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 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.
Wanderers in search of themselves

Well, a few times in your life someone will tell you something so right, so deeply true that it changes you forever. In my experience this wisdom, perhaps without knowing it, that I have longed to hear about was the perfection trap, the price you pay when you become ensnared in it, and the key to setting yourself free I believe that when your success looks good to the world but doesn’t feel good in your heart, it isn’t success at all. Embracing imperfection has nothing to do with lower standards; rather it’s about accepting yourself the way you just are and embracing your unique qualities.  Accept yourself completely, knowing you possess a combination of qualities. Instead of bringing attention to your weaknesses, view them as gifts to transform into the wholeness of your being. Its pointless striving to become you’re not. To maintain a façade overtime is exhausting and strips you off your authentic self. But at the same time, growth and change is also very important. Where these imperfections make you unique in every choice you make, you can definitely take steps for good to change that imperfection for better, not for somebody else but own self, if you’re obsessing over it for bad.  It’s never too late to ask yourself, ‘Am I ready to change the life I’m living? For good? For myself? Am I ready to change within?’ Even if a single day in your life is the same as the day before, it’s a pity. At every moment and with each new breath, one should be renewed and renewed again. There’s only a one way to be born into a new life, embracing your uniqueness and your imperfections. In this world, it is not similarities or regularities that take us a step forward, but blunt opposites. And all the opposites in the universe are present within each and every one of us.  Therefore, the believer needs to meet the unbeliever residing with it. And the unbeliever in us should get to know the silent good one in us. So does your evil schemer self makes you imperfect, or your choices of kindness? I don’t think any of them do. Imperfection is a perfection of a sort depending on how you nurture it. I’m wandering in the open, exploring the air and myself – finding myself, today and always. Are you up for it? Do you have what it takes? Bisou Bisou!  — Text by Muhammad Asad Ullah, @asadullahgt;  Photos by Syed Hasan Iqbal Zaidi @hasan.xaidi

Going out offensive and coming out swinging

Face your fears and the rewards can be profound. You can discover the true depth of a relationship. Or what you’re capable of withstanding. Some stories open the door for something more.  And then there are fairytale endings. And endings that turn you introspective about your own life and your place in the world. And then there’s the ending that you saw coming a mile away, and yet somehow still takes you by surprise. But don’t worry, where the story ends, there’s always a start of a brand new chapter. The problem is, the more you gain, the more you stand to lose. Are you ready to find out what you’re made of? Because to survive in this glossy world, that is all about heights, you better be fearless. You can choose to go on the offensive and come out swinging. Or you can pack your bags and admit defeat. Or you can drink yourself into oblivion and hope it’ll all just go away.  Whatever you choose to do, one thing is certain – that it is not the end, because try as you might to fight it, you cannot ignore the power of skyline and lights that shine in your eyes and spirits. Bisou Bisou! – Text by Muhammad Asad Ullah,  @asadullahgt;  Photos by Syed Hasan Iqbal Zaidi  @hasan.xaidi

POWER-PACKED: Saba Qamar sizzles the stage at Lux Style Awards 2019.
Pakistani stars sizzle on memorable award night

Performances at the Lux Style Awards (LSA) serve as dramatic punctuation in between ogling designer dresses and tuxedos, listening to nervous gratitude aimed at parents, spouses and project crew after a win, and the generally not so great scripted dialogue of presenters. As usual, music uplifts and 2019’s performances shouldn’t disappoint.  The recently held Lux Style Awards 2019 in Karachi, Pakistan, was all high and low lows and it marked an occasion where Pakistan is heading to grasp the importance of stardust all too well and is happy to put out there, spending millions and showcase what talent Pakistan Entertainment industry holds; a celebration of films, music, drama and fashion.  Meanwhile where the jury was out, the judges were in and LSA was besieged under controversies. LSA jury received backlash for snubbing some of the most prominent projects of 2018 and celebrities including actors, producers and influencers took over social media to express their concern without any curtailment.  The Lux Style Awards (LSA) collaborated with Frieha Altaf’s Catwalk for production, Nabila for Makeup and Farishteh Aslam of Talking Point for PR. The Lux Style Awards 2019 was a finale of not so rehearsed scripts. The LSA you see on television is not the LSA on ground. From Yasir Hussain’s flawless act to Saba Qamar’s not-so-perfect stint with constantly repeating most of her script to get it right, and Ahmed Ali Butt’s witty sense of humour along with power packed performances — it was nice to see all coming together though.  It was a fantastic night of racy performers, some of them a lot of fun — Maya Ali’s performance was by far the most rousing stage performance witnessed that evening. However, the most “dhuaandaar” (steamy) performance belonged to Saba Qamar who set the stage on fire as she arrived to move on Mera Babu Chail Chabeela; all those jhatkas and thumkas! Maya and Saba both performed on the remixed songs of Pakistani veteran actress, Shabnam, as a tribute to her, who also received the Unilever Chairman’s Award. Watching Meera shake a leg with all the energy of a diva was equally gorgeous. Meera’s 100-watt smile was enough to tell us how happy she is with her recent hit Baaji and now the LSAs being her celebratory premise. Talking of performances, let’s just ignore what Momina Mustehsan did and let’s pretend that her dance performance never happened, although as an opening act it set the bar quite low for the night.  The award ceremony subtly touched upon the topic of cyber bullying as well. We couldn’t thank enough for subtlety – because an award show is an all masala and entertainment and if a certain issue is rubbed in the face or overdosed, people yawn and leave. Mehwish Hayat got on stage to express the bravery with which not only her but public figures have to face negative criticism, mockery, cyber bullying and hate. The highlight of the event was Yasir Hussain proposing to his rumoured girlfriend Iqra Aziz, making their relationship official. He put a ring on her finger as the stunned actress smiled tearfully and the couple indulged in PDA. Where the rumour has it that the couple has been engaged before the show and it was just a re-enactment, too much intimacy followed by the proposal between the two is to be noticed! Kids and families watch this show, for God’s sake! Unfortunately, despite having so many stars in the house, there were flaws that left much to be desired throughout the evening. A poor script and weak direction made some segments very dull and they were unable to hold the audience’s attention. While the show lacked the presence of some major stars of the Pakistani entertainment industry –Fawad Khan, Sajal Aly, and Adnan Siddiqui to name a few – Lux has patently raised the bar for acknowledging the fashion and entertainment of Pakistani industry. Well here’s Kudus to Frieha Altaf and her team for putting up glamorous show and a fabulous line-up of red-carpet appearances.

The most anticipated films on a roll

The year 2018 and early 2019 gave us a mixed bag of movies with many big budget A-list stars’ films being given the thumbs down at the box-office whereas low-budget movies with strong scripts worked well with both fans and critics alike. What will next half of 2019 have it store for us? We list some of the movies we are looking forward to now at the theatres including Mahira Khan’s Superstar and Hareem Farooq’s Heer Maan Jaa. These are some of the other movies we are looking forward to this half of the year as well, like Mehwish Hayat’s film based on the life of politician and first female Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto. The release dates of few other movies are not yet out but we will keep you updated as and when they are announced. Stay tuned! Paray Hut Love The powerhouse talent of Sheheryar Munawar Siddiqui and Maya Ali are coming together for the first time in Asim Raza’s Paray Hut Love which is releasing on Eid Al Adha. Sheheryar has worked in Asim’s previous film Ho Mann Jahan. This will be Maya’s first film with both Sheheryar and Asim, after giving a ‘heroine’ performance last year in Teefa in Trouble. Maya has defined her acting prowess on television and on-screen for us, but how different is this role going to be – we can’t wait to catch this movie at the theatre! The Legend of Maula Jutt Can we just confess that this is perhaps our most awaited movie of the year? We totally believe that the immense talents of Mahira Khan, Fawad Khan, Hamza Ali Abbasi, Humaima Malick and more will only bring magic on screen. The most loved, on screen couple are finally reuniting. Yes, Mahira Khan and Fawad Khan are to be seen together after Humsafar. What other better reason to watch it? No doubt, after Waar, Bilal Lashari is going to lit the Pakistani Cinema all over again. Despite the legal battles The Legend of Maula Jutt movie remains one of the most anticipated hits this year. It is a remake of the hit 80’s classic. The movie is out on Eid Al Adha. Superstar Momina Duraid’s film house brings Mahira Khan and Bilal Ashraf together in a story of stardom and perhaps a fateful romance? Guess we’ll have to wait for the teasers to drop. Bilal Ashraf and Mahira Khan are the Superstar cast for the film. The movie is said to be about the world of Pakistani celebrities. That won’t be hard for Mahira Khan. Though it should be said that Bilal Ashraf’s Yalghaar and Rangreeza tanked at the box office. The film boasts a stellar cast including the industry’s bigwigs Nadeem Baig, Javaid Sheikh, Marina Khan, Asma Abbas, Saife Hassan, Alizay Shah and Ali Kazmi. Reportedly, audiences will also see special appearances from the likes of Hania Amir, Saira Shehroz, Osman Khalid Butt and Mani as well. Superstar also features a dance number by Jawani Phir Nahi Ani star Kubra Khan. Ready Steady No  After giving a stellar performance in Baaji, Amna Ilyas is all set for the release of her another upcoming film Ready Steady No this 19th July. The film revolves around a young, middle-class couple who are desperate to take the plunge. Which seems like a roller-coaster ride, the two lovebirds come across various hurdles and mix-ups while they try and make their nikkah happen. The upcoming film stars Faisal Saif as the male lead, who is also a debutant. Alongside Saif and Ilyas star Salman Shahid, Ismail Tara, Zain Afzal, Nargis Rasheed and Marhoom Ahmed Bilal. Heer Maan Ja After winning our hearts in Parchi, Hareem Farooq and Ali Rehman Khan are back with Heer Maan Jaa. They have already won us with the tagline. Both the actors are seen showing their whacky side in the poster of this rom-com. We are absolutely ready to go on this romantic yet crazy ride with these two insanely talented stars expecting tons of humour, goofiness, and most importantly, great on-screen chemistry! Well the rumour has it that the film also touches the bit of honour killing, however nothing has been confirmed yet. The movie is out on Eid Al Adha. Zarrar As you can see from the Zarrar’s movie trailer, this one promises to be an action thriller. This thriller will be about the life of a spy and feature Pakistani intelligence agencies. Veteran actor Shaan Shahid is the writer and director of the film, along with playing the protagonist alongside Kiran Malik, Adnan Butt and Nadeem Malik. British cinematographer, Timothy Hallam Wood is the Director of Photography (DoP). The film is scheduled to release on August 14.

PROTAGONISTS: Paray Hut Love features a stellar cast of characters with Sheheryar Munawar Siddiqui, left, and Maya Ali in the lead roles.
Romantic drama glazed with glamour

From the moment Sheheryar Munawar Siddiqui and Asim Raza announced that they were making a rom-com feature film starring Sheheryar along with Maya Ali, it was a safe bet that it would be one of the most glitz-glam film of the year. Now, the first trailer for the drama, Paray Hut Love is here to confirm it. We see a stellar cast of characters in the film, featuring Maya Ali, Sheheryar Munawar, Zara Noor Abbas, Hina DIlpazir, Asad Siddiqui, Nadeem Baig, Ahmed Ali Butt, Sonya Jehan, Frieha Altaf, Faheem Azam and Shahbaz Shigri among others. The trailer opens with various visuals of grandeur, beautiful landscapes and wedding decorations. Sheheryaar Munawar wakes up from a nightmare and then we see him introducing himself as a struggling actor, in search of a role to Nadeem Baig’s character. He is later seen rehearsing a scene with Zara Noor Abbas Siddiqui who is paired opposite Ahmed Ali Butt in the love story. We also see the famous Momo aka Hina Dilpazir in this bit of the trailer. Sheheryar is a drama actor searching for a role of a lifetime and isn’t too keen to fall in love or get hitched. Munawar’s character is no different from men his age who fear the idea of marriage until they meet the ‘perfect one’. For Munawar it is Saniya played by Maya Ali who will change his perception as she plays his love interest in the film. But, the story takes a steep turn when Saniya reveals that she is engaged to Hassan (played by Shahbaz Shigri). Sheheryaar is seen questioning Maya about their relationship, which is followed by the scenes of a funeral. A lot is happening in this trailer, leaving one with conflicting feelings about the story-line: boy meets girl, girl is already engaged to someone else, boy falls in love with girl, girl warns him to not fall in love with her and the rest is a typical desi love story with different musical scores and fancy set-up. But if you look at the snippets of the story than that we felt has nothing new to offer as it is a romance based movie and where we agree that Shehryar is indeed a good looking star and a diverse actor, he definitely falls short in the scene where he is upset with Maya’s character when he discovers that she is already engaged and misread too much in to their relationship . Apart from Ali and Munawar’s on-screen chemistry, there are cameos that will definitely pull audiences to cinema houses this Eid ul Azha. We see Meera in a shaadi number and it sure looks engaging. Mahira’s performance is something that cannot me missed; we have a feeling that she is playing an actress here. A sneak peek of Mahira Khan’s look in the trailer leaves you awe-struck and wanting more.  She is seen in a heavily embellished red number that made everyone swoon.  Mahira donned the scarlet ensemble which was decked out in glistening jewellery for her dancing debut in the trailer.  But, apparently the get-up was very ‘heavy’ for the diva, which she admitted to her Twitter fans recently. “This dress was so heavy that it gave me vertigo,” Mahira tweeted. Last but not the least, Fawad Khan speaks one dialogue sharing some wisdom on being successful in the end and we are hooked; that’s how much we missed him on any screen.  The film has been written by Imran Aslam and is based on the popular 1994 British film, Four Weddings and a Funeral. Talking about the trailer of the film, Sheheryar said , “It’s just a trailer. We wanted to introduce our characters rather than giving out the whole story of the film. For the full story the audiences have to get to their nearest cinema this Eid al-Adha.” He added, “It’s not a very conventional love story. But for that you have to wait for the whole thing to come out. It has some wonderful sound tracks and performances by actors whose work speak volumes.” PHL has all the ingredients of an Asim Raza vehicle — beautiful people, costumes, whistle-worthy cameos, picturesque locales, great music and choreography — and we sure hope a memorable story line as well. Because if the storyline is meh, even the appearances of Fawad or Mahira won’t be able to save the sinking ship. Bisou Bisou!

BOLD: The television industry in Pakistan dares to be more realistic than ever, exploring the grim issues of society today. New drama serial, Darr Khuda Se takes on the issue of womenu2019s harassment at workplace. The drama stars Sana Javed, left, and Imran Abbas Naqvi in the lead roles.
Spotlight on #Metoo

Pakistani drama serials often highlight the issues we face in our culture – the ones that we all recognise at least subconsciously but which we ignore or repress. The harassment people feel in the workplace is one of the challenges television effectively explores. Talking about sexism and harassment in the workplace can be grim. Not because we’re reluctant to speak about it, but because it’s still so prevalent even after the outburst of #Metoo movement that spread across the world like a fire. However, things are changing now and people are realising the strength of coming forward and getting heard rather than suppressing themselves or getting silent in the dark. As #Metoo intended to give a voice to the silenced, one of the most literal ways it is now attempting to do so is through the stage, television and screen. It’s a much needed topic we need to see and explore on television to create an awareness. Because for a woman being intimidated into silence, harassed or passed over in a male-dominated working culture is all too easy. It doesn’t happen everywhere but we hear about the bad, much more than the good. The television industry in Pakistan dares to be more realistic than ever, exploring the grim issues of society today. Consider, for example, how Rehaai (2013), on HUM TV, dealt with child brides, which is a norm in several backward parts of the country; or Kankar (2013) that touched the base of domestic abuse or Udaari (2016) that touched incest and paedophilia; or Cheekh (2019), which tackles misogyny. And now, a new play is ready to take on the issue of women’s harassment at workplace. Titled Darr Khuda Se, the drama serial is a Geo TV presentation. The play has Imran Abbas and Sana Javed in the lead, and is directed by Anjum Shahzad. There have been drama serials shedding some light on workplace harassment, but how is Darr Khuda Se different? Abdullah Kadwani and Asad Qureshi, producers of the drama tell us. “Indeed there are a few projects that shed light upon the workplace harassment – but nothing since the #MeToo movement worldwide. We have been working on the projects and points towards the issues that are deeply rooted in our society. Darr Khuda Se follows that ideology. It highlights the brutal reality of our society and portrays how an employer destroys an employee’s life when she takes a stand for herself which is usually not practised in our patriarchal society. The fact that keeps a fine line between this project and others is the karma that follows, how he will pay for his wrongdoings, and how his life turns upside down.” They added, “The drama has been planned in a way that a lot of women (who are the primary television audience) and can relate to this content and the issue it highlights. We just want to try and take away the fear and hesitation they have with regards to coming forward if they are in such a situation, or even understand what is appropriate and inappropriate workplace behaviour and draw lines.” Ever since Anjum Shahzad’s Khaani (2017) went on air, on entertainment channel Geo, Khaani shaped a new paradigm and a path to success for Sana Javed, who played the titular role alongside Feroze Khan in the serial. Sana, who essayed the role of Khaani in the play, made her debut with drama serial Pyare Afzal in 2013, on premier entertainment channel ARY Digital. She ventured into cinema as well in 2017 film, Mehrunisa V Lub U. Although Sana did rise to prominence with Khaani, but when I saw her as Mahnoor in Zara Yaad Kar (2016), on premier entertainment channel HUM TV, I knew this girl would go places. Zara Yaad Kar had an emotionally invested-intense script, and the way Sana handled it all together as the protagonist proved her acting prowess. Sana is now all set to hit the television screens with this multi-layered message serial for the #Metoo era. Sana plays the victim of harassment at work place. Talking about her character, Sana says, “My character’s name is Afreen who goes through harassment by her boss every time they come across. When she decides to even the score, she faces a lot of hurdles and eventually loses her respect and dignity. But the drama then shows how she continues to struggle for her right and ultimately the ball comes in her court. My key reason to choose this script is to create awareness and boost the morale of our women to fight for their right.” Putting herself in a reel time situation of going through harassment at work place. What does Sana take out of the character of a victim as a person herself. She tells, “I believe every character teaches me something and this strong role has encouraged me to speak for myself and to motivate people to do the same. Now, I can actually feel for the girls who go through this evil on daily basis and don’t have the power to retaliate.” Sana believes Darr Khuda Se can change the game for women who face harassment at work or in life. “The drama will definitely create an awareness. This project is like an aid for an hour of need and it is designed beautifully to deliver the sense of legitimacy that one deserves in all circumstances. The worst reality we see is that a girl has to face a lot if she takes a stand for herself but Darr Khuda Se also shows how the harasser’s life turns upside down when the law of nature does justice – conversely and miraculously,” she adds, “This drama has been planned in a way that it would make a difference in lives of girls in Pakistan and boost the confidence of victims to speak for themselves instead of ignoring an extremely important issue.”

THE HARSH REALITY: Directed by celebrated Saqib Malik, Baaji has yesteryearu2019s star Meera playing a fading actress who is now referred to as Baaji (Urdu for u2018older sisteru2019), and whose existence is threatened by a young and scheming aspirant.
Meera unplugged

Meera likes to make an impact — and she doesn’t seem to care if it’s a good or bad one. Being politically correct doesn’t appeal to her, she’d rather deliver punchlines, create controversies or even allow herself to become the target of jokes. If she makes an appearance on any red carpet, there’s no way she won’t be mobbed by media and paparazzi; they want to talk to her and snap her, as she bats her eyelids and proceed to pass scathing commentaries on others.  Deep away from the spotlight, ‘Meera’ just fades to be her stage name, Irtiza Rubab is just a wonted girl from Lahore – who likes her mixed tea just like everybody else, nothing too extravagant or pretentious.  Lollywood starling in real sense, Meera made her film debut with Kanta in 1995. Little did she know that a film with an unpopular pitch would go on to put her on the path of becoming one of the renowned Pakistani film actresses of today’s time. From Kanta onwards, Meera has earned quite an acclaim for a string of roles portraying many versions of a real Pakistani ‘heroine’, a phenomenon that is well on its way for a change, for good. She is unabashedly proud of her acting repertoire; the bold Punjabi dances and the glossier roles. Although Meera didn’t really come forward to be a part of the new age changing Pakistani cinema in full of its form, however she did make a couple of cinematic outings that weren’t too great either. From Ishq Khuda (2013) to Hotal (2016) or Shor Sharaba (2018) badly bombed at the box office, Meera has gone all out in making her silver screen choices carefully now.  Lover her, hate her, you cannot ignore her. The MeeraJee as she is known on Twitter and hence in real life is indomitable. She’s also recently been making waves for her witticisms on Twitter, delivered in English that is so fluent that it has followers wondering if it really is her on the other side. Yes, there are flights of fantasy and many a laugh, but this is a woman who has learned from experience. Community skims over some of her journey and her views on the new Pakistan film scene, its players and her new upcoming film Baaji, a Pakistani film of today’s time in real sense. Before she got into a conversation with us, Meera clarified how she charges PKR5,00,000 for an interview and this sitting was just because she felt like talking. Two decades in film industry and Meera has some important notions to look for in-order to get the fledgling Pakistan film industry well on its way to success. “I think the most important thing to do is to give respect to directors and film-makers like Asim Raza and Saqib Malik. They know about filmmaking better than anybody else in today’s time in Pakistan. Filmmaking is not an art, to know how to do it perfectly and engage the audience is a task in itself. They’re educated in filmmaking and unless they make 4-5 films an year, Pakistan film industry is going nowhere,” adds Meera, “Also, we need budgets for the film. Bollywood is successful and huge because their budgets are huge, they’re as glitz and glam as one can imagine. So, we need allotted budgets for these filmmakers to make wonders.” She particularly feels that local cinema’s young crop of actors refuse to show respect. “Today’s young actors haven’t done much work but they still consider themselves to be superstars,” she continues. “They may have strong followings on social media or they may have acted in a few movies but they are yet to build a body of work for themselves.” Why did she agree to work in Baaji then, co-staring young actors like Osman Khalid Butt and model-turned actress Amina Ilyas, in the lead roles? “I signed Baaji because of its big production size, script, director and everything in short. From stylists to their DOP and team, everything was top-notch and I wanted to be a part of such production, so yes, the director knows his craft and that’s what attracted me,” she continues, “I loved sharing screen-space with Amna and Osman. They both are very hard working, fashion savvy stars!” Directed by celebrated Saqib Malik, Baaji has yesteryear’s star Meera playing a fading actress who is now referred to as Baaji (Urdu for ‘older sister’), and whose existence is threatened by a young and scheming aspirant who shows up at her door in the guise of a fan (played by Amna Ilyas). Osman Khalid Butt is cast as a film director and Baaji’s former beau, who becomes enchanted with the fresh entrant. It’s a women-centric film through and through, with Meera and Ilyas at the heart of all action. For Meera, the film holds a special significance, as she has reached a stage in her career where she can understand the dynamics and motivations of the character she’s playing even better. “I’m the biggest movie star in real life and I’m playing the biggest movie star in the film. So yes, there’s a lot of similarity between Baaji and me in real life. I started working when I was extremely young, I was merely 12, I wasn’t even an adult,” says Meera. It is said that a heroine’s shelf life is short. However harsh this might sound, the fact remains that the entertainment industry anywhere in the world thrives on youth, and this is especially true of the ladies. There are no takers for an ageing actress, no matter how great she is. This isn’t quite the case with men who are known to set the cash registers ringing even when they hit their fifties — think Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt or George Clooney or, closer to home, Salman Khan and Aamir Khan. But an actress past her prime isn’t considered worth putting your money on. Meera responds, “I love my age. I don’t think age is anything. I’m playing a role of 16-year-old in as another upcoming film, and you’ll see what acting is. Hollywood and Bollywood has surpassed this age dilemma, it’s only in Pakistan now. As an example, look at Madhuri Dixit and Rekha Jee, they’re still performing exceptionally well. Age is just a number. Amir, Salman and Shahrukh Khan in their 50s play a role of school boy who’s merely 22 years old. If they can, so can we.” Meera Jee is known for her unbashful statements and tweets. Is it all part of a planned act, or that’s just how she is? Meera clarifies, “I just say what I feel strongly about. I don’t need to act, I don’t know how to do drama. I’ve been blessed with everything – fame, money, what have you...I’ve seen everything. Why would I act and lie. Why would I lie? I’m the most beautiful and richest woman. People love me. I’m the Meera Jee. That’s enough.” Meera has word for her fans and followers worldwide. “Please go and support Baaji. I need to raise funds for a hospital and support Pakistan film industry. I need to raise around PKR200 crores. Also, as a message to people, they’re not going to get Meera again. Meera is just one in Pakistan. If you’ll stand beside me, then the destiny of Pakistan film industry will change for good. Follow my foot-steps. Also, I am just not saying it randomly but I mean it; stand with me and I’ll take this industry beyond success. I’ve sacrificed a lot for this country, so if you’ve finally found the right person (me), then follow her and avoid all other liars and posers. I left Hollywood, Bollywood and foreign nationalities for Pakistan. Next, I’m also going to run for prime minister elections. I’m going to join politics soon just to take forward our film industry.”

LIFE PARTNER: Dia Mirza tied the knot with her long-term beau Sahil Sangha, Bollywood director and producer, in 2014.
“I really think beauty is what beauty does”

— Dia Mirza, actress and environmentalist With former models turned actresses like Zeenat Aman and Sushmita Sen in Bollywood as proof, the leap from the runway to the big screen isn’t anything new, or hasn’t been since the Nineties. And in fact, for the previous two decades, it’s getting easier for runway beauties. But while many top models tend to be pushed into the mundane ‘it girl’ category, there are those who have been sinking their teeth into roles with more substance.  The 37-year-old, half Bengali, half German, Dia Mirza is one of the finest examples in a long line of models who took the leap from fashion magazine cover girl and advertisements to the big screen starlet in India. Though her time in fashion was clamorous, winning the title of Miss Asia Pacific in 2000, she quickly made her way into the film industry with Rehnaa Hai Tere Dil Mein in 2001, starring opposite R Madhavan.  Although the film didn’t do well at the box office, it developed a cult among South Asian youth and Dia’s performance was well received by the critics nationwide. Ziyaus Salam, Hindi film critique, in his review for Hindu, wrote “Dia can take heart. Lesser girls have gone on to greater things in Bollywood. She is better than many beginners.” Yet, there were several false starts after Rehnaa Hai Tere Dil Mein, she had indeed become the whipping girl for her movie turns.  Two decades later, Dia is a movie star. With Sanju (2018) kissing the box-office mark, she’s grabbing the eyeballs, although her appearance in Sanju was post hiatus of six years from acting.  Dia has never played by anyone’s rules. After about two decades in the acting business, she has made her name defying expectations, by coming forward in support of #MeToo movement in India and starting a dialogue about environment sustainability.  Given her unique career trajectory, it seems fitting that Dia is Bollywood’s multi-hyphenate, adding ‘producer’ to her list of specialities.  When Dia was not on the silver screen for six years, she wasn’t only producing films; she tied the knot with her long-term beau Sahil Sangha, Bollywood director and producer, in 2014, and joined forces with many local Indian organisations to create awareness about conservation of wildlife, environment and nature.  In recognition of her contribution to environment conservation, joining the likes of global celebrities such as Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Angelina Jolie, Katy Perry and Emma Watson, Dia was recently appointed as the UN Environment’s Goodwill Ambassador for India on last month.  Dia has been extremely busy recently mentoring Miss India 2019 contestants. As she takes a lazed breath from the clamour of work, Community talks to her about her upcoming web-series Kaafir that is scheduled to premiere on Zee5 Global on June 15, and her take on sustainable environment and #MeToo in India. ZEE5 is the digital entertainment destination launched by Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited (ZEEL), a global Media and Entertainment powerhouse. The platform launched across 190+ countries in October 2018 and has content across 17 languages; Hindi, English, Bengali, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Marathi, Oriya, Bhojpuri, Gujarati and Punjabi, and now also Malay, Thai, Bahasa, German and Russian. ZEE5 is home to 100,000 hours of on-demand content and 60+ live TV channels. ZEE5 offers features like 16 navigational languages, content download option, seamless video playback and voice search. Two decades in Bollywood. What’s changed? OMG! So much. I was very young when I started out and I think I had very little understanding of how I wanted to use my voice and what I wanted to do with it. Now, I think it has become abundantly clear to me than ever before. I think that is the standout juncture between the person who started out at age 19 and to the person whom you’re speaking to right now.  Do you think web-series are somehow taking over the place of conventional cinema? I don’t think that is possible but I do believe that these platforms are giving much more moved imperative to the story tellers — without the conformities and with absolute freedom and devoid of the pressure of box office and censorship. These platforms are breaking all the loose end stereotypes and giving more people an opportunity who want to tell true stories and the stories they believe in. As an actor because I do know when you’re doing a film together there are so many permutations and combinations one has to worry and think about, that web series doesn’t demand of us. In web-series you just need to make sure you’re telling the story you want to tell. In a happy world, we would like to believe that the box office is the same for story tellers and actors but unfortunately, the economics of the box office hurdles the freedom.  You’ve been very selective about the kind of scripts you choose. Is there any mantra to it? I find myself in a place where I believe that one has to give their voice to do something substantial. What drives me to work every day and have motivated, inspired and driven me all these years was being aligned with the voice that echoes everything I want to hear and express to the world. Many of my earlier choices were driven out by fear — the fear of losing out, fear of being out of mind and sight, fear of rejection … so many fears. When you evolve and mature, you realise and recognise that fears only handicap you when you really can go out there and do something with yourself.  Why Kaafir?  Kaafir is one of the most powerful, relatable story I’ve been exposed to as an artiste. It is everything that I hope for in the world. It is beautifully written, so nuanced, has so much gravitas and is so relatable and recognisable. The spirit of humanity that it has is just so compelling that  I had to be a part of this story. When I met the producer and he narrated me just one line of the story, I was like I have to tell this story to the world. And then of course when I read the script, I was blown away by it. I consider myself privileged to have had the opportunity to play this part and embody the spirit of Kainaz, not because it was the right thing to do but I believe because it was the only way one could’ve done it. Perhaps, the first part in my career, that has compelled me at such deep human level, influenced my pursuits to become the part of the story as opposed to the actor part.  Are there beauty secrets lying somewhere in the corner that other aspirants could make use of? I really think beauty is what beauty does. So much of how we choose or think, is how we look. So, I have always maintained that the primary focus is to align my mind space in the best way I can and then of course some regular exercise helps. A good natural vegetarian and fruit diet also helps. Look, I’m giving you all the secret answers! Diet, exercise and managing your mind space really really determines how you look.  What issues are the closest to your heart? Is there something that you have found more fulfilling doing than what has made you famous? Planet and people. When I say planet, I mean all encompassing it, including children, health and environment. The planet is my primary concern. You’re UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador for India, so how do you plan on bringing about change? There’s such a strong disconnect between the science (of environmental degradation) and the people. And that people don’t have access to the science. I myself have been struggling to make this science accessible to people, and when they are, it’s going to affect policies, law and just how our government works. We are confronted by enormous challenge of being a Third World country with soon to become the most populated country in the world, but inhabiting a very, very small geographical landmark, which means that interdependence between people and natural resources lies in 90% progress. It is my mission to be able to advocate on the necessity for India to become absolute and total champion of climate action. There’s no other way we can comfort the people if we don’t become a primary climate active nation.  You were an integral part of the #MeToo movement in India — among very few celebrities who came forward to talk about it openly. How do you think this movement has affected the film industry in India? Do you think this movement brought justice to those who needed or was it all in vain? I don’t believe it (#MeToo in India) was in vain at all. I think it triggered consciousness, understanding and education which I think was the most important thing it achieved. It is ongoing, it not going anywhere until there is justice and an equal opportunity. I think this movement would continue. I think because of it many workspaces have become safer. There are many, many companies who have implemented the guidelines, have understood them, but more than anything else what’s done is that it has given a very powerful message to women, which is that you DO NOT need to accept being mistreated at the work place, you DO NOT need to be sidelined. I think that in itself is very empowering. This whole tradition of silence has been broken and that is a remarkable transformation.  Any message for your fans in Qatar? I want everybody to watch Kaafir. It has been an amazing journey and means so much to me. People would get to see a side of me they never have. I simply love Kainaz and Kaafir as much as I loved playing a part in it.

Snapshots from the fashion event organised by Maserati Qatar. PICTURES: Jayan Orma
Traditional silhouettes on catwalk at Maserati Qatar fashion show

The best collections at a fashion show are the innovative ones, playing along the lines of international appeal but still encapsulating the traditional silhouettes and crafts. There are pretty designer wears and wearable ones but then there are those that push the fashion envelope, setting aside any commercial concerns and diving into a new blend of colour, craft or technique. Experimenting with fabric and couture is the haute trend in fashion but creating wearable pieces with edgy structure is what makes a designer a fashion aficionado. Qatar’s fashion industry, too, enjoys these moments and often delivers a heady whiff of innovative fashion. Maserati Qatar recently organised a fashion event at its showroom, The Pearl-Qatar, featuring an exclusive Ramadan collection by Qatari designer label Al Bacarrat Fashion. Amid the traditional late dinner, exclusively for women only, the event was organised by Ali al-Sayer, fashion director. The hair and makeup was done by Maison De Joelle Qatar. The collection had a bohemian tribal vibe, a laidback glamour that screamed “easy breezy”, clothes for the modern girl who loves fast fashion even in her formal evening wear and wardrobe. Traditional embroideries were placed in unconventional ways around necklines, pockets and chiffon gowns that were sewn with perfection for a flowing silhouette. There were vivid tie-n-dyes, block prints, gota, pearls, and dashes of brocade and while one is familiar with all these design elements, Bacarrat’s prowess lies in breathing new life into them. The colour play, the geometric patchwork, the mix of gota-pearl-print-embroidery and the cutting-edge, neat silhouettes all worked out into a line that proves that the designer is quite there to make to the top of its game. Many Kaftan-like pieces caterwauled modest fashion. Nothing too revealing, nothing too under the fabric. It was a perfect balance that started with vertical linings in blue, transformed into grey and ended with the tail of black. The knee length gowns with tukri, gota and mirror-work, the capes and the shirts glistening with heavy-duty embroideries were beautiful and thematically continued to follow the ‘folk’ theme, but sometimes one could feel a bit too much of hanging tassels and applique work repeated on net, repeatedly. And that is a wrap, fashion wise. One can perhaps sit back and say that now the fashion episode have ended finally for the season; that started off with Fashion Trust Arabia and was followed by the Heya exhibition. Or is it? With the lucrative wedding season and Eid right around the corner, one never knows if there’s yet another fashion show ready to unfurl the runway once again, waiting right around the corner.

Maintaining health at home

To achieve any fitness goal, having a well-drawn plan is the key. But if you’re fasting during Ramadan, it gets a bit crucial. Aimlessly training without a plan can be dangerous and also put your results on the back burner. The holy month should not be when you give up on your fitness goals. Rather, make Ramadan a time to recharge so you can hit the gym strong after these four weeks, keeping yourself fit at core and just maintaining enough stamina to increase your metabolism. Consuming large quantities of food or an unbalanced diet for Iftar – mostly fried food, can often lead to upset stomach or in most cases over-eating. Ramadan is the time when one cannot really count on the intake of calories, often leading to weight gain and obesity as well. But, this Ramadan, Bia Feroz, aspirational athlete, speaks to Community and instructs the right way of doing some beginner exercises at home, before Iftar. These exercises do not require some external equipment, but internal strength of perseverance and belief of keeping one’s mind and body healthy. “Exercising and fasting can go together, there’s absolutely no harm in it. Exercise while fasting may actually keep your brain active and healthy. When we exercise during fasting, it essentially forces our body to shed fat, as our body’s fat burning processes are controlled by sympathetic nervous system, which in turn is activated by exercise and lack of food,” says Bia. The best timing for indulging in these exercises? Bia says, “After the Taraweeh prayers at the night and an hour before Iftar. Exercising an hour before breaking the fast rejuvenates the body immediately.” Since high intensity exercises that throw the pulse rate to above 150 per minute are advised to be avoided during fasting in Ramadan, slow and moderate exercises are preferred. Here are three exercises Bia Feroz suggests for more sustainability and strength of the core.  Air Squats: Stand with your feet a little wider than hip-width apart, your toes turned out slightly and your arms resting at your sides. Engage your abdominal muscles and broaden across your chest by gently pulling your shoulder blades in towards each other. Bend your knees slowly, pushing your butt and hips out and down behind you as if you are sitting down into a chair. Keep your head and shoulders aligned over your knees and your knees aligned over your ankles. Tense your abs like someone is about to punch you.  Planks: Start on the floor on your hands and knees. Lower your forearms to the floor with elbows positioned under your shoulders and your hands shoulder-width apart, forming 90 degree angle from the side. Step your feet back, one at a time. Maintain a straight line from heels through the top of your head, looking down at the floor, with gaze slightly in front of your face.  Burpees: Bend over or squat down and place your hands on the floor in front of you, just outside of your feet. Jump both feet back so that you’re now in plank position. Drop to a push-up, your chest should touch the floor. You can also drop to your knees here, which makes the impending push-up easier. Push up to return to plank position. Jump the feet back in toward the hands and explosively jump into the air, reaching your arms straight overhead.

COMPASSIONATE: Sharice says that a conscious fasting develops a sense of compassion in an individual especially towards the needy and poor along with spiritual well-being.
Non-muslim expat celebrates Ramadan with perseverance

Ramadan is not just a month of hunger for Muslims. Considered to be the holiest month of the year for Muslims, this month goes far beyond fasting before sunrise to sunset. It is a month for spiritual connection, self discipline, reconnecting to faith and religious practices, remembering those who are less fortunate, and spending time with family. With about 7.6 billion people in the world, around 24% of them, 1.8 billion, are fasting from sunup to sundown. Every day. For an entire month. In a population of about 2.74 million people in Qatar, more than 80% being expatriates from different countries around the world, the religious spread of the population residing in Qatar is split at roughly 67.7% Muslims and 32.3% population belonging to other religions.  In a Muslim majority country, Ramadan is celebrated with a passion of longing and love. But what if you’re not a Muslim – just a caring, considerate person. How do non-Muslim expatriates in Qatar spend their Ramadan? Sharice Tan, a makeup artist from Philippines residing in Doha for the previous 10 years, talks to Community about cherishing the month of Ramadan and standing side-by-side with her Muslim friends and acquaintances.  The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is a time for Muslims all over the world to renew their focus on spiritual life and its practical application in daily life. Sharice completely agrees that a conscious fasting develops a sense of compassion in an individual especially towards the needy and poor along with spiritual well-being. Over to Sherice, “Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims as they show their submission to their higher authority, Allah, through fasting. Living in Qatar for 10 years with Islam as the state religion, I’ve had my fair share in witnessing this most sacred month of Muslims — I believe that it should be seen with admiration and respect as we observe this type of sacrifice despite our differences of beliefs and spiritual principles,” she says.  Where Ramadan is a time of increased devotion and moral conduct, there’s a considerable change in the working routines and schedule of people for an entire month as well – to make sure that work timings do not clash with the prayer timings of the ones fasting. Office hours are waned and so are the timings for other businesses. “Ramadan does affect people’s regular routine because of the change of environment including the work and public timings, the observance of fasting and several aspects of how people and things work around the city,” says Sherice on how Ramadan affects people’s regular routine and businesses. She adds, “I mainly work in film and TVC productions and this means that projects are less in Ramadan because shoots are tough physically and mentally. The workload is far less then regular in Ramadan. Moreover, from the previous years, Ramadan has been on the same time as summer season and because of these two challenging factors, lots of projects and work are loafed.” Sherice also appreciates the spirit of socialising and networking in Ramadan. She has been regularly taking part in Suhoors and Iftars with her friends, as a moral support to them and their beliefs. She says, “It has been a yearly occasion for me to join in selected Iftars and Suhoors, especially that the hotels here in Doha tries to top up their Ramadan tents from their last year’s outputs, both food wise and aesthetics decoration wise.”

PROMISING DEBUT: Student of the Year 2 proves to be a promising debut for Ananya Panday, left, and Tara Sutaria. Their brief is to be pouty and attractive, which they manage to do with commendable performances.
It’s an A-Grade for students

Nothing is excess for Karan Johar till it is all about beautiful people and expensive things – designer bags, labels and an attitude that can raze the wrath. Johar creates a quixotic world full of such content and high in emotions way too well. The world has moved on in the seven years since the phat college caper Student of The Year (2012) that launched the careers of Alia Bhatt, Varun Dhawan and Sidharth Malhotra and so has Johar and his filmmaking, for good. Where the first part of the franchise caterwauled glamour all along, even in the tiny bits, Karan has played sensibly with this one. Directed by Punit Malhotra, nothing seems too vacuous and over-designed, it’s all within the limits which is what holds the essence of the film. Loose ends? Yes – a bit, but come-on that’s with every other Bollywood entertainer. The actors in the follow-up, Student of the Year 2, are a fresh bunch led by Tiger Shroff paired with Ananya Panday and Tara Sutaria – millennial cast with a sexy appeal to their acting.  Much to the joy of SOTY fans like myself, we are happy to pronounce that the second edition is equally glossy and picture perfect. Rohan Sachdev played by Tiger Shroff and Manav Singhania, played by Aditya Seal, spend an entire academic year preparing for the prestigious Student of the Year Competition, that can merely be achieved by winning a Kabbadi match. The only thing which wasn’t really striking was, why a huge trophy in college without even a whiff of academics in general? I agree, in the first part there was all that pizzazz glamour and Hermes bags, but there was also an entire sound track which was about academics and doing well in the aptitude test to qualify to take part in Student of the Year Competition in the first place. Something that should have been included in this franchise as well. However, KJo did his bit of promoting the lesser popular sport. He infused a cool factor to the game with his players doing back flips and slow-mo jumps. Manav Singhania is a rich brat, while Rohan is a middle-class scholarship student, who barely makes it to Saint Teresa, IVY school, on sports quota just for the sake of his girlfriend Mia, played by Tara Sutaria, to be closer to her. Like Rahul and Anjali in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, the story of Rohan and Mia’s love, friendship and falling out is a school legend. But the pretzel is the introduction of Manav in the love triangle at first, which fades away post intermission and you see a whole new love triangle in the making.  Where three fall apart, with well-done fight sequences, Shreya, played by Ananya, takes the screen space with Rohan and you know the rest. Ananya is Manav’s younger sister and in the first half of the film is presented as the spoiled mean girl. She’s the leading lady; carries Louis Vuitton bags and wears Dolce and Gabbana. She’s like Shanaya (Alia Bhatt from Student of the Year) but without the killer attitude. Shreya is substituting her lack of family ties with designer labels and snobbish setting. All three, Rohan, Mia and Shreya, might be emotionally damaged but their physical perfection is established with numerous shots. This is youth without awkwardness or vulnerability.  There are ‘two’ many love triangles. Too often, the storyline is swallowed up by the overwhelming gloss, perfect styling and set-piece songs. Drawing a parallel where the competition in first part was so silly and shallow that it was hard to take any of it seriously, but this time it is out-done. The Kabbadi sequences are well-shot and athletic in every sense.  Yet, Karan creates moments that are genuinely moving and humorous. Karan also deserves applause for putting his faith in new actors every time. He elicits commendable performances from his cast of debutants. Tara and Ananya’s brief is to be pouty and attractive, which they manage to do. And Tiger has evolved in appearance and acting and on big screen it’s a treat to watch him. Student of the Year 2 is a love story that traverses the trodden path (a high school romance). But KJo is an artisan with intellect and taste and he ensures that the script is spruced up and modernised with such elan that it doesn’t offend the spectator’s wisdom or intelligence. The accomplished director takes on familiar material and gives it an entirely new twirl.  Do not miss a second of the song Yeh Jawani to get a glimpse of Will Smith’s Bollywood cameo and also wait for the credits at the end of the film to see Alia Bhatt in a spooky hot item number – which is nothing but something haute all the way. 

Photo by Syed Hasan Iqbal Zaidi
Finding light within

“You have learnt so much. And read a thousand books. Have you ever read yourself? You have gone to mosques. Have you ever visited your own soul? You are busy fighting Satan. Have you ever fought your ill intentions? You have reached into the skies, But you have failed to reach what’s in your heart!” says Syed Abdullah Shah Qadri, popularly known as Bulleh Shah, a Mughal-era Punjabi Islamic philosopher and preacher poet. These verses from Shah’s poetry exemplifies how exactly we should keep up with the spirit of Ramadan, how we need to find that positive light in our heart in the first place to drive us for the greater good. What is a pure heart? The pure ones are those who clean themselves from sin, doubt, cheating, lying, and jealousy. That’s pretty much the very first step – the light to shed off the barriers of sins, finding peace within and then heading towards Almighty for forgiveness and a spiritual quest.  These lanterns in the desert are just like that – that little light of faith that breaks up the vehement darkness of the night. If you have faith from within, nothing can tear you apart.  Have you ever wondered, why lanterns become so popular during the time of Ramadan? Because they have been exemplifying breaking the tangent of darkness and spreading light – just like the holy month of Ramadan for years, in which the Ultimate Guidance for mankind  — the Holy Qur’an — was revealed.  It is believed that the tradition of lantern was started in Egypt more than a thousand years ago when lanterns were used by people to light their homes and the streets at night. Lanterns have always been spreading the light. You need to find a spark of positive light in your heart and you’ll accomplish His contentment.  – Text by Muhammad Asad Ullah, photos by Syed Hasan Iqbal Zaidi

CULTURAL EXCHANGE: Campagnia B, Theatrical Production House from Italy, in association with Italian Chamber of Commerce Qatar, recently presented a short play u2018The Dress of Memoriesu2019, which was followed by a photo and traditional costume exhibition and u2018pecorino sardou2019 cheese tasting.
Italian heritage: rich and relatable

In Anglo-American countries, in Asia, and especially in Middle Eastern countries like Qatar, if any label says ‘Made in Italy’ it has immediate connotations of beauty and chic. The phrase, in fact, resonates with the hundreds of years of Italy’s cultural and artistic heritage, which even today continues to attract and fascinate travellers, consumers and curious art lovers worldwide. Where the runway shows of international designers and international films often draw an inspiration from Italian art, the manner in which Italy, Italian things, and the Italian language are portrayed and exploited as a signi?er of the chic and the stylish, leads one to take notice that the association of Italy with style has a long history, deep roots that reach down well beyond the immediate past. Think cultural legacy, think Italy. From Pompeii to the Colosseum, from Venice to Florence, the country’s massive tourism industry thrives on its heritage. Italy boasts more than 200,000 archaeological, monumental and architectural sites, without considering areas of major interest in terms of their landscape, environment, culture and traditions. Its 53 Unesco World Heritage sites, more than any other country in the world, is a sheer proof for us for its rich heritage appeal and amidst those cultural sites and archaeological importance lies the Island of Sardinia.  Sardinia is the rugged Mediterranean island that became a white-hot jet set destination in the Sixties, lapped by eye-popping aquamarine waters. The landscape of Sardinia is paradisiacal, but mastic trees gnarled with age and ruins, more than 7,000 ‘beehive tombs,’ or Nuraghes, tower throughout the island, suggest a hard-earned wisdom. In between those beehive tombs still exists a heritage and cultural values – worth sharing with the world.  Although the world has heard quite often about the island via notable personality spottings, from George and Amal Clooney, Rihanna to Elton John and Barack Obama spending summer holidays, the world doesn’t really know about the heritage importance and history the island preserves in itself. The island has not yet been discovered with that aspect. Keeping the narrative on hand and to create awareness about Sardinian culture, Campagnia B, Theatrical Production House from Italy, in association with Italian Chamber of Commerce Qatar, recently presented a short play ‘The Dress of Memories’, which was followed by a photo and traditional costume exhibition and ‘pecorino sardo’ cheese tasting at Al Mirqab Boutique Hotel, Souq Waqif. The play was a romantic journey set in the era of World War I; a conversation between a husband heading for the war and his invisible wife, hesitant of seeing him off for a battle of life. How he tries to convince his wife to keep up with the society and her happiness during his absence and his promise of returning alive takes the centre stage. The plot is an intense drama as it touches the base of tearing families and loved ones amidst war and the agonising decision for leaving everything and everyone behind for their own welfare and betterment. It’s a two-man show but the expressions of both the protagonists speak volume. The play also highlights the love of Sardinian women with the fabric of silk and colours. “It’s an authentic Italian performance. The story is about the relationship between a man and his wife during the First World War and the conversations that they have about the fact that he had been conscripted to go to fight in the war. They speak about the dress of the woman and the meaning that they attribute to those clothes as well as all the stories and the memories related to the clothes that they are wearing,” said Alice Capitanio, scriptwriter and director of the play.  The photo exhibition featured photographs of the models dressed in traditional Sardinian silhouettes of the 19th Century to display a connection for how heritage and culture remains relevant in every period of time. The pleated skirt with minimalistic lined straw hat is still wearable. Isn’t it? Well the photo exhibition was a definite proof that it still is. Talking about the Island of Sardinia and its recent developments on the international scope, Palma Libotte, Chairperson of the Italian Chamber of Commerce, said, “Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean and a very popular holiday destination, thanks to its beautiful sea and eco-system. The main asset of the island is its hospitality and tourism. In 2017, 14 million people visited the island. The most exclusive location of Sardinia is Costa Smeralda and since Qatar has invested in it, there has been a further growth of +5.2% for the summer season 2019. The growth potential is enormous. For some years now, Qatar has made significant investments in this beautiful Island that remains the favourite destination of the international Jet Set. There have been investments for more than one hundred million euros. 120mn of investment are planned until 2023.”

BRIDAL WEAR: Shahla Chatoor recently joined the bandwagon of solo shows this year after her successful departure last year, with a showcase of her bridal collection u2018Aksu2019 at Old Custom House Karachi.
High voltage haute appeal

Fashion weeks are an exhausting business for anyone involved enough to be working full time on them. Behind the plethora of perfect pictures, red carpet razzmatazz and general all round brouhaha, is hours, days and months of work and a tonne of blood sweat and tears. Now that’s for a fashion week where around 30 designers are showcasing over a period of about two to three days. But what if it’s a solo runway show, especially crafted for your designs and label? Multiply everything with ten and then add some hefty stress because you cannot put anything at risk, especially the reputation of your brand, when you know you and your designs are going to be the centre of attention for the night. There has been a wave of solo shows in Pakistan over the past few years now amidst the quintessential six fashion shows that are organised every year; but solos is for the better. Solo shows give designers a totally different spectrum to put forward their designs and curate exceptional experience for their buyers and fashion savvy clientele. Shahla Chatoor recently joined the bandwagon of solo shows this year after her successful departure last year, with a showcase of her bridal collection ‘Aks’ at Old Custom House Karachi.  All about luxury, using luxurious silks and chiffons that feel and look expensive with sumptuous prints and all kinds of inspiration; intricate work, flawless finishing, well-cut jackets, dresses, skirts, tops – this collection looks expensive. Shehla has made her brand a fashion powerhouse, with her own funky uber-sexy style that never crosses the line into tackorama.  Classic wedding wear will never go out of style, indeed it is the mainstay of most designer. Shehla featured classic heavy bridal with intricate work, but she updated it with her choice of motifs, interesting colours and the highlight of the show, very sexy backs. There wasn’t a stitch out of place, the detailing of the layers, even the ones barely peeking though was tremendous, and the lowers were outstanding. There were skirts and dupattas in crinkled silk, variations of the gharara – simmered, double-layered, triple-layered! – enormous ruffles, pleated dupattas, tiers of tulle, farshi lehngas, short angarkhas, long tunics, embellished bustiers and exquisite statement jackets. There were no bright dashes of colour. Quite subtly sophisticated tones that transformed from with silvers and deep maroons to a pretty pink, powder-blue and gorgeous combinations of black and gold.  Bridal wear is desi fashion’s high point; it is to the subcontinent what couture is to the West. However, breaking barriers containing just one of the type – Shehla went all out and about. She created couture pieces meshed with desi bridal avatars – which we loved! The layers of organza and tulle adding drama – more layers and tafettas paired with haute statement jewellery pieces and separate tops with hand embroideries intricately meshed with Swarovski crystals, gota, marori and chata-patti. Apart from womenswear bridal, Shehla’s Aks featured menswear collection as well. Very well-cut, lightly embroidered, quilted and moving from whites and blacks to tea-pink and mint green. Sleek tailoring and minimalistic embroideries – Voila Shehla! Verdict: Wispy chic, utterly exotic and done with all her heart and soul is the only way to describe Shehla’s collection. Her bridals weaved their usual magic spell, not because the choreography was so sharp, or the venue was extremely well done, but because the clothes on display were breath takingly beautiful. Bisou Bisou!

SOCIAL SATIRE: In George Bernard Shawu2019s Oscar winning picture, My Fair Lady (1964), based on Pygmalion, Shaw asks us to consider the question that if we change our language and appearance, do we really change our nature? The elements that are well emphasised within Pygmalion support the theme of language being the distinction amongst the social classes.
Transforming cultures and connecting the world

David Crystal in his book English as a Global Language says language reflects the speaker’s ideas and view of the world and it gives information about the person who is speaking. Identity, origin, age, heritage, gender, and culture are just some of the details which can be transferred via language.  But the question arises: are those who speak a global language as a mother tongue in a position of power compared with those who have to learn it as an official or foreign language?  Many writers and researchers have discussed the unseen development of hierarchy and racism over a period of time thanks to the language they speak. English language is lingua franca. It is possible that people who write up their research, no matter how significant, in languages other than English will have their work cut out in terms of recognition. There is already hearsay evidence to suggest that these things happen. The pressure to adopt the language and in such context to place yourself on the map of recognition is considerable.  Similarly, in George Bernard Shaw’s Oscar winning picture, My Fair Lady (1964), based on Pygmalion, he asks us to consider the question that if we change our language and appearance, do we really change our nature? The elements that are well emphasised within Pygmalion support the theme of language being the distinction amongst the social classes. The characters prove themselves through their speech as belonging to their appropriate classes. ‘Look where you’re goin’, dear. Look where you’re goin’! You ought to be stuffed with nails, you ought! Here, take the whole bloomin’ basket for a sixpence!’ As the play opens, a pretty looking girl talking in this accent clearly draws a line for us that accent of speaking English does define the social class. Even in today’s time, you cannot expect someone of a social higher status speaking English with such a slang accent. There are certain rules and barriers attached.  In the play, stuffy professor Henry Higgins sets himself a challenge: to pass off Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney flower girl, as a duchess. The play is really about language, and the idea that, through language, one can raise one’s social status. Many would argue that it still holds. At first it seems Shaw is suggesting that a person’s identity is wrapped up in how they speak, but he is also exposing just how shallow that definition is. A person like Doolittle, can be taught to speak like the upper class and pass herself off, yet, language alone should not define a person.  Certainly language is not a marker of intelligence or intellectual potential, but a habit or skill that can be altered. The upper class can lay claim to being superior because of their use of language, but literature shows that is is an artificial concept. Shaw’s social satirical play is relatable even today. Or is it? In the first place, the prospect that lingua franca might be needed for the whole world is something which emerged strongly only in the 20th century, in the United Nations where 190 countries came together in a single meeting. The pressure to adopt a single lingua franca, to facilitate communication in such contexts, is considerable. Do we still require a common language and is knowing English promoting a sort of inferiority at some level? Is English penetration in an Arab country like Qatar transforming its culture in a good way? Is it creating an invisible social barrier between the older generation of Qataris who were taught in Arabic and the millennials of today who speak English language?  Ghanim al-Sulaiti, an expert in vegan wellbeing and health, talks about the role of English language in connecting him with the world. He says, “I think learning the English language has opened so many doors and so many opportunities for me; to be able to connect with other people and cultures and to be able to understand, express, reflect and relate to different people from all over the world.” “English is an international language and in order to have a better understanding and clear communication with others, English plays a role for a very effective communication,” adds Fahad al-Obaidly, fashion designer, curator and founder of Qatar Fashion Society. Over half of the global population speak more than one language and that number appears to be on the rise. The ability to switch between languages at the drop of a hat gives one unparalleled social and cognitive ability. As travelling exposes one to new people, and often to new cultures, religions, languages and customs, breaking the communication barrier and hitting common ground with English language is always a plus.  “We live in such a global world that everyone seems to be engaged now, one way or another, where everyone wants to be a part of what’s happening or just wants to say something. We are not divided anymore. We see something happening in the US, and we can talk about it here in Qatar. So being a bilingual definitely helps to cope with all of that, with every sort of communication,” says Fahad in suggesting being bilingual gives him an edge, and Ghanim agrees. “I definitely agree, I wouldn’t have been the same. I can see other people who do not have the English language skills, they do not have as much opportunities as I do. Yes, in this era, the English language is very important as it bridges people together. Of course, having different languages that you’re skilled in is not an edge specifically, but I think it gives you an opportunity, an extra skill you can use to connect with other people.” Language prominently influences the way people see the world. Charlemagne, King of the Franks from 768, King of the Lombards from 774, and Roman Emperor from 800, proclaimed that ‘to have a second language is to have a second soul.’ Does it affect and contribute to the transforming lifestyles? Ghanim says, “The older generation of Qataris didn’t learn English in their schools or still use English as much as we do. I think there have been lots of changes that have had happened in the last 10 years in Doha where you have seen so many of the older generation being forced to learn English, to even adapt to talk in English in public places; to be able to communicate, connect and be a part of the community. I think this has been a huge transformation in culture in Qatar where people have been compelled to learn English. I agree that Arabic is very important and it is our mother language but I also think that because the world is changing and we have a melting pot of many different people and cultures in Doha, you need to have a language that connects us all.”  Adds Fahad, “Back in the days, wherever one used to go they had to talk or communicate in Arabic. But now, it has all transformed to English. So you need to know basic English for communication. But at the same time, several laws have been enforced now to preserve Arabic language.” And what about changing cultures? Ghanim says, “I think language definitely defines the changing culture. Languages have opened up barriers, discussions and debates. We are able to talk about certain subjects that we wouldn’t have been able to talk about. In general, a language can fill in the gaps between cultures and allow us to be more open, have dialogue and speak with confidence. I think English language has given us a platform to be able to share our experiences, our culture and show people what we are doing here in Doha. It’s interesting how language has given us this platform.” It is quite evident that the older generation tends to differ with the younger one in their use of language. Language barriers tend to affect communication between the young generation and old. There does seem to be some language trends that are particularly favoured by generations born in the 80s and 90s. Each generation develops its own vernacular so it has an identity and so people of its own generation generate a unique vocabulary. But the case of developing communication gaps is even tense, when there’s a shift from one language to another. Speaking about the differences existing between older generation of Qataris and English speaking millennials, Fahad says, “I don’t think English language is creating differences. I think it is inspiring the older generation to adapt and have better communication with the younger one. It’s keeping the two generations interested.” Adds Ghanim, “We live in a world where English is taking over. I do not like to look at it as a negative thing because, at the end of the day because of English many people are connecting, communicating better and as long as that’s happening, I think the language is very beneficial. I know a lot of people who disagree with me. They don’t like that younger generation is speaking English and some of them don’t even know how to speak Arabic. So I think, as long as you can communicate with your community and deliver your message, you’re on the right track. But, if, in learning another language, you’re giving up your mother language and you’re not able to communicate with your own people, then that’s a problem for sure. But if you can do both and express yourself and be able to use the language at the right time and place, it is a wonderful thing. I think, yes, the gap between the two generations can be bridged with emphasis on both languages and being able for both the generations to sacrifice a little bit for each other and learn the language of the other.” Shaw discussed in Pygmalian the question of language and how it determines a person’s social standing. He provided a range of characters from a variety of socio-economic levels to show the rigidity in English society, a hierarchy that must not be broken.  But does it still hold?  “You could’ve said that knowing English language is a privilege 15 years ago. But now things have changed. You cannot survive in Doha if you don’t know English and it is very important to engage with the community, to evolve and grow,” says Ghanim.  

MILLENNIAL: Hussain Rehar, a fine new addition to the fashion industry, showcased a boho chic collection that caterwauled colour, glitter and prints.
Raving fashion at PSFW2019

PDFC Sunsilk Fashion Week 2019 (PSFW2019) has been all about artistic, creative fashion – more about luxurious pretty clothes. It was an affair of dazzling comebacks, some pleasant debuts, of sumptuous luxury pret and funky tribal ready-to-wear, of fashion forward collections for men. Just the right line-up to represent the myriad fashion aesthetics that are represented by the Pakistan Fashion Design Council. Unlike previous year, there was an almost visible buzz and energy in the designers. HSY may have brought PSFW19 to a close, but the week’s biggest stories emerged from the womenswear shows presenting fluid silhouettes, dashes of colours and laidback glamour set with pret wear collections. Lahore was a rich source of trend as always – just because it’s the ‘it’ fashion week and designers understand the meaning of putting their best foot forward - and this season, it seems the richer, the better.  SHOWSTOPPER: Mawra Hocane (above) and Sheheryar Munawar Siddiqui (below) walk the ramp for Zaha by Khadija Shah and Republic by Omar Farooq, respectively at PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week 2019 Designer lineups for the last day usually feature big fashion names – although this doesn’t ring true for the PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week (PSFW) this time with some genuinely good collections showcased on every single day. PFDC is fast picking up international trends and following international fashion circuit in forming, shaping up and putting up a schedule of designers. They have realised, that more than just a name, it definitely matters what’s being showcased. Sania Maskatiya wasn't the only designer to impress the fashion crowd this season; Hussain Rehar showcased a series of beautifully-made sequined dresses that we can't wait to dance the night away in; Khadija Shah moved her acclaimed prints to a new level; Republic by Omar Farooq delivered the manish elegance we know and love.  The fashion desk lists down top 4 collections that went on the runway of PSFW19 this season. Sania Maskatiya Sania used pastels as the base and her lineup of ethnic silhouettes left no room for improvement. They were perfectly crafted featuring ethnic chata-pati and exquisite gota with modern cuts and tweaks. From dholki to Eid to the formal engagement wear, the designer knows how to cut a neat silhouette.  The dresses were accentuated with ballay, bindis and jhoomars that added a certain freshness to the new age collections, steering away from the usual heavy gold jewellery. Using a variety of fabric from raw silk, chiffon and jacquard to pure cotton while using marori, mukesh and stone centric embellishments, the collection diversity was unmistakable.  Hussain Rehar There are no real ‘rules’ of street style, but over the past few years, it’s been a commonly held belief that wearing black won’t get you noticed. The competition for a photographer’s attention is fierce—you need colour! Glitter! Prints! Everything what Hussain Rehar showcased this season. With very boho-chic vibes, his clothes featured lots of sequins, abstract florals, jackets and capes. The two-piece suits worked entirely with sequins, the vertical strips of colour flowing down gowns. There’s a sense of gullibility to that his clothes, that this is what futuristic fashion looks like.  Zaha by Khadija Shah With experience Khadija knows too well that pretty, flattering clothes are not enough to please a fashion week crowd, so she seasoned with unexpected elements to keep things a little off kilter. The groovy prints of big leafy tropical plants, leopards, bright yellow frogs, monkeys and polka dots and hippieish chill of the late 70’s of breezy baggy tunics nipped at the waist with sashes, paired with harems and shalwars, was all over the showcase. It doesn’t get easier that breezy wearable ready-to-wear collection like this. If you’re really leaning in, layer on the chunky accessories Khadija brought to the ramp with big voluminised hair and neon makeup here and there. You’d love your look! With funky and being bold, it was an affair of Va VA Voom! The models with dewy fresh skin showcased reptilian prints and sheer delicate layers. Republic by Omar Farooq Omar’s embrace of less strictly tailored clothes over the past few years was never just about a tightly stitched double breast blazer. It was a something that signaled a message about his brand, telling the world that Republic is more masculine and fashion-forward menswear then ever before. Omar brought an edgy twist to his menswear collection,– he took a departure from conventional menswear suits and came back with jackets that were hip.  Text and symbols were etched across them, ciphers that hold personal meanings for the designer: a tousle-haired young boy, a monster glaring out from the back of model Aimal Khan’s jacket and rebellious slogans that declared ‘not a role model’. The accessories were similarly colourful and with British appeal: Buckles made of penny loafers adorned peep peepback plateaus made of colored raffia. Also outstanding are the shoulder bags with nostalgic metal frame to mention.

“Sometimes there can be a lot of strength in a quiet character” — Meryem Uzerli, actress

In the space of a single decade, Turkey has gone from being a country with a somewhat barren television landscape to being one of the largest exporters of soap operas and drama series in the world. Turkish television — an appealing blend of social issues and strong cultural themes — is one of the most thriving entertainment industries in the world now. In 2011, it introduced us to Muhtesem Yüzy?l (Magnificent Century), an epic historical drama launched, based on the life and court of the Ottoman Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent, the longest-reigning Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, and his wife Hurrem Sultan. The television series was broadcast in over 40 countries with more than 200 million viewers worldwide. Viewers watched the show, not only in Turkey but also in Pakistan, Bosnia, Croatia, China, United States and other countries, including several in the Arab world, where it was called The Sultan’s Harem and dubbed in Arabic. Muhtesem Yüzy?l introduced Meryem Uzerli, Turkish-German actress, to the world as Hurrem Sultan, the female lead of the television series.  With over 25 TV and movie awards and nominations, Meryem has climbed the ladder of fame and has become an unstoppable force. During the series, Uzerli’s role managed to develop a love-hate relationship with her audience.  Her acting prowess has placed herself on the cultural map of the world as one of the best actresses to have had come out of Turkish television industries. From Tüketici Academy Award for Best Female Lead for Muhtesem Yüzy?l in 2011 to being adjudged as the Best International Actress 2016 at 7th annual Beirut International Awards Festival, Meryem has come a long way, but her popularity has been increasing since the first episode of the television got on air.  She has captivated the audiences with her talent, warmth and natural beauty.  We’ve all gotten to know and love Meryem Uzerli as Hurrem Sultan but she’s now slowly shedding that persona and reinventing herself. Meryem was recently in Doha for the launch of a Turkish jewellery brand Atasay, a brand she represents.  Actresses worldwide are notoriously private but Community sat with Meryem Uzerli in a candid conversation where she granted permission and access to a rarely-before-seen side of herself, delving into her childhood memories including her first acting gig and shunning off rumours that surrounded her once and for all.  Meryem sounds a decade wiser, too. She talks about growing strong female characters in production and how she’s not bothered as an actress, still being associated with one character she has played; she’s deeply educated on issue of toxic relationships. Meryem might still have Hurrem Sultan’s glorious hair, but she’s developed the kind of thoughtful attitude that comes only with experience.  We’ve seen you play such a historical character, bombarded with glamour and manipulation, but who is Meryem Uzerli in personal life? Sometimes strong, sometimes funny, sometimes serious, sometimes sensitive, sometimes tired, sometimes fit and always believing in the good. Full of vision and working towards it and to give everything to be a good mother to my daughter and raise her in great love and security. Sometimes a single performance sets the standards and all subsequent performances pale in comparison no matter how hard one tries. Would you be able to outdo the Hurrem legacy? Hurrem Sultan is of course, one of the strongest female characters in history. I am very grateful and proud that I had a chance to play such a powerful character — what a gift for an actress! In general, there’s a boom in portrayal of strong female characters, which is great, but each character I played has its own strengths, weaknesses, differences. It would be boring to always embody the same dynamics. Sometimes there can be a lot of strength in a quiet character. I never compare my work. It all stands for itself and that’s a good thing.  Even after a decade of Muhtesem Yüzy?l, people worldwide recall you as Hurrem, rather than any other character you’ve played so far. Does it bother you as an actress? No, not at all! Of course, it was a huge project and very popular because it was sold to so many countries. The other characters or projects I’ve done were not so huge, I mean they were not sold to so many countries like Muhtesem Yüzy?l. It was something totally different. Ah, yes sure it was part of my life and I enjoyed it a lot and it is part of myself and that is totally nice.  Did playing Hurrem, who has a legacy of strength and influence and stepping into her shoes, changed you in any way? Every person I meet teaches me something. Sometimes it’s a simple sentence that makes you think or sometimes it’s a deeper conversation that inspires and out of which I draw something as an experience. When I play a character it’s another journey on a psychological level. I would never say that it changes me as Meryem, but I can say that it enriched me. From a girl next door to a diva sporting the cover editorials of fashion magazines, was there a moment when you actually realised that you’ve just made it as an actress and a popular celebrity? I know what you mean but I am not a diva. I was always Meryem and will always be Meryem — of course, you evolve with your experiences, grow up , changing your looks, your style depending on the projects but I am just someone who goes to work and is happy to be part of different projects. That’s all. You’ve done films, dramas and then soap opera, how would you differentiate amongst the three mediums as an actress? I’ve never been a part of soap opera, but who knows, maybe in the future. Or maybe your definition of a soap opera is different from mine in Germany. I have done lots of theatre, cinema and drama serials. Of course it’s different to perform live in front of the audience, it’s a totally different dynamic. There’s a time pressure in theatre while in cinema productions there is often more time to unfold within a project. In series also, you build a character over a long period of time, step by step. All dynamics can be different but at the end of the day you develop a character and present it no matter where. I like all of them. Was acting something you always wanted to do? When I was five, my best friend’s father owned the biggest theatrical production in my hometown. I was playing a tree, in the background of course, or something of the sort even in that young age. So yes it happened in a very natural way. His father once asked us to do a play — and that’s how it all actually started. It was a step-by-step thing. I used to go to a private art kindergarten and then a private art school. So I guess this is how it happened. And what about photography? I love photography. I actually gave my camera to somebody here. I’m sweating a bit because camera is like my baby. I love to take pictures of people, interesting faces and situations. It’s just about emotions and expressing it via photography. It’s a hobby and a passion. I like to do pictures in black and white because then it looks more artful and the focus is on the subject and situation and you’re not distracted by the colours. I like to capture weird situations but I don’t post all of them — because that’ll be weird then. I like characteristic faces.  Tell us something about your upcoming projects? I just finished a movie which I was shooting at the Turkish/Georgian border, The Hive. I was also one of the executive producers of the film. I’m more and more interested in playing a bigger role in the creative process of the projects. The movie is an intense family drama of overcoming your fears and embracing change in a lot of ways. A very artful film with deep and calm character. Apart from this, I’m also working on a series for an Internet platform. It was rumoured that you had a nervous breakdown on the night of Antalya Television Awards. Do you think that was the moment when you realised you have to take a new path in life, towards betterment? Oh, there are a lot of rumours everywhere. I’ve learned not to hear, read or get distracted by them. The media is always creating something. That’s part of the business.  What would you say to people caught up in toxic relationships and what advice would you give single moms? Unhealthy relationships, as we all know, are difficult to break. Often a different feeling like addiction is confused with love. I think it is important to look at yourself and see what exactly makes you linger in such an unhealthy combination. And as for being a single mother, there is no tip that I can share since there are so many different constellations and individual stories — I can only say I am proud of every mom in the world.  How do you find inner peace? Is there something that you do to get away from all the action in your life?  Spending time with my daughter. Just watching movies in my pyjamas at home, eating chocolates, taking a walk through nature, reading and spending time with the people I love. Well, sometimes staying alone and listening to music as well.  Are there beauty secrets lying somewhere in the corner that other aspirants could make use of? A beauty secret? Not really. I don’t know what to say here, but the question means that you find me beautiful. That flatters me. Thank you. You’re representing an heirloom brand of jewellery like Atasay; are you a jewellery person yourself? As the daughter of a Turkish father I’m very proud to be the face of a Turkish brand, which has brought together more than 110 million women worldwide with its jewellery due to the success in production since its foundation in 1937 with its superb, award-winning creations, employees, artisans, craftsmen and associates. As a woman I love jewellery as well. I’m into diamonds and gold — actually everything. It’s all about emotions for me. I’m a very emotional person. So sometimes I like something simple and sometimes more glamorous like every woman I guess. In a recent interview, you said you are looking forward to shift to Middle East. Have you given it a thought yet? Yes, absolutely. It’s in my head and it’s in my heart. Whenever I spend time in the Middle East, I feel great happiness in me which I can hardly describe. I don’t know more exactly at the moment. But it is a dream and a longing. I’m trying to make it possible but my schedule is not allowing right now to plan it properly. There are so many countries in the Middle East that are beautiful. Even Qatar, love it to the bones. Any message for your fans? I’m so happy to be here in Qatar. I’m sending greetings to everyone and whatever you’re going through in life right now, even if its sadness, happiness or you’re a bit sick, like my flu today, I’m sending prayers, hugs, kisses and love.