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Bilal Maqsood: Always Searching For New Heights

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The year was 1992, when a song Sir Kye Yeh Pahar was released in a mellow and soulful voice, it mesmerized all the youth of that time. Be in the car, in plane or even on a break from school or college, the song was favourite of every teenage boy and girl of that time. The vocalist of the song Bilal Maqsood, though the lead guitarist of his band gained immense popularity among the 90s kids just for a single.  

The band’s name was ‘Strings’ established in 1988 by four teenage college boys, who released their first album in 1990 named ‘Strings’. Two years later their second album ‘2 ‘came out accompanying the video of song ‘Sir Kiyeh Yeh Pahar’ which became a nationwide hit and the band was a sensation. Amidst enjoying the status of post 80s pop stars, the quartet took a break and almost left doing music for other jobs. Maqsood, who mostly fronted the band even opt a job of a creative director at advertising agency, a trait he inherited from his father, the legendary Anwar Maqsood, renowned writer and painter of Sub-Continent.

After the hiatus of eight years, Strings saw a new fame and success in new millennium and became international stars by performing all over the world and doing soundtracks for Hollywood hits like Spider-Man. They released four more new albums; Duur (2000), Dhaani (2003), Koi Aanay Wal Hai (2008) and latest Thirty (2018) which marked the completion of bands 30 years in the industry.  

Through all this journey Bilal Maqsood remained an integral part of the band and remained in touch with music and his band mates even when not doing music. Strings’ style of music and compositions are backed by this thin, tall and apparently quite (now a) man. Maqsood along with his long time fellow and lead vocalist of Strings Faisal Kapadia also directed the platforms like Coke Studios’s four seasons from seven to ten (2014 to 2017). 

Currently Maqsood is directing Pakistan’s first ever digital music platform Velo Sound Station. He took some time out for Daily Paperazzi about this new venture and his future plans in the field of music.

What is unique about Velo Sound Station? What you had on your mind when choosing artists and designing the sets for the program?

In the last 15 years or so I saw pop music taken over by Sufi and folk in Pakistan and quietly relegating to a space that was limited to just underground music. Idea behind VSS was to bring back pop music, which used to be the forte of Pakistani music industry to mainstream.

The set was designed keeping the Roman Colosseum in mind where the performer becomes the warrior with spectators all around him.

What is the inspiration behind Pyar Ka Rog?

Pyaar ka rog was one of the songs from my lockdown series on my Instagram. People really liked it but somehow i knew if ever I get down to record it, it would be in Faisal’s voice. We ventured out of our signature strings sound and experimented with retro synth wave keeping the mood of the show. The song is written by Mr. Anwar Maqsood,  began as just a piano version but now with Faisal Kapadia’s vocals and a full production it sounds amazing.

What was your journey from one big platform to Velo Sound Station?

My journey from Coke Studios to Velo Sound Station was bridged by the release of our 6th Studio album titled ‘Strings 30’. After the release of the album I had sometimes to think about the show and the direction it should take. I had two things in mind while coming up with the idea, one, that it has to be about pop music and second, that visually and sonically it should not resemble anything that’s on our local television screens.

How are you keeping it different from other music platforms of Pakistan?

Right now, Pakistani music is all about folk, Sufi and fusion. I made sure that I’ll stay away from that. I knew we will have to swim against the tide because people have forgotten the taste of Pakistani pop but that’s the risk we all were willing to take in order to bring our pop music to mainstream. 

Do you think that Velo Sound Station would be another platform for new talent?

Yes. We will always be looking for new talent who can fit into the realm of our show.

What do your fans expect more from you after the successful album ‘Strings Thirty’?

InshaAllah will never disappoint our fans. As soon as we get a little window will work on our new album.

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Filmwala Pictures Is Back With a Historic Drama Masterpiece Khel Khel Mein

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The dynamic duo of Pakistani film industry, Nabeel Qureshi & Fizza Ali Meerza, is all set to hit Pakistani Cinemas, yet again with their upcoming film ‘Khel Khel Mein’.

The multi starrer Feature Film will have Sajal Ali and Bilal Abbas in lead roles, along with veterans Javed Sheikh, Samina Ahmed, Marina Khan & Manzar Sehbai. The music of the film is composed by the maestros including Shani Arshad, Shuja Haider & Asrar Shah. This heart-warming drama depicting a youthful take on historic events, will be releasing in cinemas very soon.

The motion poster of the KKM looks promising and fans are eagerly waiting to witness another brilliant piece from the enthusiastic and talented pair, who always tries to give something new in their projects.  The lead cast, Sajal Ali and Bilal Abbas Khan has worked together before in television drama serial ‘O Rangreza’. This is their first feature film together.  

Fizza Ali Meerza, CEO Filmwala Pictures says about her new venture, “Khel Khel Mein is our take on telling history in a fresh and engaging way to the youth so that it can be learned from and remembered. We hope the viewers will resonate with the story and come out of the theaters feeling more entertained & informed.”

The director of Khel Khel Mein Nabeel Qureshi expressed his delight as, “We are very excited to bring Khel Khel Mein to the screens; the entire team has worked immensely hard to create the film and, we hope that people will love it and learn from it.”

About Filmwala Pictures

Filmwala Pictures is a Pakistani Film Production Company based in Karachi founded by Fizza Ali Meerza. The production house has some of the biggest Pakistani hits under its banner including; Na Maloom Afraad, Actor in Law, Na Maloom Afraad 2 & Load Wedding along with the upcoming film Quaid e Azam Zindabad.

Social Media Links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kkmthefilm/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/khelkhelmein2021/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/khel_khel_mein

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/khelkhelmein

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Junaid Khan Highlights A Grave Issue Of Society In His Latest Video

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When it comes to Pakistani performers, who can both act and sing, Junaid Khan comes into mind so quickly. We have witnessed his acting skills recently in dramas like Kashf, Muhabbatein Chahtien and Khuda Aur Muhabbat but his first love music, with which he stared his career as Call band, recurs so often. 

Junaid Khan has released a single Taqdeer this eid, which unlike a usual happy song comes out on eids, highlights the grave issue of violence, especially domestic violence which is taking place in almost every household, every class in one way or another. According to singer this video is dedicated to all the victims that have gone through and keep going through all forms of abuse.

About the song and video, Khan pours his heart out, “What I am presenting to the world is not just a song but an ocean of immense emotions. A very grave issue that I lose sleep over.”

The Nishaan singer further says, “When I see and hear abuse, suffering and pain; it takes me into a very dark space. The evil that is spreading so fast in our own society and all over the world, has suffered humanity in the hands of murderers, rapists, abusers and the list just goes on.”

How someone has to suffer in the hands of an oppressor who only knows how to control and torture another human being, he adds.

The Taqdeer is written and composed by Junaid Khan while the video is directed by As-haar Azmat featuring Talat Mahfooz Butt, Shahreen Iftikhar, As-haar Azmat along with Junaid Khan as lead. The track has a grunge-rock feel in it as the video is shot in a dark background to depict the gloom and pain of the theme. Junaid has proved both his singing and acting skills in this five and half minute’s video which carries a powerful message through a conceptual art. 

According to the singer, the video emphasizes how the Power, control, money and greed can destroy generations but the message that he wants to send across to the world through this song is with bad comes good and with suffering comes ease and that karma will come around.

Elaborating more about the video, Khan says, “The oppressors are so strong and blinded by their own motives that are larger than other human lives. And there comes a point when the oppressed knows nothing better than accepting this painful life as fate. Taqdeer! And on this very notion my song, my voice and my emotions came to life in the form of this song.”

It is true that cases of domestic violence take place every day. Some get swept under the carpet while some come out in the open. The authorities must need to give importance to every violent act taking place anywhere in the country.  

According to a report published by Sustainable Social Development Organization (SSDO) in March 20201, The cases of violence against women and rape in Pakistan were doubled in the last six months of 2020 as compared to the first six months of the year. According to official data analysis, domestic violence (1,422 cases) and violence against women (9,401 cases), had high occurrence throughout country.

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I Am Here to Act Not To Be A Star: Bilal Ashraf

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Bilal Ashraf is one of a few actors of Pakistan who claimed their fame from films. Unlike his fellow artists, who first established them from television and then came into films when film industry started to revive again after a long hiatus, Ashraf is the only one who enjoys the status of a film star at the moment.

Apart from his acting skills, he also possesses a distinct style whether they are his dimples appears with his full smile or his physique for which he is always very concerned about. Recently he got the Hum Style award for ‘Most Stylish Actor film –Male’ award.

Before coming into acting, Bilal Ashraf worked as visual effects director. He pursued his career in acting with a brief appearance in the 2014 thriller O21. He then starred in the commercially successful romantic drama Janaan (2016), the acclaimed war eulogy Yalghaar (2017) and the blockbuster musical romance Superstar (2019).

This star with pleasant personality and amicable gestures talked to Daily Paperazzi and opened his heart out about many things which are dear to him professionally and personally.  

What do you think you get this style award for; the charming dimples or your proper physique?

I think dimples are natural. My parents should be credited for them more. As far as my physique is concerned, I was a fitness freak from my childhood which I always try to maintain.

Did you have any idea of getting this award?

No. I didn’t have any idea of this. In fact I was curious and doubtful about what if I don’t get the award. I am truly thankful and humbled for all those who voted for me and made it possible. 

What is style for you?

To me style is one’s personal statement. It is whatever one is comfortable with or in. Some people like dressing up a lot while some wants to look very casual to seem natural. I think whatever you have and carry it off makes your complete style statement.

A lot of controversy has been created after the event of Hum Style Awards 2021. What do you say?

I think the social media has created a lot of controversy around the event. Before this people didn’t have any platform to give their opinion (good or bad) on certain things. I believe that everyone keeps a right to comment (like or dislike) on anything but it should always be thoughtful enough that a comment (positive or negative) have an impact on others. Some people are very strong mentally while others we don’t know are going through a lot of problems. They get adverse effects from these comments which can lead to the mental disorders. Everyone has a journey and struggle with them and have a family and loved ones behind. So please next time criticize constructively like on their work and professional being, and do positive comments as well not always negative.

The clothing of female actors and models participated in the show were also criticized negatively. How would you defy it?

They were style awards where everyone had their own style statements. The same people who are criticizing our celebrities’ clothing, when watch a Hollywood or Bollywood stars as same, in a movie or show, appreciate them. They accept their own stars in desi attires but if any of star has worn something with her will and any designer has given his/her style statement, out-rightly reject them. Don’t take anything personally and if someone is wearing something by his/her will, then please have some courage to accept it. We shouldn’t have double standards and need to be a little careful about that.

Your couple with Maya Ali has become very popular among fans though you both have done a very little work together. Is this a teaser for any big thing happening in future?

Oh. The reality is that Maya and I are very good friends. I have a great respect for her. We discuss a lot about work together. It is true that we have done a very little work together like just a music video and fashion shoot but I wish to do a big project with Maya and learn from her. She is a very hardworking individual and a powerful performer. Whatever project she comes in, it shines.

You have come a bit late in films. Why?

I never wanted to be an actor. I have said it before that I have not come in this field to become a typical hero and to compete with others. Actually film making was a dream of my late sister Sadia but film industry was very limited at that time in Pakistan. Unfortunately she lost her life battling with cancer. So I am here to fulfil the dream of my sister; the film making. Whenever I am acting, I feel her around me.

So now you have joined the field of acting; where do you find yourself standing?

I think we have already very fantastic actors as heroes in our industry. If I have been successful to make some name and fame among them, I feel humble. Now, I will constantly remain standing here till the end to accomplish the dream of my sister.

Cinemas are closed because of Covid and film making is also at standard still. So what alternates you find for acting?

I think it’s time to move towards television dramas. Finally! I think I am the only actor in Pakistan who has just worked in films. When I go abroad, people came for selfies not with Bilal Ashraf but Pakistani cinema. That was a great feeling. But I believe that television is a great platform to learn. You continue to learn in acting as it is a very vast field. So I would love to work in dramas and television and improve my skills by learning more about the trait from the bests in the business. So yes television is next.

How is the journey from Janaan to Superstar, after which when you are literally called the super star of Pakistan?

Honestly speaking, I still don’t consider myself a star. I am an actor who is doing his job and stardom is part of that job. I believe one should accept this fame gracefully as it is a whole baggage where positive and negative comments from people come at the same time.

As far as my journey is concerned, I did Janaan as a fun experience. I had never thought it would be a hit.  The second one Rangreza though was a flop but it actually was an eye opener, as you learn more from a failure than success in life. I think a good film is team work which comprised of its producers, director, and actors.  

After Rangreza, I revisited the acting. I went to UK and inducted myself in some acting courses there. I became more careful in choosing scripts then. Finally I was lucky to have found the ideal producer Momina Duraid, best director Muhammad Ehteshamuddin and wonderful co-star Mahira Khan for Superstar. Moreover, Momina Bhabi and Ehtesham Bhai also asked me to have some acting courses in NAPA where I really learned a lot. I was the same Bilal but the difference was that I had a very professional team with me. I actually enjoyed this journey.

You have worked with almost all female film actors of Pakistan. Who you wish to work with in Hollywood or Bollywood?

I really admire Sophia Lauren, though she is much senior and not working in films anymore. I also have a dream to work with Maryl Streep.

What are your plans now exactly?

I think films, television and Web series all are in pipeline. Moreover, I am producing many things as well. I would like to mention here that I have launched a production company/production house ‘Beehive Transmedia’ with my mentor (and captain as I call him) Muhammad Ehteshamuddin, for which I am really thankful to him. We work on commercials and feature films, concepts and scripts. It is a one stop creative shop.

Do you believe in dreams?

One thing I would must mention here that believe in your dreams because if you hold it in your head, you can hold it in your hands. Don’t lose believing in you even if something seems impossible because nothing is impossible. Keep on striving for the best.

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