Monday, June 05, 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.
Ali Zafar in Doha
Ali Zafar - A man for all seasons

Ali Zafar, South Asia’s music star, who visited Qatar for the Formula 1 Weekend, had an exclusive conversation with Gulf Times on his experience in Doha and music scene back home. We all know Ali Zafar, South Asia music’s legendarily charm-heavy style czar, for his Kishore Kumar style vocals and that fun element that has us hooked. There are very few pop stars in South Asia who have a voice as deep and beautiful as Ali Z which transcends borders. Ali’s struggle can been seen through his work. He only worked for television dramas in 2002, including Kaanch Ke Par, Landaa Bazaar and Kollege Jeans on PTV Home, a Pakistan-owned channel, to collect money for his first album as music was his real passion. Ali Zafar He released his first song Channo in 2003 which was a big hit. In fact, the album Huqa Paani was a a huge success and turned him into a star. After making his mark as a singer and actor in Pakistan, Ali achieved another milestone by bagging major roles in quite a few Bollywood films like Tere Bin Laden, London Paris New York, Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, Kill Dill and Dear Zindagi before coming back to Pakistan, and creating a realm in Pakistan film industry with Teefa in Trouble (2018). It wasn’t really coming back to Pakistan, because he never quite left. He may have been focusing on building his Bollywood acting career but who wouldn’t, considering the opportunities, professionalism and profits to be gained from working in the Indian film industry? Still, Ali consistently shuttled back to his motherland, making sure to be a part of award shows, ad campaigns, Coke Studio and other singing projects at home. He can play up the glamour, dance and sing to his own vocals, quite literally, and he can smolder on magazine covers effortlessly. He’s the classical gayak (singer) who has been mesmerising the fans for almost two decades now. When Gulf Times came to know Ali was in Doha for Formula 1 weekend, we couldn’t help but catch up with him to talk about his musical journey, his thought process and his experience of witnessing Qatar’s first Formula 1. Breakfast at 8am seemed such an unlikely timing for my first meeting with Ali, that I wondered perhaps if something had been lost in translation. But then there is Ali, cheerily gung ho, sitting on a cosy couch waiting for me so we order the food. Ali is a star, no doubt, but he isn’t one for starry airs and graces. Meet him and he’s polite to the core and an effortless smile and a candid conversation follows. Even during such early hours, there were so many of his fans interrupting the conversation for photographs, all wanting to shake his hand or have a word. “I’m a big cricket fan but F1 was a great experience itself. Last time I was in Qatar was about a decade ago and since then it has changed a lot. I feel really honoured that Qatar Tourism invited me to experience this happening affair. The hosts are extremely warm and accommodating and are looking after us really well,” said Ali. Ali has been releasing songs in regional languages lately but have been missing from Coke Studio scene since 2017 after the release of his song Julie featuring his little brother Danyal Zafar. Explaining how the music scene has changed over the years, Ali says, “After doing Julie I haven’t been in touch with Coke Studio in terms of performing. I mean I keep seeing some good music and interesting work coming out, but for me it became a little stale to be honest. The musicians and the industry should not bank upon only brands to uplift them or to provide a platform. And if I’ve been given an opportunity and a following, than I feel it is a must to project and highlight the talent beyond me also. "I’m not the kind of artist that thinks he is going to be the only one forever because I think there is a lot of room for everybody and there is a lot of raw talent in our country and it needs a platform.” The film industry in Pakistan is on the rise, but the drama industry has been thriving for years now. Will Ali be making his appearance on television screens again? He responds, “I do keep getting offers from colleagues and friends in the industry but right now I’m fully focused on music, because music is my life, and I’m more of a cinema person. But if anything very interesting comes along my way I am open to it.” Covid caused a nationwide shutdown of cinemas in Pakistan for nearly two years. Post Teefa in Trouble, Ali wasn’t seen in any production. Why so? “We were going to go forward with Teefa Part 2 and there were other films I was working on but Covid changed the entire world. The art of storytelling changed and evolved in these two years. I don’t think the kind of story telling and cinema that existed before Covid still thrives. I don’t know whether the same stuff will work now. Personally, as an artist I want to evolve and do things I haven’t done before. Give audiences something new. And that takes time.” Focused on releasing songs in regional languages of Pakistan, Ali believes that understanding the culture and the lyrics is imperative. “It wasn’t about just knowing the lyrics and singing out in a style that it deserves to but the intent of releasing them was to highlight the culture and people of the region. We haven’t quite learned the art of projecting and glorifying our own culture and people. We undermine them. I feel that music brings people together, so my idea was to bring all these people and provinces together through music.” In October, Pakistan cricket authorities were left fuming after New Zealand ended the tour minutes before the start of the first One-Day International in Rawalpindi, citing an unspecified security alert. After the dramatic return of the New Zealand Cricket Team the need was felt to organise a tournament (first-ever Celebrity Premier League) at the same venue that would boost Pakistan's image worldwide. Ali opened the league with a performance in front of ecstatic crowd. “I love my country and I love my people, and I feel like we have had enough of misrepresentation globally, I mean there is so much more to Pakistan, and the people of Pakistan than what is projected internationally. And I partly blame ourselves for it… in the sense that the way we should be projecting our culture and people but we don’t,” adds Ali. “So we should. I try to do my part in the best way possible. I think it was highly unfair on New Zealand’s part to cancel the tour like that because I think it’s detrimental, affecting the whole image of a country. What kind of message is being sent to the world that it’s not a safe country? So I think we should all play our part, in sending out the right message.” And the pav bhaaji is served for Ali and without an intent to disturb his most important meal of the day, I ask him if he has a word for Pakistani community living in Doha. “I feel like every time I come and see a place like that’s developing or has developed like Dubai or Qatar, and developed because of hard work of many Pakistanis, I feel sad for two things: one that I wish, we would have seen our country developed with such pace. I mean in 10 years, the landscapes have changed. And secondly, the kind of contribution that Pakistanis have made needs to be recognised on a global and larger level, so I mean I do hope that they get everything they deserve. I thank them from the bottom of my heart for supporting and loving me all these years.”

Oscars giving a nod to Arab female filmmakers over the yearsrnrn
Oscars giving a nod to Arab female filmmakers over the years

At the inaugural ceremony in 1929 of the Academy Awards, the best director nominees for the Academy Award of Merit were all male. Lina Wertmüller was the first female director to be nominated, 48 years later. The Oscars have a long history of being called out for a lack of diversity. However, for over a decade now — this concern of inclusivity has been taken seriously by the organisers especially in times when the number of women working both behind and in front of the camera has reached historic highs. This was another high year as Academy Awards' nomination included two female Arab filmmakers, Tunisia's Kaouther Ben Hania who competed with The Man Who Sold His Skin in the international feature film category, and The Present, by Palestinian-British director Farah Nabulsi, in best live-action short film. There are seven women filmmakers from the Arab world who have received an Oscar nod to date. Looking back at the long journey of Oscars and the Academy giving a platform to Arab female filmmakers for their piece of work to reach out millions around the world:   Jehane Noujaim: The Square by Jehane Noujaim was nominated in 2014 in Best Documentary Feature category. It was an Egyptian-American documentary depicting the Egyptian Crisis, beginning with the Revolution in 2011 at Tahrir Square.   Sara Ishaq: Karama Has No Walls by Sara Ishaq, Scottish-Yemeni filmmaker, bagged the nomination for Best Documentary Short in 2014. Set amidst Yemen’s 2011 uprising, the documentary illustrates the nature of the Yemeni revolution in stark contrast to the gross violations of human rights that took place on March 18, 2011.   Nadine Labaki: Capernaum by Nadine Labaki (from Lebanon), supported by Doha Film Institute, was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film in 2019. The film followed a heartbreaking story about a 12-year-old boy named Zain who leaves home in search of a better life but ends up serving a five-year sentence for a violent crime, during which he decides to sue his parents for neglect.   Waad Al-Kateab For Sama by Waad Al-Kateab and Edward Watts was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 92nd Academy Awards 2020 after bagging four nominations at BAFTAs at the 73rd British Academy Film Awards, winning for Best Documentary. The film follows Waad al-Kateab's life through five years in Aleppo, Syria before and during The Battle of Aleppo.   Meryam Joobeur: Brotherhood by Tunisian-Canadian filmmaker Meryam Joobeur, and supported by Doha Film Institute, bagged a nomination at the 92nd Academy Awards 2020 for the Best Live Action Short Film. The film explores the tensions within a Tunisian family when a man who has been away for several years returns home with a new Syrian wife who wears the full niqab, igniting his father’s suspicions that his son has been working for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.   Kaouther Ben Hania: Ben Hania’s critically-acclaimed feature, The Man Who Sold His Skin, got shortlisted for the Best International Feature Film category at the 93rd Academy Awards, Oscars 2021. The film was shortlisted among 14 other films including The Mole Agent, directed by Chilean Maite Alberdi, Charlatan, a Czech biographical drama directed by Agnieszka Holland and Danish director Thomas Vinterberg’s Another Round. The Man Who Sold His Skin tells the story of a Syrian refugee who allows his body to be turned into a work of art. Starring Yahya Mahayni, the film is a look at the struggle refugees face with borders and residency permits.   Farah Nabulsi: The Present by Farah Nabulsi, supported by Doha Film Institute, got nomination in the Live Action Short category at the 93rd Academy Awards, Oscars 2021, after bagging BAFTA Award for Best British Short Film, making Nabulsi the first Palestinian Arab female filmmaker to get an Academy nomination. This has been the 10th Oscar nomination in the past seven consecutive years for projects funded by DFI. The film follows a Palestinian father as he sets out from the West Bank with his daughter, to buy a wedding anniversary gift for his wife. As the 24-minute film progresses, audiences witness the struggle of Palestinians to complete a simple task like shopping, as they encounter checkpoints, soldiers, and the reality of life under occupation.  

Fatma Hassan Alremaihi
'The Present' is a tale of basic human rights violations: Fatma Alremaihi

The Academy’s diversity pledge likely had a small but positive impact on this year’s nominations, with not just people of colour scoring acting and directing nods but also some unconventional stories, stories of strength that the world is now quite ready to hear and watch — a story that stems from a real Palestinian struggle and ends with a glimpse of hope. Farah Nabulsi’s The Present has been Oscar-nominated. While the Academy Award-nod takes Nabulsi to new heights, making her the first female Palestinian director to compete in the awards, in the best short live-action film category — the short film has been a grant project of Doha Film Institute. This is seventh time in a row that a film supported by DFI has won an Oscar nomination. Doha Film Institute, founded by HE Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, has been an institute dedicated to film appreciation, education, and building a dynamic film industry in Qatar that focuses on nurturing regional storytellers while being entirely global in its scope. In an exclusive conversation with Gulf Times about The Present scoring the Oscar nomination and what it means for DFI, Fatma Hassan Alremaihi, CEO of DFI, said, “We are proud and honoured that Farah Nabulsi’s The Present is nominated for ‘Best Live-action short film’ at the 93rd Academy Awards in addition to having recently won the Best British Short at the BAFTAs. This compelling film has gained critical acclaim at several global festivals right after its debut at Clermont Ferrand and has been praised by audiences across the globe for its authentic storytelling and for giving a humanist voice to the Palestinian struggle.” ______________________ Read also All eyes on first Arab woman Oscar nomination ______________________ The Present follows a Palestinian father as he sets out from the West Bank with his daughter, to buy a wedding anniversary gift for his wife. As the 24-minute film progresses, audiences witness the struggle of Palestinians to complete a simple task like shopping, as they encounter checkpoints, soldiers, and the reality of life under occupation. “What makes The Present’s nomination special is that it portrays a compelling reality – of the people of Palestine – in such a captivating manner and reaffirms our belief that art and films are powerful tools to promote dialogue and create awareness on social injustice. It’s a simple yet potent tale of power abuse and the denial of basic human rights in today’s world,” adds Fatma, “The film will connect to global audiences, more so in the new reality, when people have experienced travel restrictions and lockdowns. But remember, the plight of the protagonists is not the result of a pandemic but an everyday reality for millions of people who are in a permanent state of lockdown – for years now.” Films supported by Doha Film Institute have received over 1,700 selections at international film festivals and have won over 500 awards including wins at Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Toronto, BAFTA and the Oscars. “Qatar’s commitment to supporting global storytelling has given volume to important new voices and creative influencers who continue to gain global acclaim. As a recipient of our Springs 2019 grant, The Present joins a number of films supported by the Doha Film Institute that have earned Academy Award nominations and other global recognitions. In fact, the Institute is the first Arab organisation to score 10 Oscar nominations for seven consecutive years - an unprecedented achievement for our world - helping position DFI as a dynamic cultural entity for global storytelling,” Fatma explains. Doha Film Institute provides a platform and a voice to emerging talent from Qatar and around the world providing them with creative and financial assistance to help them translate their stories into a film or serialized content. How DFI picks a specific project, Fatma said, “We have a very focused approach on identifying and nurturing projects. Our team of experts review every submission, evaluating for unique cinematic voices and compelling content. Our key objective is to identify new talent, seek out new cinematic voices and discover universally resonant stories such as The Present. The nature of the story, scripting and the vision of the director are all important. Most importantly, we look for original stories that push for positive and progressive cinema culture.” After years marked by the hashtags #OscarsSoWhite and #OscarsSoMale, industry observers are caterwauling appreciation over this year’s topline numbers. For the first time in Academy Awards history, almost half the nominees in the acting categories (9 out of 20) are performers of colour, and more women (70) are nominated throughout the 23 categories than in any previous year. In responding to a question about Arab female filmmakers, and scarcity of female filmmakers in general, she responds, “In the Arab world, which is fast breaking the stereotypes and misconceptions about women – especially in their contribution and role in cinema, female filmmakers are creative leaders that are crafting compelling stories with global resonance. Case in point are the Arab films nominated at this year’s Academy Awards- both by strong independent Arab women.” She added, “It has been a rewarding experience for me as CEO of the Doha Film Institute to meet and interact with some of the finest creative talent in world cinema, especially to see the bold new energy of women in film in the Arab world and beyond. I can say with evidence and conviction that there is a much larger percentage of female filmmakers in our country and the wider Arab region than rest of the world. As many global markets strive for gender parity, Qatar and the Arab world continue to nurture strong women filmmakers to have confidence in their voices. There is an exciting new wave of filmmaking in the Arab world, and we are delighted that women are leading this change.” In plethora of scripts and filmmakers approaching DFI for funding and support, DFI’s Grant Programme explicitly look out for voices that are original and have a narrative of their own. Talking about choosing The Present for Grants Programme, Fatma said, “We supported The Present with a short film grant in our Springs Grant 2019 cycle, which provides development, production and post-production funding to filmmakers from Qatar, and first- and second-time filmmakers from around the world. The Grants Programme aims to seek out original voices in film, develop a community of filmmakers among its alumni and provide creative development support throughout the life cycle of films. The Present was also screened at Ajyal Film Festival 2020, adding to its reach to a global audience.

Farah Nabulsi during the shoot of her short film The Present in Palestine
All eyes on first Arab woman Oscar nomination Monday

*Nabulsi is first Palestinian female filmmaker to get an Academy nomination *DFI-funded 'The Present' has already earned a Bafta for best British short film This year is shaping up to be outstanding in terms of diversity and representation at Oscars. Look at the Oscar nominations and there are so many firsts: two women nominated for the first time in the category of best director (Chloé Zhao for Nomadland; Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman), the first Asian-American best actor nominee (Steven Yeun for Minari), the first Muslim best actor nominee (Riz Ahmed for Sound of Metal), and the best live action short film (The Present by Farah Nabulsi), making Nabulsi the first Palestinian female filmmaker to get an Academy nomination. Farah’s The Present is a grant project of Doha Film Institute (DFI).  The Present has already earned a Bafta for best British short film and it follows a Palestinian father as he sets out from the West Bank with his daughter, to buy a wedding anniversary gift for his wife. As the 24-minute film progresses, audiences witness the struggle of Palestinians to complete a simple task like shopping, as they encounter checkpoints, soldiers, and the reality of life under occupation.       __________________________________ Read also The Present is a tale of power abuse and denial of basic human rights: Fatma Hassan AlRemaihi __________________________________ The short film that debuted on Netflix for public viewing on March 18 (except France and Japan and the French language speaking countries in Africa, North Africa) is available in Arabic with English subtitles. The film will be competing against Doug Roland’s Feeling Through, Elvira Lind’s short drama The Letter Room, Travon Free’s Two Distant Strangers and the Tomer Shushan – directed White Eye. Nabulsi shot The Present in Palestine over six days that curtailed from a real Palestinian struggle and ended with a glimpse of hope – a tipoff that the world is now ready to hear and watch the stories of strength. “I am sad to say that while this film is based on reality, this is a fiction film. This isn’t even history. Yes, there is the past they need to know, but also the present,” Nabulsi said in one of her interviews. She also hinted at a full-length film currently in development. Well, it won’t be erroneous to say that Covid-19 really altered the movie landscape in 2020. The worldwide lockdown and the ongoing closure of cinemas pressed the studios to withdraw their big awards guns leaving space and platform for comparatively smaller films and first-time filmmakers. The Oscars, like every other award show, in times with Covid-19 still raging, has had to adapt, scheduled to be held Monday at 6am Qatar time — two months from its originally scheduled date. But unlike Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild, in which nominees and winners appeared on Zoom, the Oscars will go ahead as an in-person event with Covid-19 SOPs in place. According to the official statement by the Academy Awards – the ceremony will be split between two locations: the Dolby Theatre LA and Union Station (a location that has been featured in over 150 films). The nominees have been asked for an extended pre-recorded acceptance speech that tell a narrative story and have been invited to turn up at the venue of the Oscars itself. Only a few details have emerged of what is being planned for the 2021 show. In December, the Ocean’s Eleven director Steven Soderbergh was hired as one of the producers of the show and a high profile statement of intent to ‘re-envision’ the telecast of the ceremony was issued. Having seen the technical glitches during Golden Globes, the producers had initially planned a ‘zoom-free’ event, however, they were forced to backpedal as it became significant that majority of the nominees are based outside US that could prevent them from attending the show in person due to Covid travel restrictions. This led to establishment of hubs in London and Paris to allow remote participation. The audience has been capped at just 170 people, much lower than the usual thousands who attend and it's believed that they'll be rotated in and out of the event space throughout the evening. According to USA Today, the producer and organiser of Oscars 2021, Stacey Sher, said at a virtual press conference that this year there won't be a traditional red carpet. "It's not a traditional red carpet, it's a teeny-tiny red carpet. It's a very small footprint for safety reasons, obviously," she said. Additionally, this year the awards will be given out in person, and all the famous attendees will not be required to wear face masks while the cameras are rolling, as per the protocols set by the state of California for television and film production. This means that people who won't appear on the camera will have to put their face masks on with the crew. For nominees and guests to attend the ceremony, which is taking place at Union Station and Dolby Theatre, they’ll need to clear three Covid tests along with a temperature check on the day of the event.

Momina Duraid
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
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.
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
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.
‘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.
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 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.
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.
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.

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.
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.
“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
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.
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.