Ehd-e-Wafa and Yeh Dil Mera. Ahad is wonderfully terrifying in Yeh Dil Mera – a boy-next-door with quite nothing to lose attitude, his unrelenting pursuit of the leading lady as the actor is slowly but surely is unravelling his character’s motivations. Ahad plays it close to the vest throughout, making his reveal and scenes all the more powerful one after another. Sajal Aly in Alif and Yeh Dil Mera The truth of the matter is that Sajal Aly could make the list of great performers in just about any year, for just about any role. She is always interesting, never not surprising and consistently unnerving, even if the serial falls short – and that’s a big ‘if’ because that’s a rarity. For the previous at least half a decade, except a movie she did in 2016, Zindagi Kitni Haseen Hai, there’s no project of hers that have gone unnoticed by the viewers and masses at large. In 2018, her most-heralded work on television was O Rangreza where she played a blithe girl full of life. The zone where normalcy collides with extremity — where high comedy and psychological terror keep company — is her sweet spot. What makes her work this year in Alif and Yeh Dil Mera, both on-air simultaneously, even more astonishing is that she brought that sweet spot with her, infusing those drama serials with an element of vitality they would otherwise have lacked. Both of them are hothouse blossoms, exercises in sensibility for directors with very particular agendas. Both characters are driven by the element of innocence at some point, and that’s how Sajal takes the wheel with her big shot eyes.  Ayeza Khan in Meray Paas Tum Ho. What to do with an actor in a type of role you dislike that’s the centrepiece of a drama you really care for. Well, if the acting works, you just ignore everything else. And Ayeza Khan’s acting in Meray Paas Tum Ho really works. You dislike the character so much that you want other characters in the serial to do well in terms of storyline. Ayeza Khan not only deserves an applause and appreciation but some awards as well for signing on to a role like Mehwish in Meray Paas Tum Ho. The actress who is usually seen either as a damsel in distress in dramas or the manipulative kind have shattered all our pre-conceived notions by playing this character. Ayeza paid meticulous attention to detail by nailing each and every expression and dialogue, making us hate Mehwish for her ruthlessness. If that’s not extraordinary then what is? Sana Javed in Ruswai In Ruswai, Sana plays a girl who despite being helpless does not submit to her family’s pressure and stands her ground. She is a victim of harassment who is first betrayed by her father and then her fiancé but she goes on to stand her ground. It’s the sort of bound-for-tragedy part that barely needs an actor. It practically performs itself. And yet, many actors have given it and had many a statuette thrown at them for doing so. But as the story becomes about a woman’s dignity, Javed inhabits the horror of unsought valour. She makes the physical challenges secondary to the psychological ones. Sana has found a way to play a part that can only be described as charismatically unremarkable; except she doesn’t just play it, she disappears within it. The bombing in the serial happens sooner than you want it to. The minute you see the episode of her being dragged down by a group of thugs from her father’s hand, you start wondering about what’s going to happen to her, obviously. I worried about what would happen to Sana’s acting. She works here with remarkable restraint. The character struggles with pain and unceasing pity. The actor doesn’t appear to struggle with anything. She plays the shock of attention, the suffocating embarrassment of pity, and rage at how the harassment forces Sameera to take greater responsibility for her choices. Hira Mani in Do Bol The shot from Do Bol that probably pops into your head first — it was in the trailers and will no doubt feature in every award reel — is of Hira Mani in close-up, shrugging off Affan Waheed at a train station, her eyes squinted with disappointment and overflowing with tears. It’s a pivotal moment, for sure, both in the plot and in Hira’s performance: the big reveal and the first big emotional payoff. But it’s also a confirmation of the importance of those eyes to the structure and meaning of the film. They are perhaps its only reliable barometers of emotion, instruments of empathy and windows on the truth. Hira Mani practices a kind of naturalistic, Karachi mode of performance in Do Bol. It’s acting that’s more like being: She makes her way through the drama serial as she might go about her actual day. But rising above it is her performance, the garrulous, whirring, sweet-and-sour energy steals all her scenes. Hira has never seemed so relaxed and radiant on-screen — she takes a nothing role and gives it flesh and blood. Affan Waheed in Do Bol It has been apparent for more than half a decade — let’s say since Daastan which you may have forgotten had anyone else in it — that Affan Waheed can do anything. Even as a supporting actor, he clearly possessed lead-level discipline and versatility and also the kind of relentless, fearless, unshowy honesty most often associated with great actors like Waheed Murad. In Do Bol, Waheed proves he can do anything by doing something that may sound easy: playing an ordinary Pakistani middle-class man. ‘Ordinary’ is hardly fair, though. Badar in Do Bol is typical only by virtue of the circumstances over which he has no control. Affan is in no way exceptional and in every way unique — a marvellous impossibility that has rarely been captured with such a romance. Sanam Baloch in Khaas Part of the force in her performance in Khaas has to do with our long relationship with this star. We don’t know Sanam Baloch, but we do know ‘Sanam Baloch.’ And here she is in a new mode: a victim of emotional abuse but she is not the damsel in distress the masses adore. She is a strong, educated woman with resources, who is willing to compromise but has enough self-esteem to resist her narcissist husband’s attempts at manipulating and belittling her. Baloch uses her stardom some — that smile of hers is forced into a rictus of iffy optimism — but it’s more restrained. She has discovered new ways of doing fear and nervous confrontations, not for acting’s sake, but to serve the mounting desperation of her character.

PROMOTIONS: Actors Jimmy Shergill, left, Sharad Kelkar, centre, and Sushant Singh during the promotion of the upcoming ZEE5 web-series.
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Defining acting prowess with not so conventional roles

Like a lot of actors, Jimmy Shergill faced a tough crowd when he moved on from the success of his debut film Maachis (1996) and took on more director-driven, cinephile-friendly projects. While he juggled the plain sailing demands of Aditya Chopra for Mohabbatein (2000) playing a boy next door and took a peculiar right turn in Rajkumar Hirani’s tongue-in-cheek Munna Bhai MBBS (2003) it was the Shoojit Sircar’s Yahaan (2005) that solidified Shergill’s remarkable evolution into one of the most exciting actors working today.  It is difficult to get noticed in the Hindi film industry, especially if you don’t bag a lead role in a mainstream film. Or if you don’t have a heavy surname behind your name and a production house to launch you. But going by the releases over the last decade and more, Bollywood is witnessing a change in its rulebook. The credit goes to the crop of actors who have time and again proved their mettle, not as heroes of the film, but as the powerful supporting or co-leads. Bollywood has seen an array of actors who have gone beyond performance benchmarks with their powerful work as supporting actors in a film led by commercial stars, and even gained critical acclaim at par with the leading actor for just a 20 minute performance in a two-hour long film. The fact that they are grabbing headlines by featuring in supporting roles also proves that Bollywood has come a long way in terms of writing in films. Filmmakers now are crafting each character of their film with as much thought, as they would put into creating a lead actor. In Munna Bhai MBBS, Sanjay Dutt is the film’s protagonist, but it’s the chemistry between him and the cancer patient Zaheer, played by Jimmy Shergill, that makes Munna Bhai really crack up. As the conventional duo, Shergill has equally harder job, as Sanjay scores most of the major laughs in the film. But Shergill is more than up to the task of supporting his explosive co-star, and it’s in the more thoughtful scenes between Zaheer and kindhearted regular Munna Bhai, where his heart comes through and he really shines. Supporting actors aren’t just those familiar faces who can steal a film. They show a way for movies to portray real life; forming the essence of details. It wouldn’t be erroneous to regard these supporting roles in the film as the salt of the earth, or the oil that makes the machine work. Jimmy Shergill for most of his career have been taking meaty roles, be it in supporting leads, to challenge himself as an actor and prove his acting ability time and again with the versatile roles he has been opting for.  Jimmy talks to Community in an exclusive interview as he is all set for his upcoming season Rangbaaz 2, a crime thriller series that is set against the rustic background of Rajasthan, releasing today on Zee 5 premier, as the protagonist of the web series.  “In cinema, a lot has changed over a period of time. However as an actor, in view of online streaming services, not much has changed because we’re shooting with the same camera and people for web series as we are for the cinema. People and technicians who have worked on web series are the same who have worked for the film in cinema. Apart from the fact that it felt like I was shooting for a four and a half hour long movie, about nine episodes in total, there wasn’t anything different,” says Shergill whilst drawing parallel for shooting for web series and commercial films. Since Rangbaaz 2 is a sequel to Rangbaaz, based on a true story of Shri Prakash Shukla, notorious and most wanted criminal/gangster of Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh India, with a different storyline though. Did Jimmy Shergill watch the prequel before signing the spin-off? “Yes obviously, that was one of the reasons why I went on-board for this project. The same team that did the first part is a part of this one, the writer, the director and everyone. However, the first one was based in UP and this one is based in Rajasthan. It’s another story – story of someone who wasn’t supposed to be in the crime world. A story of a topper who wants to do for the country but ends up being pushed into the crime world by the system. So, the second instalment of Rangbaaz features a story that people can probably relate to.” Doing a role of a terrorist in his debut film Maachis or an intense part in A Wednesday (2008) and then moving on to more cheeky roles in films like Mohabbatein, Mere Yar Ki Shaadi Hai (2002), and anti-hero in Tanu Weds Manu (2011) or Happy Bhaag Jayegi (2016) – Jimmy doesn’t seem to contain himself as an actor to a particular genre and type of roles. “I was consciously making an effort to make sure that I’m not slotted into one particular image or whatever. That was the reason why I pick-up films that were different,” says Jimmy. Jimmy has films like Tanu Weds Manu (both franchises), Happy Bhaag Jayegi, Mere Yar Ki Shaadi Hai and others to his credit, where the character he’s playing never quite gets the girl in the end. Jimmy laughs it off and comments, “I did not join the industry to win over girls. My win is the love of the audience. As far as I’m getting the love of the audience, it’s okay.” Sheirgill made his Punjabi film debut with Yaaran Naal Baharan in 2005. His notable work in Punjabi cinema include Mel Karade Rabba (2010), Dharti (2011), Aa Gaye Munde U.K. De (2014), Shareek (2015) and Daana Paani (2018). He is among those few actors who effortlessly blend into Punjabi films and then Bollywood in an instance. Drawing a parallel between both the industries, he says, “Bollywood has always been a full-fledged industry. When I started with Punjabi films, it was a struggling industry. People were not going into theatres to watch Punjabi films. We tried to make an effort from our end, being a Punjabi, from Punjab, to do Punjabi films and make people get out of their houses and go into theatres and start watching Punjabi films. It happened in around 2009, 2010 that box office of Punjabi films was recognised. Today I’m very happy that the Punjabi films are doing so well.”

ON SONG: Maluma, Latino singer, opening the concert with his fansu2019 ever favourite soundtrack Chantaje featuring Shakira.
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Maluma makes debut in Doha

What pop means changes depending on what angle you’re looking it from. It can be a descriptor of an audience size, indicating something that’s popular, or it can be a genre tag, specifying a sound. But for much of the last three decades, these two definitions have effectively been one and the same. You know the sort: Katy Perry’s confetti cheer, Justin Timberlake’s feather-light chirps, Lady Gaga’s exorbitant theatre, Taylor Swift’s guileless guile. Music that strives for lustre, energy, trance and a phenomenon. Often an expression of pallor, too — that transverse between calmness and something one can move a hip or two to. A one-size-fits-all solution. For a time, in the 1980s, this kind of pop music — think of Michael Jackson and Madonna — was effectively monoculture, which is why the two meanings of pop have been so tightly tethered, and so difficult to disentangle. But in the last couple of years, this framework has been almost completely dismantled, owing in large part to the widespread adoption of streaming and globalisation, nothing seems to be contained to a particular genre or a type, one cannot really tag it. What were once regarded merely as pop subgenres — K-pop, Latin trap, melodic hip-hop and more — have become the centre of the conversation today. Oh baby! It’s the breakout season of Maluma. In that hoopla of Latinx crowd that includes trap rapper Bad Bunny and the logo-loving singer J Balvin, Maluma, Latino Grammy award winner, stands out with his heavy swirling up-beat tracks, sensuality and risk-taking fashion smarts. Much like his gruff sound, the singer’s productions have its own distinct beat. Qatar Airways (QA) and Qatar National Tourism Council (QNTC), recently launched Qatar Live — a series of music concerts and festivals taking place in Doha. As part of Maluma’s 11:11 World Tour and Qatar Live, the Latino singer made his Qatar debut backed by his band and group of dancers at Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre. Maluma has been making music since 2010, yet released in 2015, Pretty Boy, Dirty Boy is widely considered to be his breakthrough album. The singer went on to join Sony Music Latin in 2015 and has released three albums since. Every one of his albums has made it to the top 10 of the Billboard Latin charts. What’s more, he has worked on many featured projects with top artistes like the late XXXTentacion, Lil Pump, Shakira, and more recently Madonna, alongside whom he performed his collaborative single Medellín at the 2019 Billboard Music Awards. This isn’t the singer’s first world tour. In 2017, he sold over one million tickets for 105 shows bringing himself to be the top concert-selling Latin artist. Currently, the singer has in excess of 48 million Instagram followers, a total of 9 billion music video views, and more than 22.6 million subscribers on YouTube.  Futuristic theme charged with lasers, the concert was all about audiovisual effects and pyrotechnics presented in a way never seen before. Maluma has swag. Have you ever seen how the Colombian singer swivels his hips? It’s like a slow-mo tornado. And his slightly overgrown facial hair is the right amount of manicured, yet still raucous. And his fashion! Maluma has attitude, Maluma has style. He likes his clothes bright and bold, which goes quite nicely with his bright and bold music, personality, and overall demeanour. Consider it one more reason to be a fan.  Maluma flaunted one of the most polarising menswear accessories out there while performing. On anyone else, the leather pants look would be deeply dorky, yet Maluma radiated swagger as he paired it with exotic animalier clash print shirt and golden jacket. His crisp printed shirt unbuttoned to reveal a roaring tiger tattoo on his chest and dangling gold ‘lock’ pendant necklace, as he salsa-danced to the music and opened the show with his fans’ ever favourite soundtrack Chantaje featuring Shakira. His wardrobe change was followed with basic cargo shorts, boots and a T. Off and on paired with a neon orange P-cap. There wasn’t a beat out of place or a minute when fans weren’t sparky with hands in the air and swirling away movements beneath. A housefull of Latino music lovers and an absolute out-and-out way of welcoming winters in Doha. n For the last instalment of Qatar Live performances, Maroon 5 is scheduled to perform at DECC today, which will be followed by Daydream Festival featuring DJ’s including Afrojack, Jonas Blue, Lost Frequencies, Mark Knight, Matt Sochon and Steff Da Campo at The Ritz-Carlton, Doha’s Island tomorrow.