SPOTLIGHT: THE YEAR IN ENTERTAINMENT
‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” wrote Dickens — and that fateful line has ended up summing up so many year-end reviews like this one. “… it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…” he had written on. Once again, words that fit so well into describing a year that had its stellar moments and its disastrous ones, its glitzy triumphs and its inane failures and oh, its social media controversies because no year-long recap can go without referring to the incessant Twitter wars that are now such a mainstay in our daily lives.
Like all years before it, this was a year that started off with hope, bumbled its way through hits, flops, ennui and one gargantuan scandal before wrapping up, once again, with a hope for a brighter future. Turning to Dickens once again, “ while there is life there is hope”.
But perhaps there’s no need to get quite so Dickensian about Pakistan’s fashion and entertainment fraternities. Most of the time, it’s not really worth the poetic prose. Here’s a run-through the rollercoaster year that was 2018…
Instagram’s freebie wedding trend continued. Let’s see, there were TV actors Muneeb Butt and Aiman Khan going all out with a never-ending wedding, where they graciously thanked their sponsors every now and then and invited the entire blogger community to capture the various stages of their nuptials. A look back at 2018’s stellar moments and its disastrous ones, its glitzy triumphs and its inane failures and, of course, its social media controversies — because no year is now complete without them
In Bollywood, celebrity couples Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh and Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas tied the knot in right-out-of-a-Karan-Johar-movie events and allegedly earned more from selling their exclusive event images than what they spent on their grandiose wedding parties. Tacky but ingenious.
The infamous Ambani wedding certainly wasn’t relying on freebies but managed to trend rampantly on the Internet with its Bollywood twist on ‘Believe-it-or-not’: Amitabh Bachchan serving food to the guests, Salman Khan serving as a back dancer on stage, Abhishek Bachchan funnily wiggling his shoulders (okay, that’s still believable) and Hilary Clinton doing the Bhangra!
A special mention goes out here to Feroze Khan’s wedding where the actor’s sister Humaima Malick posted a request for the social media community to value the family’s privacy … and then proceeded to invite multiple bloggers to the events. The lure of Insta-fame, we suppose, must be irresistible … even at private family-centric events.
We learnt that when you travel first-class you have to take a picture of yourself. You can take a selfie (making sure that the plane’s interior is visible so that no one confuses it with … ugh … economy) or you can pretend to be reading a book while a flight attendant or fellow passenger takes your picture (it doesn’t matter if everyone knows that it is impossible to not know when your picture’s being taken inside a plane). And then, you need to float it out on to social media just to prove that you’re rich and famous, even though the trip you’re taking is probably being paid for by a sponsor. No one needs to know that of course.
There were the usual awards show controversies. We yawned when, right after the Lux Style Awards (LSAs), a number of celebrities tweeted that the results were unfair. A few more stars declared that they were never going to be attending the ceremony again. Double yawn.
Because, frankly, the many miffed egos that inevitably follow every LSA have gotten boring. If you have a problem with the ceremony, withdraw your nomination and don’t attend it. You can sit back at home in your PJs rather than suck in your breath so that you manage to fit into a figure-hugging gown and sit in the audience till the early hours of the morning. That wouldn’t be so bad, would it?
Trumping the LSAs controversy-wise, were the annual Hum Awards that ambitiously flew off an entire truckload of celebrities to Toronto — at the same time as the national elections. Apparently, the government had decided upon the election date long after the network heads had made their bookings in Canada. Social media had a lark admonishing the stars for being unpatriotic. The stars even stopped pouting and taking selfies of themselves at the event. That’s miraculous.
There was a fair bit of globe-trotting. Our celebrities were happily roaming the world every time a free ticket was offered their way. The Hum Awards especially led to weeks-long vacations traversing Canadian grounds and border-crossing into the USA.
The fledgling IPPA’s — rhymes with IIFA, we know, but they actually stand for International Pakistan Prestige Awards — were also very well-attended by some of the country’s top stars. And while they waxed on about attending the ceremony in order to support Pakistan ‘internationally’, we’re pretty sure that the free ticket to London proved to be a strong incentive. So, what if it meant that the dressing room area was kind of small and some of them had to change their clothes in a small corner backstage or even on the road? Oh, and almost everyone who went won a gold statuette — if not ‘Actor of the Year’ then ‘Icon of the Year’, ‘Style Icon of the Year’, ‘Trendsetter of the Year’ and so on. The choices were endless.
And once they had wrapped up the event, our top stars were, of course, roaming through the streets of London for a week or two. Globe-trotting, freewheeling and, very altruistically supporting Pakistan internationally — way to go!
On the positive front,filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy became the first Pakistani to win the prestigious 2018 Eliasson Global Leadership Prize. Stylist Nabila gave Bollywood a dose of refined Pakistani styling by became the official stylist for the prestigious IIFA (International Indian Film Academy) awards as well as for Dubai-based Masala! awards. Faraz Manan also gave Bollywood a dose of high-end Pakistani fashionwhen popular Indian actress Kareena Kapoor Khan walked as his showstopper at the Masala! awards. Mahira Khan served up glamour at the Cannes red carpet by becoming the first L’Oreal Paris Hair spokesperson from Pakistan to share the spotlight with the likes of Jane Fonda, Penelope Cruz, Eva Longoria and Sonam Kapoor. Sania Maskatiya debuted on the New York Fashion Week (NYFW) catwalk in a collective showcase for emerging designers. And this was the real NYFW and not all those other shows that take place at the same time as major fashion weeks, charge colossal sums from local designers so that they can participate and then they go on to tell the world, we’ve just showcased at the fashion week in New York/London/Paris/Milan. You know which designers we’re referring to, right? Instagram’s freebie wedding trend continued. Let’s see, there were TV actors Muneeb Butt and Aiman Khan going all out with a never-ending wedding, where they graciously thanked their sponsors every now and then and invited the entire blogger community to capture the various stages of their nuptials.
The first Pakistan International Film Festival (PIFF) took place, ambitiously endeavouring to represent Pakistan’s burgeoning film industry as well as acknowledge cinema from around the world. Vishal and Rekha Bhardwaj and Nandita Das from India were invited and nearly anyone who was anyone in Pakistan’s film industry attended. There were fumbles, delays, hitches, glitches but it was a good first attempt. It does need to get stronger next year!
Koko Korina made the celebrity fraternity very, very scared. A single song, often sung tunelessly at weddings, awakened the ire of the entire nation and Momina Mustehsan and Ahad Raza Mir were categorically told that they had ruined the song, that they would burn in hell for it and, according to Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari, that they had ‘massacred’ it. Momina tried to save the situation by quoting nobly from the Spiderman movie but nothing could really mollify the twitter tirades and memes … except for time. Like all social media controversies, this one was riveting and trended for a time before being replaced by the next bit of news. But everyone was really scared. Apparently it’s just not enough to look good, people want actual talent in singing.
Pakistani cinema became bigger, better, stronger. Jawani Phir Nahi Ani 2 (JPNA2) hit new box office records by becoming the highest grossing Pakistani movie ever. Other impressive movies through the year: Cake, MotorcycleGirl, Pinky Memsaab, Teefa In Trouble,Load Wedding and Parwaaz Hai Junoon. Everyone heaved a sigh of relief at the recovery from repercussions of the self-inflicted axe-to-the-foot ban on Indian films in 2016. An even more encouraging trend was the rise of local animation albeit with mixed results. There was Donkey King becoming a hit with its street-smart storyline. Allahyar and the Legend of Markhor raised the bar for local animation and made a commendable effort to tell a story where humans and animals converse together. And then there were the others: Tick Tock scrambling uninterestingly with very mediocre animation and 3 Bahadur: Rise of the Warriors crumbling under the weight of heavy product placement.
But morning shows hit new lows mainly thanks to the double whammy served by the two ‘Sanams’. Sanam Jung felt that it was quite all right to promote ‘blackface’, to use terms like ‘habshan’ and ‘negro’ and to take on the grueling challenge of making dark-skinned girls ‘beautiful’ at her morning show. Sanam Baloch, meanwhile, discussed the many virtues of leading a polygamous life along with televangelist-turned-politician Aamir Liaquat who, of course, finds second marriages quite holy.
Add in Sahir Lodhi singing tonelessly and Nida Yasir dabbing at her mascara-laden eyes every time she married off girls at her morning show and we’ve stopped turning on the TV in the morning.
Local cable-waalas were forced to get inventive with the Supreme Court going through yet another patriotic phase and decreeing that all Indian content be removed from television and radio channels. Our masses, though, refuse to be deprived of their daily dose of saas-bahu histrionics and a great dealing of wheeling and dealing with the friendly cable guy on the block has managed to get Indian content inching its way back on to our air waves — hidden surreptitiously amongst local channels or airing only during specific timings of the day. When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
TV networks continued to believe in being socially relevant — and earning high ratings through it. This year, we saw dramas narrating the life of Qandeel Baloch (Baaghi), tackling topics such as domestic abuse and depression (Aakhri Station), critiquing the obsession with giving birth to sons (Beti) and the horrors of child abuse, chillingly enacted by Naumaan Ijaz in Darr Si Jaati Hai Sila, Mohsin Abbas Haider in Meri Gurriya and Faysal Quraishi in Haiwaan. In the past, dramas such as Muqabil, Roag and, of course, Udaari have also tackled child rape and abuse.
Yes, our TV channels are quite socially conscious — and, it seems, inclined towards latching on to a hit formula and milking it for all that it’s worth.
Thankfully, concert culture is rearing to get going again and it’s starting to become quite a rollicking ride, with Junoon making a grand ‘comeback’, Ali Azmat belting out a ‘Sound Clash’ with Strings and live performances by the likes of Atif Aslam, Asim Azhar, Asrar and Fuzon getting incorporated into food festivals.
Of course, there were also the many musical nights, often featuring the melodious Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, and plenty of ‘shaadi’ concerts, with performances by top artistes, attended only by the rich and famous who ubiquitously upload the concert videos on to social media in an effort to prove precisely how rich and famous they are.
And how could we wrap up a recap of the year in the entertainment world without mentioning possibly the biggest scandal to have shaken up Pakistani entertainment ever. Meesha Shafi set off the Me Too! movement in Pakistan when she accused fellow singer and actor Ali Zafar of having harassed her. The case is currently in the court which is why we can’t discuss it any further but it continues to be dissected in detail and it’s made some men ‑— and even women — very, very scared.
Across the border, prominent Bollywood personalities were also blamed and shamed by men and women that they had allegedly abused in the past. This turn of events has made a lot of people think back to their years in the business, wondering if karma may just be about to bite them back. It has also, hopefully, been a first step in building more conscientious work environments in all industries.
Meanwhile, there were the usual fashion shows that went on and on and on, plenty of social media catfights and some very scared men and women. Let’s just say it’s been quite colourful. On to the next year!