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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.
TRIBUTE: HSYu2019s grand finale will honour his mother this season.
A sneak peek: PFDC Fashion Week

Over the past few years, the Lahore-based PFDC has orchestrated one fashion week after another, always exactly on the announced dates and we’ve gotten used to this level of efficiency. PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week 19 looks like one interesting show waiting to happen. More than anything else, the event will mark the showcase of debut collections of many promising talents and brands.  There were some designers who refrained from participating in Sunsilk Fashion Week for quite some time. But then there were also those, who did show their collections at other shows and quite a few of them decided to trundle down the well-hackneyed lawn route, these designers, some of the country’s best – are only now gearing to show their clothes in a big way on the 20th Edition of PDFC Sunsilk Fashion Week ramp. It is this line-up of designers that excites us the most. Together, we predict that they will form some of the higher points at the PFDC up ahead.  Like every year, the upcoming four-day extravaganza will feature three categories including Luxury Prêt, High-Street prêt-a-porter shows and Lawn. Bringing together fashion brands that foster creation and international development, PFDC is seeking to promote Pakistan’s fashion culture, where craft and creation have a major impact.  PFDC is getting bigger with every season and as always, the show this time includes big names as well as upcoming designers. Established couturiers and high street brands which will showcase their collections, include HSY, House of Kamiar Rokni, Republic by Omar Farooq, Zaha by Khadija Shah, Zara Shahjahan, Sana Safinaz, Yahsir Waheed, Saira Shakira, Chapter 2, Nomi Ansari, Hussain Rehar, Sania Maskatiya and Fahad Hussayn. Additionally, Lahore based menswear designer Rici Melion along with Zasimo, Sameer Karasu, Almirah, Hana, Khaas, Sanoor and So Kamal will be making their way on the ramp with high street, lawn and debut collections.  Keeping the tradition of nurturing young promising designers ‘The Rising Talent’ segment will bring shortlisted young artisans, including Zeeshan Mohy-ud-din, Hafsa Mahmood and Mahnoor Azam to the catwalk for the first time. Rising Talent platform is solely to cultivate the future generations of the fashion industry in our country and transforming them into powerhouses to be reckoned with. These talented individuals were shortlisted from a list of 24 fashion students in Pakistan. The early evening shows will include high-street lawn showcase while the shows later in the evening will feature high-end labels. Khadija Shah’s Zaha will also be presented for the first time. What everyone has been looking forward to at this three-day fashion fiesta is Nomi Ansari’s first sportswear collection. In collaboration with local and upcoming sportswear brand, Nomi has created separate lowers, tops and more for both men and women. Nomi is famous for his flamboyant bridal wear so, this is definitely the hook of this season. Republic by Omar Farooq always brings an edgy twist to his menswear collection, be it prints, texture or cuts – he takes a departure from conventional menswear suits and comes back with jackets that are hip and masculine like anything. He’ll be showcasing ‘Metaphor’ – a luxury streetwear capsule collection exploring the evolution of symbolism from a form of basic communication, to that of self representation and anarchic expression.  Much like the clothes that play on the balance between past construction and present deconstruction on a palette of subtle creams, juxtapositioned with fluorescent neon shades; channelling the contrasting idea of how the same symbol can be both favourable for one culture and baneful for another.  HSY’s grand finale will honour his mother this season.

Photo by Syed Hasan Iqbal Zaidi
The golden hour

About 7 kilometres northeast of the city of Al Khor City and 60 kilometres from Doha, at Al Thakira Beach, sun falls behind the horizon, heaving the parting rays across all the sky, from the skyline to the zenith. As far as you can see, the disappearing sun rays paints the clouds with its fiery pigments, as the hues blends from the masses of pink, crimson and scarlet – scattered away with the fiery tangerine red. Never before had you realised how tenuous and thin the tranquil clouds are. Wispy and frail, like they only just exist. The high concentration of salt particles suspended in the air over the oceans causes the red sunsets – and it’s evident. Just like this one, every sunset promises a new dawn – a proof that endings can be beautiful too. Sunsets always expound that beauty sometimes only lasts for a couple of moments, and that all it takes is patience to experience it all over again.  There’s a slight ripple in water, otherwise still, as the small jet boat rests in silence and peace. The picture makes you wonder, where is all the human kind to appreciate such a beauty of colours and nature. Too busy in the up-state building with the worldly work? How unfortunate – missing out on the inexplicable sense of tranquil awareness. Well they say, the closer to nature, the happier the person. So, when are you heading to Al Thakira beach to witness the sight where gold changes to crimson, crimson deepens to purple, and soon a sight for sore eyes passes away?

AYURVEDIC: Shirodhara, is an Ayurvedic treatment where warm herbal oils are poured gently over the forehead. This treatment is effective for blood circulation to the brain, improving memory, hair and scalp and encouraging sound sleep.
Healthy living with Wellness and Spa

Health, as defined by the World Health Organization, is a ‘complete state of physical, mental and social well-being, not merely an absence of disease.’ Thus, health does not reside merely in the physical domain, but in the mind and in the spirit as well – the holistic approach. Reconnecting body-mind-spirit, one of the objectives of taking a spa and/or wellness day out, can have a profound effect on one’s health. Scientific research says that most of the diseases human beings face are related to stress. Stress can not only affect the mental health of a person but also can damage your physical health. In the ever-changing world and with today’s ultra fast-paced lifestyle, meditation, and yoga with life coaching, is on the rise. We are in a world where there is no slowing down, and mental rejuvenation is what people need to cope with stress. As perceived, stress is reduced or removed at a wellness centre and spa, with meditation, yoga, opening up your chakras or a simple oil massage to relax the muscles, one can actually change the biochemistry of their body. Ultimately, a greater state of balance and a higher state of health can be achieved. Wellness is the hot new word in holistic approach these days. It’s the most powerful argument anyone can make against seeing spas as a mere luxury, but rather a research-backed tool that can improve your health. From the rise of ageing baby boomers to high net worth clients whose stress levels and the need for self-fulfilment have increased, spa and wellness is on the rise. Whether it’s a sweaty workout or an intense day at work that has your muscles in a knot, a wellness treatment like a massage or a trip to the sauna can sound like an alluring medicine. Wellness means you live in a state of optimal health, well-being, and vitality, and you invest money, time, and energy in the things that help you achieve it. That includes a good diet, exercise, and treatments like massage and bodywork out that keeps you functioning at your best. Wellness makes our lives richer and more enjoyable. Wellness and Spa industries are recording a growing trend from year to year. The growing tendency of these markets come as a result of a shift in the attitudes of the population, which is now oriented towards improving the health and quality of life, which is manifested through the use of the services of these centres. Talking about the growing trend of Wellness and Spa in Qatar and how it has transformed from a mere luxury to a necessity for health, Jessica Kim SN, Manager of Balance Wellness Centre and Anantara Spa at Banana Island Resort, said, “People are getting aware that they need to do something for themselves and their body to keep themselves recharged. People are now taking care of themselves. Right now, where people are stressed at work and in everyday life, Wellness and Spa becomes a necessity automatically. Often it happens that when we’re explaining about treatments to women, lots of men also actually show interest and come out to try the services.” Wellness and Spa are two different terms and businesses, although many people often fail to identify them. Are these differences minor or it is just a lack of awareness? “Wellness is the treatment for your body post stress and Spa and massage is to prevent you from that stress. They’re linked and overlap at a lot of places and treatments,” clears Jessica. However, a healthy lifestyle has a lot to do with Wellness and Spa. Lizette Duco, Director of Recreation at Oryx Rotana, says, “Wellness, Spa and Healthy Lifestyle are all entwined. Global Wellness Institute describes ‘Wellness’ as the active pursuit of activities, choices, and lifestyles that lead to holistic health. ‘Spas are a place devoted to enhancing overall well-being through a variety of professional services that encourage the renewal of mind, body, and spirit’ as per the International Spa Association. Healthy lifestyle is daily practice to achieve your optimal health. All three are geared towards a healthier mind, body and spirit.” Is wellness a more effective way for body treatments? Jessica and Lizette are in with us on it. “You don’t need a pill for your headaches in wellness. Every procedure is natural and that helps one to relax mentally and physically – the inner being. The Wellness and Spa treatments are more of prevention for diseases and illnesses.” Adds Lizette, “In wellness we have this health continuum, the healthier you are – the less sick you become, the less you need medical help. It’s the pro-active approach of wellness.” With the rise of technology, everything has gone mobile. There are many mobile applications like Headspace that claims a full meditation session, sitting at home. Drawing parallel between this new mobile technique and traditional methods, Lizette says, “Meditation can be in different forms, what is important is that it benefits the user. If the client is techno-savvy then this will be effective for him/her. It’s just a matter of preference.” However Jessica contradicts with the narrative. She says, “Some people are using different mobile applications for meditation. But that’s too much technology. Sometimes you need a personal touch. You need to talk to people and get engaged with them. Personal touch plays a very important role in meditation. Everyday you’re just listening to a recorded voice but in actual meditation, the trainer helps you through the correct procedure. Our minds are always moving and thinking, to settle it all down, in the present moment, after you’re done with meditation, it’s important to engage with someone.” Talking about the benefits of various wellness treatments, including modern and traditional practices of Ayurveda, in relation to the physical body and anatomy. Jessica explains, “Infrared Sauna is to detoxify your body. It actually sort of gives a protective layer to your skin from the external pollution and environment. It helps to detoxify and cleanse the body by releasing toxins. It also sort of supports weight loss, relieves joint pains and boosts blood circulation. Of course first time you might not even feel anything, but it takes time. You have to take the treatment consistently and you see the results for sure,” she added, “Shirodhara, is an Ayurvedic treatment where warm herbal oils are poured gently over your forehead. This treatment is also very good for blood circulation to the brain, improving memory, hair and scalp and encouraging sound sleep and calming your mind.” “Then there’s Flotation Pod where Epsom salt is used. Long known as a natural remedy for a number of ailments, Epsom salt has numerous health benefits educing inflammation, helping muscle and nerve function, helping to prevent artery hardening, improve the absorption of nutrients, flush toxins, and even help ease migraine headaches. So the pod is closed and the lights inside the pod changes to activate the seven chakras,” tells Jessica She adds, “Vichy Shower is also a very effective treatment. This water massage treatment is particularly effective following a body scrub or wrap, to circulate the recently absorbed products through your system. During the Vichy Shower treatment, you lie on a padded water table, with the shower jets above you and the lights have been installed that changed colour to activate your chakras.” Lizette gives suggestion and tips for mental and physical well-being. “I would suggest physical activity of 30 minutes, daily meditation and healthy nutrition. Also do a consultation with a certified fitness instructor for fitness training, attend yoga and Pilates class and meet spa therapist to find the best treatment for them for their weekly relaxation sessions,” she says.

BUSINESS AS USUAL: Sonam Kapoor tied the knot last year with her long time beau business and fashion entrepreneur Anand Ahuja.
“Nothing has changed post-marriage” — Sonam Kapoor, Bollywood star

Much has changed about Sonam Kapoor except her plainspeak. She’s still as bold as beautiful as she was when she made her Bollywood acting debut with Saawariya in 2007. Sonam has completed a decade-long journey in the Hindi film industry. The daughter of veteran actor-producer Anil Kapoor ventured into the world of filmmaking in 2005 as an assistant director for Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s movie Black (2005), where Bhansali spotted her and offered Sonam a role as an actress for his next production Saawariya and the rest is history. Being a star-kid, Sonam Kapoor has definitely broken the stereotypes attached to the tag and created a special place for herself in Bollywood. She’s a big movie star now. With Sanju (2018), Padman (2018) and Neerja (2016) kissing the box-office mark, she’s grabbing the eyeballs.  Yet, there were several false starts after Saawariya. While she doesn’t admit it, she had indeed become the whipping girl for her movie turns.  Her image as a fashionista loomed larger than her image as an actor. But anyone who’s a Sonam Kapoor fan, can see it in her eyes that there’s an all-together different girl behind the elaborate Ralph & Russo gowns and her Burberry stilettos. You know her as a fashionista, a title in which she absolutely takes pride, but then you really don’t know who she is.  Once the lights are off, the paparazzies are moved aside and she enters her personal space, Sonam Kapoor has another, reserved side. Time and again, it peeps through her not so conventional roles in the films that are not commercial but actually contribute significantly, to the story of the film. Be it Neerja, Padman, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013) or Raanjhanaa (2013) — she has gone grounded in the choices she makes.  Known to be unabashedly honest, dressed in a blush pink Anaamika Khana saari and an elaborate maatha patti, Sonam spoke to Community in an exclusive interview whilst visiting Qatar for Fashion Trust Arabia as a Jury Judge Member and revealed why and how A-list heroes supporting a woman-centric production is the need of the hour and her biggest teacher — her illustrious father.  Sonam tied the knot last year with her long-term beau Anand Ahuja. Based in Delhi, Anand Ahuja is the founder of Bhane, a well-known clothing brand. He also started India›s first multi-brand sneaker boutique, VegNonVeg.  So how has Sonam’s life changed post-marriage?  “Not that much, besides the fact that I live in and out of three places: Delhi, Mumbai and London. I’m working just as much and doing just as much as I used to.” It is generally believed that marriage affects the career of Bollywood actresses. Where men of all ages can be heroes, the moment an actress gets married, it’s almost a dead end for her career. But Sonam believes otherwise.  “I think this is something you could’ve said probably 15 or maybe 30 years ago. It is something media puts it out there more than what the audience thinks because whether its Dimple Kapadia, Nutan, Nargis, Madhuri, Waheeda Rahman and so many other actresses, they all continued working (after marriage). So, it’s a little redundant to talk about it now.” Neerja, a biopic about a 22-year-old head purser who gave her life trying to save 359 passengers onboard the hijacked Pan Am Flight 73 in 1986, did for Sonam Kapoor what Queen did for Kangana Ranaut. While watching Neerja, we all had trouble remembering that the girl onscreen is Sonam. It was difficult to trace the exact point when Anil Kapoor’s daughter becomes Neerja Bhanot. She worked at sounding like the Bombay-bred Neerja, hair and make-up artists supplied the bob and look with 80s wigs. But Neerja was more than that. Sonam actually went on to meet the people who knew Neerja in real life, including her friends, family and colleagues, to understand what made this seemingly ordinary girl do something deserving of three bravery awards from three countries posthumously. Sonam went on to great lengths to prepare for the biopic. What excites her as an actor, she says, “Just to do better no matter what happens and how much acclaim you get.” To put it out there, the new cinematic awakening has been a relatively recent development, triggered by periodic bouts of deep professional introspection. In such a time lies a huge responsibility on an actor’s shoulders for the kind of scripts they choose.  “Since the beginning of my career, I’ve been trying to make choices that are responsible — that are not racist, homophobic or sexist, that our industry tends to be,” Sonam adds, “If you’re educated and aware, it’s important to make those choices. It’s a responsible thing to do.”  Since Raanjhanaa, Sonam’s films have been doing well on box-office and in cinemas. Is there any special formula to follow? “It has almost been a decade since I did Raanjhanaa. All my films have done well and have been critically acclaimed since then. I think people like to get entertained by my films and also like to see what I do. It’s only because there’s honesty to what I’m trying to say through my work and that’s important,” says Sonam.  Pakistani actor Fawad Khan may not be starring in Bollywood movies anymore because of the ban but his co-stars still look up to him with respect and love. He made his Bollywood debut in Khoobsurat (2014) opposite Sonam Kapoor and charmed everyone with his acting ability. Talking about stint with Fawad Khan in Khoobsurat, Sonam said, “Art has no boundaries. I think Fawad was a consummate professional. We had a great chemistry and I look forward to working with him again.”  When asked to recall a moment from the film sets that she will cherish forever, Sonam proferred: “It was working with my sister on Veere Di Wedding (2018). It was the most successful film opening by the female leads ever and also the biggest film ever, led and produced by a female,” added Sonam, “So I think it’s a huge step towards the movement of female empowerment in India. It is something that will always remain close to my heart, because I did it with my sister.” Since Sonam was in Doha to judge the emerging designers from Mena for Fashion Trust Arabia, she talked about the plagiarism debate that’s happening in the fashion industry right now. “I think everybody is inspired by everybody,” she says. On talking about the potential of FTA contestants, Sonam said, “There’s potential everywhere in the world. It is just encouragement that is needed.” With social media revolution, there are some drastic beauty standards that have been set up which are difficult for common people to follow. Is it fair? Certainly not. And Sonam is all in with us about it. Few years ago, Sonam wrote an open letter ‘I didn’t wake up like this’ as a response to Shobhaa De, Indian columnist who wrote a blog post saying that Sonam Kapoor ‘just doesn’t cut it in the appeal stakes’, and others who take over body-shaming and judge people for their appearance — and not in a good way. “It’s still relative. I have written so many articles about it. So, you can refer to that,” Sonam said by way of brevity.

Photos by Ram Chand
Sheep story: In the serene green, grazing peacefully

The outlander brown lamb, in a flock of black ones, gazes into the lens with all that gentleness and tenderness in nature, somewhere on the country-side, Shamal, Al Noman Area, defining how the land untouched by humans for construction or any other purposes encompases life in its full form. It ceases to be just another moment, when you forget it’s right in the middle of the desert. Something spectacular, green – grass, being bitten off by the furry creature. Lamb symbolises peace and innocent mode of being with no interest in the difficult, nightmarish or problematic aspects of life. The photograph is all about expression, uncluttered with the mental baggage, that is all about experiencing joy in everything, without finding something too special. Going along the way with its flock, without any fuss, or questions; in serene, peaceful mind.  Where bliss and delight shapes the perception of the photographer, for me the photograph does not provide a completely adequate doctrine, because it fails to account for the presence of suffering and evil in the world. Which is just another side of the same coin. But, if you just intend to see perfection, composition and peace in one photograph – just look at the innocence of the lamb in the photo, covered in a sandy fur, and fall in love with the animal creation all over again. It’s time to explore this part of Qatar. 

MYSTERY: Teefa in Troubleu2019s music was very well-done, got a Netflix release and was even performed at international platforms and award shows. Why it didnu2019t get a nomination is the question.
LSA19 besieged with controversies

It won’t be erroneous to profess the awards as a source of recognition to all those who push themselves all year round, even as ascetics will say they do not mean much. Perhaps, this is why the awards are never considered a paradigm to success. One of Pakistan’s most celebrated and anticipated awards of the year, Lux Style Awards 2019 are scheduled to take place in July. Highlighting achievements in fashion and entertainment, the awards honour artisans from the media fraternity. Meanwhile where the nominations of Lux Style Awards 2019 are out, the politics is indeed a surging sea undergoing stormy weather. LSA jury has received backlash for snubbing some of the most prominent projects of 2018. Celebrities including actors, producers and influencers have taken over social media to express their concern and call spade-a-spade once and for all, without any curtailment.  Mohsin Abbas Haider Actor Mohsin Abbas Haider seems to be on a streak of good luck, with his stint as a rapper-singer in the show Mazaak Raat he riveted the audiences’ attention towards him, but it’s with Pakistani film Na Maloom Afraad (2014), that he established a standing in the industry. From singing on Coke Studio to blockbuster films such as Jawani Phir Nahin Aani 2 under his belt, there is not gainsaying that he has managed to climb up the ladder quite rapidly.  He was recently part of drama serial Meri Gurya (2018), on entertainment channel ARY Digital, that tackled the issue of child sexual abuse and received critical acclaim. However, the play is not nominated under the Best TV Play category. Although Mohsin is nominated in Singer of the Year category for song Na Ja, but he expressed his disdain and disappointment for snubbing the socially relevant play from the nominations. In an Instagram post, he wrote, “First of all thank you for nominating our song Na Ja in the Best Singer of the Year category. But I am highly disappointed not to see a single nomination of our drama Meri Gurya. I don’t know the reason (which I would love to know if any), but this is very disrespectful for the whole team of the play. And thanks for making my belief more strong that let’s just make money and run our kitchens, thanks.” Eman Suleman Nominated under the Best Emerging Talent in Fashion category, budding model Eman Suleman has boycotted the awards saying she doesn’t want to share an LSA nomination with someone who has been accused of harassment. Eman, however, did not take any names. In a minute long video message posted on Instagram, the model expressed her discomfort in these words: “I was extremely honoured to be nominated for the Lux Style Awards but, what I’m going to say next is going to result in a lot of eye rolls. I am tired of talking about it, honestly. I do not wish to be a part of an accolade which is shared with an alleged harasser, I feel no joy. Maybe nominate someone who feels happy about it, I don’t. I am basically done [with this].” Ahsan Rahim and Teefa in Trouble Although director of Teefa in Trouble, Ahsan Rahim is nominated for his film in the Best Director category, he expressed his disappointment after seeing that his film’s music did not get the recognition it deserved. He called it ‘discrimination and a biased’ decision. Teefa in Trouble’s music was very well-done, got a Netflix release and was even performed on at international platforms and award shows. Why it didn’t get a nomination? We’re also wondering the same.  “It goes to show how certain biases of certain individuals can turn the game upside down just because they don’t like you or your film personally or you didn’t let them use your music for free for their performances. I won’t be surprised if my film – the biggest non-holiday blockbuster of all times in Pakistan – goes unnoticed at the awards just because the voice of a few in charge is louder than many millions,” said Ahsan Rahim.

ARTISTIC: Self portrait of Sheikh Hassan al-Thani in ink.
Larger than life artworks capturing time and memories

Taking on the subject of going down the memory lane and showcasing personal art collection is sometimes daunting but Sheikh Hassan bin Mohammed al-Thani, Vice Chairperson of Qatar Museums Authority, Advisor for Cultural Affairs at Qatar Foundation, Founder of Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, a Qatari artist, collector, researcher, and educator in the field of modern art from the Arab world, India, and Asia, is fearless. Sticking with contemporary work always helps.  Just when you think you know everything there is to know about Sheikh Hassan bin Mohammed al-Thani, regarding his artistic vision and legendary artwork, including Motherland, that is making a statement at newly opened Qatar National Museum, he turns around and surprises you, and for a good reason.  His primary-colour techniques grab your attention as you enter his current show, ‘For the Sake of Art’ featuring three other prominent artists alongside, including Yousef Ahmad, Nazar Yahya and Dia al-Azzawi at Qatar Art Centre. The exhibition features art pieces that have been created within the walls of the Qatar Art Centre for over two decades. The exhibition offers a rare glimpse of the memories, friendships, stories, exploration and processes these artists have shared and experienced over the past two decades. The timeline is diverse and so are the works on display. When Hassan is using his signature grid pattern and the same self-portrait in his painting, there’s a no-holds-barred freedom that makes them completely alive, nearly abstract, and full of the kind of energy and it’s rare and exciting to see an artist of this vintage going deeper and looser – having and giving viewers so much fun. The aesthetic and philosophical treatment of the themes of past, present and future have been explored by artists over the ages and across cultures. On the one hand, the transience of good days, beauty and life is something that unifies us all, but on the other, the treatment of moving along with time, its implication and visual representation has evolved over time and differs dramatically across cultures, these four artists pays an ode to the every changing time and accepts future like anything with splash of colours and gold.  Sheikh Hassan bin Mohammed al-Thani, Founder of Qatar Art Centre, said, “Qatar Art Centre is a hub which offers space, providing differing and creative talents with an opportunity to engage, be supported and promote their own production. It can be perceived as an ‘artists’ residency. The artwork here goes beyond the time in which it is completed – it communicates with modern day audiences and inspires Qatar’s communities, provoking different thoughts and perspectives.” Speaking about the role of the students, he said, “The curators of the exhibition are responsible for creating a narrative from the artwork, by constantly utilising the exhibition space to portray a theme or message. This is reflected with the UCL Qatar student project – the Center offered them a space to display their curation and bring to light their artistic vision. UCL Qatar students have become part of the artistic scene in Qatar, and the academic institution itself has become a partner in the artistic processes and developments here.” UCL Qatar Masters students on the Museum and Gallery Programme have partnered with Qatar Art Center to curate this exhibition exploring the process of making art. It’s rare when you witness an art show featuring paintings of teacher and student side-by-side, but when you do, it’s special. You can just realise it with the strokes of the brush and draw parallel how they inspire each other.  Yousef Ahmad was Sheikh Hassan’s Fine Arts teacher at Qatar University back in 1990s. They formed a strong bond due to a mutual passion for art that evolved from a teacher-student relationship to a close-lasting friendship – influencing each others work.  Yousef’s work on display highlighted the specific period in Qatari history, evoking feelings of nostalgia of a simpler and more grounded past. It’s astounding to see his pieces, all created from his memories rather than any archival photographs amidst the hazy hues of Qatar.   “It entices me in old neighbourhoods how the light reflects and shadows shape. That captivates me. Life in Qatar is very very simple and Qatari architecture reflects that. A wall, a door, some windows and a Sidra tree. These are the main elements of an old Qatari house and that is what I tried to document.” From the mangroves to the desert, such a trip inspired Nazar Yahya, Iraqi artists, some of the works on the display. Whilst the paintings are not a typical representation of Al Khor with its flowers, reeds and birds, Nazar presents his emotions and reflections of the day on canvas and uses yellow tinges, as a representation of Cusranche Tubulosa.  From grey to black, series of four paintings on display defined the timeline of a day. From the dawn till dusk, even featuring the red, reflecting the setting of the sun and how the reddish hues spread over the land and the water reflects a different aspect of experience of the day.  Nazar Yahya was invited by Hassan to come to Qatar at a time of unrest in Iraq that enabled him to continue working on his art, free from any limitations and restrictions. The exhibition also features a particular piece by Yahya which pays a tribute to Sheikh Hassan’s love for cheetahs, sitting calmly next to King Faisal I of Iraq, a mesh of Iraq and Qatar at its best. “I used colours that reflect the truth, but I added my personal taste,” said Yahya.  “A true artist knows beforehand that he will lose a part of his soul because it goes towards the artwork. When one accepts this world, he needs to know that there is a destructive energy to art, as if it’s a sickness that mocks him. You live your life accepting this disease like a person who is born with diabetes. There must be honesty between an artist and his canvas.” Look at the pieces on display at the exhibition and most of them definitely have his reflection, even the ones created by Sheikh Hassan. The pioneer of modern Arab Art, Dia al-Azzawi, is also responsible for the façade of the building. The friendship between Dia and Sheikh Hassan dates back to the 1990s, when the Arab Centre was only the villa of Sheikh Hassan with Cheetahs roaming around the centre, as a muse to the artist’s creations and mood. Both, Dia and Hassan used to often sketch and draw together and despite working independently elements of collaboration between the two sometimes glimpsed in Sheikh Hassan’s work. The main attraction of Dia’s work on display was the 4 metre tall sculpture he had created over the period of six years, inspired by his archaeological studies of the Babylonian and Assyrian empires as well as his studies of ancient Egyptian art. The eyes of the sculpture are pronounced, even protruding like almond shaped, taking inspiration from Egyptian heritage. “Having more that one artists working at the same place creates a level of internal dialogue. Artists do not necessarily influence each other, although that is possible in the long ter. Humans by nature seek to know each other closely and artists are the same,” said Dia.

Gulf Times
It’s lawn season

The wait is almost over! The teasers for fabric for Summer collections 2019 are out as are the billboards. And this time it doesn’t just say lawn, it says silk and chiffon too. Also there’s nothing controversial about any of the campaigns taking over Pakistan this year, unlike previous few years where even a brand like Sana Safinaz was under scrutiny for Muzlin collection, featuring African people in the background. There are people starving and then there are people buying designer lawn. The prices have definitely gone higher but are they worth it? There are six seasons in Pakistan, including Spring, Summer, Winter, Autumn, Shaadi and Lawn season. Here’s to the big guns of lawn, making sophisticated moves as they tap the vast market. Despite the umpteen designers who’ve signed up with umpteen textile mills with vast resources at their disposal, the event of the year remains the lawn of these three designers. With their campaign on the hook and their collection almost in the market, we can see that no one has really put in the kind of effort, they have into their fabric or campaigns. The loyalists keep coming back for the quality; and these designers ensure pure silk and pure chiffon, not synthetic material and the lawn itself wears well and lasts. Brace yourself and head to their stores, you’ll need some water on hand, because there’s going to be traffic jams and never before witnessed stampedes. Bisou Bisou! Zara Shahjahan The very summery ‘Jahan’ from Zara Shahjahan’s upcoming lawn line takes inspiration from the hues of Marrakesh. Its featuring timeless florals fashioned into a layered design and making a statement with its Moroccan colour palette. Zara’s trademark motifs can be seen meshed with local flowers like Persian rose. Subtle hues, pastels, every flowing chiffon dupattas and flared trousers – all too summery for a day-out! Elan Elan has taken its signature aesthetic a step further and brought fashion back into lawn. Attention to detail in prints with western cuts featuring gowns rather than conventional shalwar kameez is a statement. Redefining the purveyor of subtleness ‘in-between’ going creative and experimenting with looks has won millennials over the period of time. Psychedelic taffeta prints in saturated colours, blending together the finest cuts and western craftmaship of Elan and the extravagant touch of animalier. The looks are perfect for formal evening shenanigans. Bold colours on the exaggerated print turn more flamboyant with golden buttons on the front panels of the long shirt dress. The most interesting detail belt with jewel toned floral motif. Zainab Chottani Zainab’s luxe lawn range encapsulates the cheerfulness of spring with a vibrant colour palette and bold prints along with a few subtle shades to keep up with the heat of Pakistani summer. The campaign for the collection has been shot at the breathtaking landscape of Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. Be it giving the shades of resort collection or sequin drenched silhoettes, Zainab is all about details, and for her the saturated colours is a resounding yes! Looking at the designs, Zainab Chottani has celebrated the wonders of nature by depicting blooming flora and fauna with earthy tones and warm hues. Produced on the finest of lawn fabrics and woven jacquards, the designer has played with her exquisite signature style to create a premium capsule collection of exquisite 20 designs. Mixing and matching and bursting with colours!

Yasmin Masour and Hissa Haddad
Mom: the quintessential muse

Whilst in Qatar and some other countries in the world celebrating motherhood is a spring tradition, our other friends around the world wait until May to honour their mothers. Our social media feed is swarming today with tributes to mothers, grandmothers and expecting mamas. How about you? Have you gotten your Mom some flowers or a cute little present yet and showered her with the love she deserves. After all, she took care of you from birth to, well, now… and can you imagine a life without her? Like mother, like daughter they say. The unique relationship between a mother and daughter is, of course, intricate and ever evolving. Some of us are dependent on that maternal figure from birth, relying on our mother for unceasing and permanent guidance and support, be it mental, emotional or professional. It remains the same even if you get married, move to another place or stay with her, forever and after. Many daughters one day actually realise, that in fact they’ve picked up many traits and habits of the figure they’ve been idealising forever their life, that they form their mother’s mirror image and for sure all of them takes pride in it. From her sense of humour, to her covetable style, to just how much she loves them – these Qatari fashion finest have many reasons to love their mothers. Well, mothers, be proud because these young buds have all grown up and blossomed into bona fide style icons and they accredit you for their success. Community asked these powerhouse trend setters to reflect on how their moms shaped their lives and careers. Where Yasmin Mansour filled her mother’s dream of becoming a fashion designer, Hissa Haddad followed her mother’s footsteps and glamorous approach to fashion. What is consistent: When it comes to fashion, moms are the best muses. Even if you spent your teenage years locked in your bathroom in an act of Manic Panic-fuelled rebellion, there’s no denying that your first fashion hero is usually your mother. Isn’t she? Yasmin and Hissa tell us. Yasmin Masour It won’t be erroneous to say that Yasmin has become one of the most-talked-about and sought-after luxury fashion name coming out of Qatar since her first collection, launched in 2014. Yasmin says, “My mom has always been my inspiration and muse. When I was 10 years old and even younger than that I used to go to her closet and steal her heels, jackets, dresses and coats and try them on. I always used to observe what she’s wearing at night and dressing up in, in the morning. She has always been about details, carrying so many colours, perfumes and jewellery. She told me that she loved art and used to draw when she was young. Well, even created some pieces for herself back then. That is something that pushed me to go for this field. My mother got me my first sewing machine!” Yasmin adds, “When I turned 18 and went on to pursue designing as my major, she supported me like anything. Even during my university time, I used to share all my designs and work with her. I remember when I made my first dress in the school and how she told me that she’s proud of me.” “She always says me that I’ve done something she always wanted to do when she was young. She says that I’m very happy that I always used to dream of having something like this and today my daughter did it.” Hissa Haddad Hissa, the 29-year-old engineer turned shoe designer, is the only Arab footwear designer that made her debut with a capsule collection at Paris Fashion Week 2017. Her breakout debut is only half the story of her success, the other, and more significant half is the fierce energy and motivation of her mother that has been her bedrock support in the struggling industry. “I have a very strong relationship with my mother. We share a sibling bond, rather than a typical mother-daughter sort of relationship. We go out together, travel together, enjoy each other’s company and share real secrets,” says Hissa. Talking about her first exposure to fashion as a kid, Hissa says, “When I was a kid, my mother used to stitch my clothes herself. She used to take me to designers from a very young age and even sometimes used to draw and get some very specific stitchings done. She used to add pearls, roses, layers and crystals to my dresses, to make sure that my dresses are different from what’s out there. She always had a very delicate aesthetic taste. For shoes, she used to make sure I have each matching shoe to be paired with each dress, so she was very particular about all this.” “When I started my business, she supported and believed in me throughout although other family members were against the idea that it might not do well, considering the competition in the market. I still remember, when I had my first meeting with the manufacturers in Italy, she was there with me. She always advised me to believe in my ownself.” “The toughest period I had with my mom was when she was diagnosed with cancer. And that was just before I had started my Masters Degree. It was devastating and I had almost dropped my degree to spend time with her and be around her. But that’s when she said that if I quit my masters, she’s going to quit taking chemotherapy sessions. I used to travel back and forth between London and Doha to make sure that I’m holding her hand as she goes through the tough process. It was a tough journey for both of us and we’re happy that we both made it,” added Hissa.

A R Rahman during his interview with Gulf Times yesterday in Doha. PICTURE: Jayan Orma
You have to rid negative things off your mind while making music: A R Rahman

In our eyes, growing up A R Rahman disciples, the art always went hand-in-hand with the artiste, this music maestro seemingly of another world. From his fantastical musical breakthrough in 1990s with Tamil film Roja, to double Grammy, double Oscar, Bafta, Golden Globe, four National Awards and being named as one of the most influential people by Time Magazine, in recognition of his contribution to music, Rahman has scored award-winning soundtracks for over 100 movies, including Slumdog Millionaire, Dil Se, Million Dollar Arm, Highway, to name but a few.  His self-effecing personality just compliments the enigmatic phenomenon he is. In 1987 Rahman, then still known as Dileep, got his first opportunity to compose jingles for new range of watches being launched by a brand and in 1992, he was approached by film director Mani Ratnam to compose the score and soundtrack for Ratnam’s Tamil film Roja, the rest remains the history. As well as penning and performing some of history’s best-loved Bollywood songs, the mega music star has also been responsible for placing India on the cultural map of the world, breaking rules of conventional structure of music and pushing boundaries with the orchestral melodies to perfection.  From jazz, fusion, romance, Bollywood sassy or Quwalis, the maestro has given us tonnes of catchy jams to vibe out to with his haunting, earthy element, a quality that has become his signature. Skilled in Carnatic music, Western classical, Hindustani music and the Qawwali style of Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Rahman has been noted to write film songs that amalgamate elements of these music systems and other genres, layering instruments from differing music idioms in an improvisatory manner. As the beat drops in most of his sound tracks, shivers whisking down the spine and goosebumps on the skin is an evidence that his sound tracks are masterpieces to cherish.  Rahman continually renews himself by drawing strength from others – not just his collaborators/films, but his audience.  He is here in Doha to give a live performance tomorrow at Khalifa International Stadium, considered as the biggest concert Qatar has ever witnessed.  Just before he starts rehearsing for his show, we have the two-time Oscar and Grammy winner seated cross-legged with us, in a grey embossed jacket, purple kurta shirt and all that calm voice.   A R Rahman talked to Gulf Times about his more than two decade long journey, his inspiration and spirituality with music.  Rahman, who began as a studio musician, is now at home in performing live. He said: “In the beginning, it was very difficult to create a sound. It was hard to change the mindset to create a sound. It might take more than two months to create a sound. Now, we are more comfortable because we have amazing world-class players. The crew is really cherry picked for an amazing performance. I mean when you have good people and amazing musicians, you have to rise up to the level.” The music magician on his constant inspiration said: “We have to understand that there are many different professions. My father was blessed with music. I took forward the legacy. My mother made me realise that what gift music was. So, being in it is better than being in any other job. I realise that. Every time I get love, I feel like this is worth being in this (music). So far so good, with God’s grace.” There is no one track of Rahman that he thinks can be said challenging. He said: “Sometime certain things happen very fast. If what state of mind you are in and what they require is same, it is fine.  Sometime your state of mind is different. You are going through some internal turmoil but they need something happy. You have to serve what they are asking for but inside you are not in tuned. That is where it is difficult. You have to take the negative things off.” When asked about his most significant contribution to music so far, he said: “(laughs) Being in music. There is too much distraction. We are distracted in million ways. But there is the commitment to being in music, to the music education, and the thirst to learn more. There is a lot more. When you realise what you do not know is when you know that you have to learn.” For the maestro, music and spirituality are two sides of one coin. “Whatever makes you focused and realise the infinite, the power of God, the unknown, it is something special. We are all hardwired in the mind to search for the unknown, search for the answers we do not know. I think music in a way kind of focuses you towards that – good music. So that is what I am always curious about.” About how different it is for him working in Hollywood and Bollywood, he said: “For me everything is same. These are the commitments. If I get the right team to work with I am lucky.” He advises the young and aspiring musicians to be passionate and hardworking. “If you are at a surface level and constantly thinking that you have done a right decision to jump into the world of music, first estimate yourself and see where you stand. Can you be the best – if not – find something else. To be the best is not just (having) blessings. It is also hard work – hard work towards refinement and excellence. “In the end, I would ask the people in Qatar to come and enjoy the concert.”

OPENING: Sana Safinaz presented u2018Message From the Eastu2019 on the opening day of Fashion Pakistan Week 2019 in Karachi.
The right and perfect

The Sana Safinaz omnibus is on the road and it’s going to be one frisky, high fashion ride. The designer duo has stretched their business beyond their huge market for luxury pret, downright status of designer lawn queens since years now and not to mention their thriving bridals. 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. The fashion is never going to be the same again in Pakistan and trailblazing through it alongside Sana Hashwani and Safinaz Muneer is designer Mohsin Ali Tawasuli and a crew of vibrant, young designers that made the magic happen. It’s a move that Sana and Safinaz had been talking about for a long time and it’s culminated into a gorgeous, voluminous, utterly delectable bridal wear solo showcase that the brand had put up on the first day of Fashion Pakistan Week 2019 in Karachi. Everything, from the runway to the décor was exquisite. This designer duo knows how to work the market and how to work it right and perfect. The collection was called a ‘Message From the East’ and there were so many messages that it delivered on the glossy black catwalk: of Sana Safinaz’s ability to pull in the punches and expressing the brilliance and the glamour of women with a perfect mesh of ethnic and contemporary bridal wears. Sana Safinaz definitely gives the couture narrative a touch of flamboyance – in this collection, extravagance and lightness made a winning combination. Pairing contrasting hues with a dash of finesse, the embroideries ran in swirls and floral patterns and chalked Mughal scenes on to exaggerated sleeves, pants, coats and tunics. Sana Safinaz bridals are immediately recognisable and they does it with flair. 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. Naqshi handwork and dabka on tissue and net designed soft metallic drapes, gown, shararas and short shirts with shimmery hues dominated the runway. There was also some very heavy layering: dupattas overlapping multiple tiered skirts, trails, ribbon sashes and a mix of textured fabric. What also caught the eye was the styling: the girls wore sunshades and their long hair swung loose from printed bandannas, paired with ethnic angrakhas. With details including heavy embellishment of rhinestones and delicate silk floss thread work, the collection was woven in blush, deep reds, whilst subtle pastels were juxtaposed with renditions of flora and fauna in modern cuts and silhouettes. Block white lehngas with intricate kamdani work paired with futuristic exaggerated digital printed blouses in a water colour effect, embellished with nothing too extravagant – caterwauled highstreet international appeal, an element of edginess, practicality and above everything else, a great business brain. It won’t be erroneous to say that few pieces that trailed on the runway during the end of the showcase drew inspiration from the old-embroidery techniques and showed Sana Safinaz complete dominance on textures and prints. The separate Pakistani wardrobe, they are staples and embellished for bridal wear, they become heirloom pieces you can hold onto as you mix and match season after shaadi season.  Also scattered amongst the panoply of womenswear were a few menswear options: elegantly tailored waistcoats and sherwanis, set off by a stoles and shawls in Oriental prints. Occasionally, the silhouette wavered towards trendier cuts – exaggerated blouses, off-shoulders, capes and boleros. This was sexy, high fashion designer wear! The silk pants were spot on, sexy backs fitted the contours of the body properly and dresses flowed as they should. The game for bridal wear and couture has been upped baby! Bisou Bisou!

Reema Khan.
The ceaseless era of Reema

There are few Pakistan entertainment industry A-listers as prolific and, well, iconic, as Reema Khan. And not just in the performance category, for which she’s won countless awards. Reema, 47, has long been a beauty pioneer as well: That megawatt smile; those effortless blonde curls; and, of course, her all-natural philosophy has been turning heads since the ‘90s. Reema’s come a long, long way since she stepped out in her debut film Bulandi (1990) as a fresh faced Lollywood actress to today. Reema’s illustrious career lasted two decades in Lollywood and passed through almost 200 films, many of which were box office hits. In her journey from the lascivious dream girl of Punjabi movies to renowned personality, Reema Khan has learnt a lot. The lessons that she has learnt in life have helped her evolve and become an internationally recognised face for Pakistan, she accentuates in an online interview Speak your Heart with Samina Pirzada. It was a laissez-fair beauty look on the show, snapped in a checkered maroon coat, the mother of one was best accompanied with bare, glowing skin and nude lips, no less—proving that age is just a number. For when it comes to stars like Reema, timeless beauty knows no boundaries. The actress only dreamt of becoming popular but fate had so much in store for her. “When I auditioned for Bulandi, I was up against Madiha Shah, who had already acted in a few films, as well as Sahiba, who hailed from a film background and was very pretty. I was very sure that I wouldn’t be selected. Except my mother nobody at home even knew that I’ve gone for audition. But somehow things just worked out and I got selected out of the blue,” says Reema describing the aftermath of her first acting audition. “I remember, one of the senior cameramen at the audition actually shaped my eyebrows with a blade because I had such masculine eyebrows. This is something I cannot forget,” she recalls with a 100-watt smile. She is unabashedly proud of her acting repertoire; the bold Punjabi dances, the love songs, the glossier roles; all the many stepping stones that have managed to win respect and accolades for her today. On the personal front, she has worked hard enough to ensure that her three younger sisters and a brother studied in top schools and got comfortably settled in their lives. “Our family has seen financially hard times, after my father lost his job, and as the eldest sibling – I tried to understand the situation as much as I could. I never demanded anything from my parents for myself but wanted best for my younger siblings. I sacrificed, but that was the greater good,” she said. That was then. This is now: Connecting the dots was a given. “I would like to confess this that nobody in the industry was there to guide me when I entered the show business. I was my teacher and student at the same time. I’ve done good and bad work. Bad work in a sense that films and projects that didn’t suit my personality. But how do I defend myself? If I wouldn’t have done those bad projects, I wouldn’t have known what’s right and good,” she adds, “There was a time of rat race where quantity was preferred in front of quality. A heroine’s role was diminished to a prop who has few songs and scenes. At that time, I did a film titled Ghunda Tax which was a super hit. My younger sisters watched that film and made me realise that it wasn’t the kind of work I should do. I did my last film in 2001 and then acted in two of my own productions, Koi Tujh Sa Kahan and Love Mein Ghum.” Talking about her television work and a hiatus of so many years, Reema said, “I just did one television drama but a serial and a film are totally different mediums. Serial is much painstaking. Well, whether it’s a big screen or a small screen. Your work should speak volumes,” she adds, “It is said that for every rise there is a fall but I don’t agree,” Many people liken Reema to Madhuri Dixit. Reema has more or less trod a similar path. From moving to US when she was still acting in movies to making a comeback and keeping herself contained for the kind of roles she opt for. Reema says, “I feel honoured to be compared to Madhuri. When I was young, I was a huge fan of both Madhuri and Sridevi. I danced on Madhuri’s Ek do teen for my audition of Bulandi and then, in Bulandi, there was a classical dance sequence created in the same format as a dance by Sridevi in her movie Chandni.” Is she now popular amongst her community in the US as Reema, the superstar? “I feel proud that sometimes people over there come to me and tell me that they wouldn’t mind if their daughters chose acting careers. Sometimes, they tell me that they want their daughters to be like me. That’s such a huge compliment.”

THE NEW ERA: u201cEveryone is after the new frontier of digital now. Scared I am that what will become of this but at the same time I am so happy that a lot of people who dreamed like me, will get a chance to prove themselves,u201d says Fahd bin Nur, Pakistani film-maker.
Short is the new long in the film-making business

Recently a short film titled Ishq, directed by Fahd bin Nur appeared on my social media feed and there was something about this Pakistani production that got me thinking how this short film can even seize the cinema screens – probably the actor and her expressions but most importantly the perfect shots. A 5-minute story that epitomises love, remorse, guilt and heart break – featuring an array of emotions that makes one laugh, cry and fall in love, but hooked to the screen, left a taste for more. I wanted to know what Fahd is all about. What I discovered was a young man aspiring to inspire with his craft of story-telling.  The feeling is that people are daring more today and not afraid of what is considered ‘different’ of its nature. There’s a real cult of originality, the desire to challenge the clichés, today in Pakistan entertainment industry. You do not really need an hour and a half of reel time to be able to tell beautiful, exclusive, dreamy stories. Short films is the new trend in this part of the world after Hollywood has embraced it successfully and swiftly.  Well, if you’re a social media savvy and follow Pakistan entertainment industry, there’s no way you don’t know about Speak your Heart with Samina Pirzada, an exposé show, where celebrities share their deepest thoughts, secrets and have a heart filled conversations with the veteran Pakistani actress, Samina Pirzada. It won’t be erroneous to say that Speak your Heart is one of the first few Pakistani shows to take YouTube as its platform instead of a mainstream channel and reach out to its audience such effortlessly. It has defined a niche. There are many talk shows in India and Hollywood for that matter that are only YouTube centric, but this one has targeted an untapped Pakistani market and set a bar for creativity, intelligence and content generation successfully. Fahd is the person behind this show as well. This guy is something. “Speak Your Heart with Samina Pirzada was pure luck. I was this crazy kid streaming my idea about a feature film with the now producer of the show Adnan Butt, and well Samina was there, and Rabia Asif, so just the four of us got connected and the rest is history. It was Samina’s vision, Adnan’s determination and Rabia’s determination that made the magic. And yeah my eccentric craziness.” recalls Fahd. Where short films are now the happening trend in cinema. There is either a festival or a submission deadline for a festival practically every month of the year. Talking about the ‘it’ trend, he says, “Yes sadly, it’s the new ‘it’ thing. Everyone is after the new frontier of digital now. Scared I am that what will become of this but at the same time I am so happy that a lot of people who dreamed like me, will get a chance to prove themselves. Yes, short films are taking over Pakistan now, slowly and gradually. It’s human nature to tell stories and shorts happen to be a medium very easy for people. As true filmmakers, who actually have the urge to tell stories find it easy. In small budget they can share what they feel with the world. Hollywood is full of such surprises, shorts that turn into mega budget projects because of their content, like pixels, district 9, lights out and so on and so forth.” Is it something one can relate to millennials? Fahd adds, “I don’t agree it’s something from Generation Y or Z, I believe it is there since the advent of mankind. Yup the content people are doing overseas is millennial but not here in Pakistan.” Drama serial, film and a short film are three different mediums for a film-maker. Over to Fahd. “Well, dramas here in Pakistan are shot in a very strange manner, you have to do insane number of scenes in a day, it’s simply Master, CU or midshot, people don’t experiment and above all give time in executing scenes or even working with their actors. In Pakistan, especially we use the term, ‘this film is shot like a drama’ in a very condescending and derogatory term. So, shooting for a film or a short and drama is poles apart in this region. It’s like an architect who has to see every nook and corner of the building, the light design, space and aesthetics. And mind you I am not targeting people related to drama, the people are doing their job absolutely fine with all the circumstances and pressure they are facing,” he says.  Fahd’s new short film, Khirki is an intense journey highlighting the harsh realities of the society and stars Juggan Kazim and Omair Rana in the lead roles. Releasing today. We already have our hands on the popcorn, Do you? 

ON THE HORIZON: PFDC is set to host an extravagant four-day PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week (PSFW19) scheduled to take place from 11th to 14th April in Lahore.
A tale of two cities

In Pakistan, Lahore is traditionally known for its young designers and one can accredit that to the relentless endeavour of Sehyr Saigol who has very cleverly created a bridge between the Pakistan Institute of Fashion and Design (PIFD) and Pakistan Fashion Design Council (PFDC), especially when you take into account that PIFD is the biggest fashion school in the country. However, fashion industry in Pakistan is not contained to a particular city. In recent years, the success of the Fashion Pakistan Week (FPW) and Fashion Pakistan Council (Karachi) has turned fashion industry of Pakistan into a much more dynamic affair. The electric tension between huge power houses and emerging designers makes for an unpredictable week, especially when in recapitulation it has turned out to be a tale of two cities.  The way Lahore functions and their week is structured, each designer knows what the other is up to and how they operate. They are very well knit together and presents the perfect face of one big happy PIFD/PFDC family. From Selina, PR for PFDC, to Saad Ali, CEO of PFDC, everyone is well synced with each decision. Atleast that’s what we feel.  However, Karachi is not out of place itself either. It’s a totally different beast altogether where everyone is too busy doing their own thing to know what the other is up to. Everyone’s a big player up to their own big game.  For what one has noticed PFDC only nurtures PIFD graduates, well mostly, so if you’re unfortunately not a PIFD graduate, you’ll have to pull a lot strings together to make it to the ramp of Sunsilk Fashion Week as a designer. The senior designers of PFDC, including HSY, Maheen Kadar, Kamiar Rokni, Maria B, Ali Xeeshan, Mohsin Ali are all PIFD graduates and new young designers from fashion school like Husain Rehar are being fostered to be a part of the game. Well FPW also nurtures young designers, like an incubation centre, but what’s best about them is that the council does not restrict itself to only entertaining graduates of a particular design school. They keep their purview open. Which is a good thing. It gives an opportunity to all those young bloomers that PFDC doesn’t probably pay attention to.  Well PFDC and Fashion Pakistan Council has recently announced the dates for upcoming spring/summer fashion weeks 2019. PFDC is set to host an extravagant four-day PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week (PSFW19) scheduled to take place from 11th to 14th April in Lahore and Fashion Pakistan Council to host FPW from 12th to 14th March in Karachi. Both the fashion weeks are just a month apart from each other. Since the schedule is still not out, what concerns me is that which fashion week will feature bigger designers of acclaim. Also if there’s an overlap of designers showcasing on both the fashion shows, will we get to see the same collection again or they’ll design something new? Looking forward to how the designers play along.  Where it’s the 18th edition of FPW, PFDC is celebrating is 20th consecutive fashion week divided into three categories, including Luxury Prêt, High-Street prêt-a-porter shows and Lawn.  Keeping up with its tradition of scouting and nurturing young designers, this year the ‘Rising Talent’ platform will yet again open doors to promising talent at PFDC.  If you follow fashion circuit of Pakistan, then you probably know that Trade Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) regularly partners with FPW for foreign buyers, but this time round TDAP has partnered with PFDC for a rather new concept, TEXPO 2019. The exhibit will be happening simultaneously alongside the fashion week at the Expo Centre, Lahore. The aim of the expo is to attract approximately 400 professional – local and international – buyers this season to Lahore. With TEXPO, PFDC is now aiming to draw more buyers for the local fashion industry along with fostering creation and style. It is one step ahead to reposition Pakistan’s fashion culture in the global fashion economy. Let’s see what the two councils present. Well, as London Fashion Week is just underway, which will be followed up by New York, Paris and Milan, just remember we’ll be keeping our tabs for what’s the ‘it’ trend for spring/summer 2019. And we’ll definitely draw a parallel for if designers this season brought international fashion inspiration to Pakistan or not. Bisou Bisou!

CYNOSURE: u201cNo matter how big or small your role is, if itu2019s substantial enough to bring the right flavour to the script then thatu2019s all that matters,u201d says Anam Tanveer.
Anam’s stars set into motion

From a relatively moderate television host profile to making it big on television dramas, Anam Tanveer has traversed some distance. When something or someone is coined iconic, it’s a big deal. Which is why you need to pay attention to the game-changers. Meet Anam Tanveer, a trailblazer who is leaving her mark on the world, for good. She is a young woman dominating our television screens these days – ready and waiting to seize the next-big-thing crown. I wanted to know what this young woman is all about. What I discovered was humility, love for her craft and aspirations to create change with her acting prowess. Anam Tanveer is only in her mid-twenties and yet her attitude towards life and her approach to her work makes her seem as wise as a 100-year-old Buddha.  Since making her first screen appearance as a television co-host on Dum Dum Dee Dee, kids show on Pakistan Television (PTV), Pakistani television network owned by Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation, Anam has gone and done a lot in the Pakistan entertainment industry. Over to her… “I always wanted to be a model, but my mother didn’t approve of it. However, being a host on a political channel was still acceptable. So I hosted one of the political shows and that’s where I met Khaled Anum, veteran actor. He offered me to co-host Dum Dum Dee Dee and after that, offers for drama serials started pouring in,” recalls Anam. “I signed a drama serial without even telling my family. I told my mother that I’m shooting a play when I had completed the first spell of shoot. She was against it initially, but when my family saw my performance on television, they just realised my talent and hard work and went on to support me. They trust me.” Anam started off her acting career with cameo in Mere Dard Ko Zubaan Milay (2012) on premier entertainment channel HUM TV and then paved her way to the lead roles where entire drama serial and script seems to revolve around this young gal. How has the journey been? She says, “Everyone in their mind wants to be the lead actor. But, during my entire time in Pakistan entertainment industry – I’ve only realised one thing, lead is there but if you’re a good actor, no matter what your role be, you’re going to create a mark. It’s the character and the role that matters. No matter how big or small your role is, if it’s substantial enough to bring the right flavour to the script then that’s all that matters. I realised it a little too late but now I just enjoy being an actor rather then just looking out if it’s a lead or not.” Although Anam was never a slimmed-down figure, but over the period of half a decade, we’ve seen her working out for her slender new frame. Talking about the body-size standards set in Pakistan media industry, she comments, “Unfortunately there’s a standard set that you need to be skinny to do well on-screen. I don’t agree with it. One should only be skinny enough that suits him/her, maintaining a healthy lifestyle at the same time. I think you should have a curvy body because nothing’s more attractive than that but at the same I do not mean chubby,” she adds, “Healthy curvy! When producers and directors can’t say no to you directly they just make excuses and asks you to reduce weight. Looking back at our very own industry veterans like Sana Fakhar and Reema Khan, they were never skinny. They’ve always been curvy and they were huge stars in their times. So body size doesn’t matter. It’s your work and art that’s important.” Pakistani drama audience goers are used to watching glamorous and often scantily clad women on screen, almost always playing damsels in distress or love interests torn between family duty and following their heart. Anam talks about the dire need of changing this trend and presenting more substantial roles for the audiences. She says, “Unfortunately in our industry only damsel in distress kind of roles are preferred by the audience. I think this trend should be changed. We just pick one topic and start creating content around it unless there’s a saturation point. We should address real problems of society in our dramas and try to create an awareness.” Talking about her forthcoming projects, Anam reveals, “I’ve recently signed a film of horror genre and I’m the lead. I’m playing a bold reporter who’s a very tom boy sort of girl and that’s pretty much I can reveal as of now. Till it goes on-floor. I’m super excited. The script is amazing. I’ve been getting offers for films before but I always wanted something to be substantial.”

GROUP: Dignitaries and guests at the exhibition.
Key to the heritage destinations around the world

In recent decades, the concept of what is heritage has evolved and expanded and new groups have joined the specialists in its identification. Whether they are concerned with giving a building ‘heritage’ status, deciding which building to invest in, planning for the future of a historic site, or push forward to transfer the cultural heritage and values to the next generation – use of cogent heritage aesthetic values as a reference point has always been the priority. Such values shape the decisions that are made. The architectural monuments existing today are capable of shaping the vision of who we are and who we could be in the shadows of who we were and how we have evolved. It won’t be erroneous to say that heritage is not just a collection of aged buildings encompassing conditions, ideas, customs and values of the society that created it in the past, but an insight to the people who use it now and continually modify it.  International competition for antiquities has been fierce since the 19th century. Cleaning up old and picturesque sites can entail the destruction of some of the very monuments which makes them attracting, so conserving them is a real task. The World Heritage List by Unesco has successfully been on a mission to conserve the globe’s most historic natural and cultural sites since 1972 and today some 1,092 locations sit on that list. The primary objective of conservation is to protect cultural heritage from loss and depletion. On the basis of such considerations, the Embassy of Italy and Msheireb Museums, in co-operation with the UNESCO Regional Office in Doha and Altair4, an Italian company specialised in 3D reconstructions of archaeological sites, recently organised an exhibition ‘ArcheoMed3D Exhibition’ at Bin Jelmood House, Msheireb Museums. Taking down the route of technology, 3D and Augmented Reality, the exhibition features various Unesco-listed World Heritage sites, including Temple of Zeus in Agrigento and Pompeii, located in Italy; Al Zubarah, Qatar; Volubilis, Morocco; El Jem, Tunisia; Djémila, Algeria; Krak des Chevaliers, Syria; Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Palestine; Baalbek, Lebanon; Hagia Sophia, Turkey; Petra, Jordon; Leptis Magna, Libya; and Phile, Egypt among others.  Walking down the exhibition and you find yourself in the ruins of the Greek temple that never completed and the broad stone platform heaped with tumbled pillars and blocks of stone, unmarred by any commercialism and marvelled at the extraordinary testament of Greek civilisation in its exceptionally preserved condition: the Temple of Zeus in Agrigento. Now that’s Virtual Reality. It seemed as if the guests were given the keys to the historical places, that they can get into and experience – just while in Doha, like a door to the Narnia world – considering the detail each installation seizes. Similarly, a layer of sand along the remains of the walled coastal town of Al Zubarah’s palaces, mosques, streets, courtyard houses, and fishermen’s huts; all out-done with 3D technology, in terms of detail. All you need is a smartphone or a tablet with Archeomed3D application installed, and the rest is only what you’ll experience. Initially it just seems like a map printed out with boundaries unless you see from the application’s eye. It’s a 3D model of the heritage sites. Interesting enough and crafted to detail that one could count the number of windows in Haghia Sofia or the stairs in a staircase at Baalbek, Lebanon.  Talking to Community, the envoy said, “Cultural Heritage is really important in defining peoples’ national identities. It represents indeed our past, but it expresses also what we have in common in the present to build up our future. New technologies can ensure that our immense and rich inheritance can be properly preserved today and transmitted to future generations tomorrow. With this ArcheoMed3D exhibition we have created a space for young people to experience and enjoy cultural heritage by using digital tools, 3D and Augmented Reality. Our aim is to encourage their engagement in identifying cultural heritage as an inspiring  source to shape who they will be tomorrow.” “Today, from Doha, we are sending out a very powerful message of cultural inclusion and openness to diversity. Qatar does not close the doors to cultural exchange, dialogue, to co-operation; Qatar is an example of inclusiveness. Culture in all its many forms contributes to give voice to the best side of human beings and is a powerful means to overcome decisions,” said Pasquale Salzano, Ambassador of Italy. “We hope that this initiative could contribute to encourage dialogue and cultural exchanges, and promote various cultural forms and identities of this wonderful part of the world,” he added.  The opening of the exhibition was followed by a panel discussion ‘Reviving Ancient Heritage Sites Through Virtual Reality’, moderated by Dr Anna Paolini, Unesco Representative in the Arab States of Gulf and Yemen, hosted by Alessandro Furlan, Founder of Altair4, along with Professor Thomas Leisten, acting Chief Officer of Cultural Heritage at Qatar Museum; and Raffaello Furlan, Assistant Professor of Architecture and Urban Design at the College of Engineering of Qatar University. The panel discussion highlighted the use of virtual reality and 3D presentation of cultural heritage and how such technology can help in conservation of heritage sites and drawing attention to the rich archeological heritage of Mediterranean Basin, Middle East and Gulf Region.

The biggest store of Ralph & Russo at Lagoona Mall, opened in partnership with Fifty One East.
Ralph & Russo opens its biggest boutique in the world at Lagoona Mall

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 unbridled sense of fantasia, though without going down any tiresomely stereotypical princess route. While such extravagant satin bows, taffetas and silhouettes flowing down to form a perfectly tailored ensemble with floor-sweeping trains are a fantasy, tossing it around and convincing modern women to accept it is a totally different business. Ralph & Russo solved the contradictions as it opened its doors for the first time in London in 2010 as the only extant British couture house. With Tamara Ralph as the creative director and Michael Russo chairman and CEO, Ralph & Russo can whip chiffon around the body and into flying panels, shuddering ruffles, jacquard textures and dramatic, flippy hemlines and structures like no one else. Ralph & Russo has expanded over the decade, and their ready-to-wear collection, accessories and leather goods are for fashion-savvy women who understand fashion statements. The year has only just begun, but for Tamara and Michael it’s already one for the books. Many reasons may have influenced fashion, but today the aesthetic has gone to a whole new stylish place, turning the heads of millennials and social media-savvy consumers. “A lot has changed in the fashion industry and for us. We have transitioned as a brand. We started with the very niche segment of haute couture and established our name by creating the DNA for our house and products. Over these eight years we have always tried to stay true and consistent to that,” Michael Russo told Gulf Times in an exclusive interview during the launch of the world’s biggest boutique of Ralph & Russo at Lagoona Mall, in partnership with Fifty One East. In the competitive, exclusive world of high fashion, it can take brands ages to join the elite group of haute couturiers, but Ralph & Russo is already there in less than a decade. “Always being relevant and staying true to what we believe in is the key. As a brand, if you want to be on the top of your game, you have to evolve with the market and change with what’s happening. We should  evolve in line with how a woman evolves and how her style changes. She’s looking for more than just one piece from one brand now. She’s looking for a complete lifestyle and you have to cater to that,” Michael said. Paris is traditionally thought of as the couture fashion capital but Tamara and Michael, the Australian-born couple, set up their operations in London instead of getting into the centre of the fashion hub. This proved to be a masterstroke. “I don’t think there’s a fashion capital any more. London is a home for many other people and I guess that is an advantage for us to be there,” according to Michael. “When we were starting out, we really looked up to the houses that inspired us. And when you dissect them, you know they all started from couture. Maybe they started 60 years ago, but they started with a similar background. We wanted to create a similar house and needed to follow the same kind of strategy. It took us years to create that trust with our customers and establish what Ralph & Russo really is – the femininity, quality, craftsmanship and design behind it.” What is the link between Angelina Jolie’s fierce red-carpet looks, Beyoncé’s concert tour appearances making headlines, the official engagement photographs of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry and Blake Lively in a white pant suit during her film promotions? They were all seen pulling off Ralph & Russo. So, what makes the brand a celebrity favourite? “There’s no secret or trick. We create beautiful clothes that make women feel empowered. I think that is why they do it. When they step onto the red carpet, they want to make a statement and feel better than any other celebrity there,” he added. When a brand opens its “biggest boutique in the world”, one can’t but sit up and take notice. “We’ve been close to Qatar for years. We are so well looked after by everybody here. To us, it was a natural fit to associate our brand with the leading retailer in town. We love Fifty One East and the Darwish family. We’re a family and a company and that runs in our DNA. “The Qatari woman knows and is aware of what she wants. It’s about catering to those needs and lifestyles and fitting into them.”

BREAKING THE MOULD: u201cKhaas challenges the social norms and highlights for what goes wrong in this society,u201d says Sanam Baloch.
Back with a bang

It’s the voluminous blow-dried hair and flawless skin that give her away. Sanam Baloch is dressed unobtrusively in a mucho simple off-white Shalwar Kameez and beige flats, but she is unmistakable. Fans have accosted her five times in the past half hour alone. However, she ignores the stares and continues to chat animatedly about her upcoming drama serial Khaas, on premier entertainment channel Hum TV.  “Although I was quite long-winded and convivial since my childhood but being an actor was never my dream. Even my first play Kaalak, I was coaxed to do it and after that I thought that’s it – not anymore. People often talk about overnight success stories and this was indeed one of them for me. The telefilm got aired in the night and in the morning I was flooded with the huge feedback of calls and messages and what not. Imagine for that specific role I had to go all bald,” recalls Sanam Baloch.  At the time, the fresh faced only had made an appearance on KTN, a Sindhi channel, as a host. Little did she know that a telefilm with an unpopular pitch would go on to put her on the path to becoming one of Pakistan’s most beloved actresses. From that point onwards, Baloch has earned critical acclaim for a string of roles portraying many versions of Pakistan’s sweetheart. Post Kaalak, Sanam starred in drama serial Doraha (2008) on entertainment channel Geo, directed by Mehreen Jabbar, which was followed by spectacular work in Daastan (2010), Durr-e-Shehwar (2012), Kankar (2013), all on premier entertainment channel HUM TV, and telefilm Ek Thi Marium (2016). After a hiatus of one year with mornings shows and reading scripts one after another, post portraying Suhana in ARY Digita’s Teri Raza (2017), Sanam is all set to hit television screens again with Khaas alongside Ali Rehman Khan.  “Directed by Danish Nawaz, the play challenges the social norms and highlights for what goes wrong in this society. It’s how an environment and upbringing influences someone for who he becomes as a person – what he perceives and his approach to life and relations,” adds Sanam “The play is an emotional journey that will take you down and strike the right chord in terms of what needs to be changed and looked upon. It is based on the bitter realities of the world existing today. It’s something women of today’s time can relate to. It’s about love, remorse and guilt. It touches the taboo concerning women and how the society perceives them and treats them often and not just society but their closed ones including their husbands.”  Drawing parallel on what has changed in Pakistan entertainment industry for over a decade, Sanam says, “A lot has changed. We’re still on our way to making it big in the world though. I think we’re in the revolutionary phase right now where we have finally understood what our audiences want to see. We’ve started making relatable content that is not exaggerated on screen with quality.”  In Khaas, Sanam would be seen sharing the screen space with comparatively new actor Ali Rehman Khan. “Ali is a fantastic actor and he puts his 200% in every shot. We’re having a wonderful time on sets. He has studied acting and has practically learned it before he made it big on television screens. That makes helluva difference you know. On the sets we share our instant feedback and help each other with the scenes. I’m really hoping for people to like it once the play is out,” says Baloch.  Despite the brassy work that speaks volumes about her talent, Baloch still feels nervous, every time she steps on sets. One would think the actor is teeming with confidence by now, having made numerous television appearances. “I’m very nervous. I’m always nervous about every project I sign. I always leave my work to the Almighty with a prayer that he’ll look into it,” she explains “I started my acting career with Momina Duraid Productions and HUM TV and I’m back with them again. We’ve created tremendous projects together with international acclaim that were not only loved in Pakistan but across the border as well. So even this time – we’re hoping for the best. We’re like lucky charms for each other.” Social media was recently catching up with the rumours of Samaa TV taking Sanam Baloch’s morning show off air, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Isn’t it? “Yes. The morning show is no more a part of Samaa’s transmission. Samaa is increasingly reducing its entertainment content and is trying to focus more on the news section. So yes,” she adds, “The thing about new beginnings is that they require something else to end.”