Mohammed Ehteshamuddin is the one in our entertainment industry, who whenever create anything; it gets special recognition and appreciation. These days he is enjoying the success of his first full length feature film Superstar. His first ventured into cinema in 2005 with a short, ‘Shahrukh Khan Ki Maut’, which was screened at nine festivals worldwide including ‘Kara film festival of Pakistan. Next year, he made another short film ‘Mein Sawa Paanch Bujay Aai Thi’ for festivals. According to Ehtesham, “These films didn’t have any cinematic feel but was made with a very realistic approach”.
Ehteshamuddin loves television and in absence of cinema in those days, continued to make dramas both as director and producer. His is known for famous dramas like Perfume Chowk (2010), Aseerzadi (2013), Sadqay Tumhare (2014), Preet Na Kariyo Koi (2015), Udaari (2016), and Aangan (2018). He has also acted in few films and dramas including Chambeli (2013) and Maalik (2016) and drama serial Yaqeen Ka Safar (2017). His drama serials ‘Sadqay Tumhare’ and ‘Udaari’ won him ‘Hum Award for Best Director Drama Serial’ while he was nominated in ‘best supporting actor’ and ‘best debutant male’ categories for Chambeli at first ARY Film Awards in 2014.
Born in Karachi, Mohammed Ehteshamuddin grew up in a colony with a lot of migrants from Hyderabad Deccan, including many writers, which he says influenced his early artistic inclination.
He graduated with a degree in commerce from the Karachi University, and worked in a company with also joining various theater groups, including Tehrik-e-Niswan, Katha and Theatre Circle. In 1998, he came behind the world of screen when was inducted into Television Production Program at the Pakistan Television Academy, Islamabad.
He says, “Story telling is my business irrespective if whatever medium it is on. If the story is strong, then it will definitely inspire people.”
There is a misconception that our drama directors don’t completely get out from television when making a film. How much you have retorted to this mind-set?
I have heard about it often but I have a different opinion altogether. For me, story is most important thing whether it is film or television. Yes, there is a term called ‘filmy pun’ used specifically in subcontinent cinema, which makes both these medium different from each other, otherwise in the rest of the world, story does matter irrespective of the size of screen. In the end, it is a visual story, and if it moves you, touches you, makes you cry and laugh, the purpose is served. So, in western and European cinema there is not any drastic difference in film or television.
When I made my first short film ‘Shahrukh Khan Ki Maut’ back in 2005 with a television camera, and took it to nine big festivals of the world, no one asked me if it was a film or drama. It was called a film!
Technically speaking, how much it is different for a drama director to make a film?
Yes, technically film has bigger scale and frame than television. There are some basic technical requirements when making a film, but I think saying this that a drama director cannot do justice with a film is wrong. I don’t think so. Actually, we are going through an evolution process. In past, we were rich in this area. Indian and Pakistani film industries were standing equally in the field whether it was technique, story, direction or acting, but unfortunately we went through a period when our industry started to deteriorate. We made undergrad films and our culture of cinema also affected. Our cinema halls started converting in plazas and shopping malls.
Don’t you think that cinema is reshaping all over the world because of the availability of online platforms?
It is a fact that because of lot of content available online, cinema is being affected all over the world but despite that it remains there and they continue to produce films for big screen. There, it continues to expand and develop in IMAX and 4K screens. May be next year, we can watch 4D films without special glasses. So, cinema continues to grow in rest of the world but we stopped and so our creativity and work. We had to start it all over again.
So, what did you find something unique in Superstar story which enticed you to direct it?
I found the story of Superstar very simple yet entertaining. It has all the ingredients, which the people of subcontinent prefer to watch like emotions, love, tragedy and music. I was a bit scared in the beginning to direct a love story as many people had tagged my productions dark and very close to reality but then I asked myself that if I could enjoy watching love stories, why couldn’t I make them. So, Superstar was made with determination and love and the result is before everyone.
“I admire Mahira a lot and offered her a role in my epic Aangan but she could not accommodate as she was because of her occupancy in some other project”, Ehteshamuddin
So, are you satisfied with the reviews and public feedback of the film?
I have always appreciated healthy criticism as it plays positive role in your future endeavours.
You have worked with Mahira Khan in drama serial ‘Sadqay Tumhare’ and now in a film Superstar. Do you find her any different working in both the medium?
Mahira has gone through a lot of transition. When we did ‘Sadqay Tumhare’ it was almost the start of her career while in Superstar she is at the peak of it. So, difference is obvious in her work, approach and focus. She has improved a lot in every aspect of her art. I always love working with people on whom you can trust and Mahira is among one of them. It is quite natural that when you have spent lot of good time with someone in first project, the next one with the same person is more enjoyable and productive.
“The role of Noor was exclusively written for Mahira Khan, and she was on board in this project before me, so this was an added point for me to direct Superstar,” Ehteshamuddin
It was first collaboration of you and Bilal Ashraf. His acting has been admired by many but at the same time his song ‘Dharak Bharak’ is being criticized for its too much boldness and copying from Bollywood? What do you say?
I think criticism and views on anything are the right of those for whom we make our product, but I don’t understand why they criticize on what they love to watch and enjoy if made by others, but when we try to include these flavours in our products, they negatively criticize it.
“Songs like Dharak Bharak always have a right place in commercial cinema of our region. People enjoy them in Bollywood cinema but criticize negatively if they are included in our films. I know many people have liked and appreciated it as well”, Ehteshamuddin
Where do you see the Pakistani Cinema right now?
Actually we are going through a transition where we are trying to create our own niche. It is also a thought that whether we should intact to and sustain with our typical subcontinent cinema which we have been watching through decades on both sides of borders or divert it completely. The most heartening thing for me in this revival is the production of films on different genres from sports life sketch like ‘Shah’ and ‘Motorcycle Girl’, social dramas like Cake, and suspense and thriller like ‘Laal Kabootar’. I am happy that we are also developing a vibrant indie cinema with our mainstream commercial films. I think confidence of audience is building up and cinema halls are being filled in certain times of the year.
“There are many people out there, loyal to stable our film industry again. I believe in next four to five years, we will be standing at a better place, and competing with the rest of the world,” Ehteshamuddin
What is next by you? Is there anything in the pipeline?
I usually take a year to produce a project. Right now, television is my main forte, and I think there too many stories which have to be told on mini screens. I am doing a drama serial named ‘Firaun’, which is on the issue of domestic violence and I believe it would also create some awareness and debate on the subject like Udaari did three years back. I think our television is still the strong medium for raising issues. As the cinema of Bollywood is known worldwide, our dramas are popular everywhere in the world. But yes, if any interesting story comes before me, I will definitely love to put it into big screen. My profession is to tell stories to people whether it is through television or in the form of film.
We hope you have an “On Sale and in your size” kind of a day, everyday
The worst part of offline shopping is to see your favorite item on sale going out of stock for the reason of short spanned discounts and overcrowded stores. On top of that, it is extremely difficult to get your hands on a particular size right at the spot.
Many of us are scared of online shopping, horrible return policies, and late deliveries. Thousands of scamming online portals have shaken our faith in cybershopping. But it is about time we started looking for reliable places that give us not just a hassle-free shopping experience but also help us stay within our allotted budget while offering quality products at the same time.
Here comes this platform called Loot Sale. The main purpose of this Pakistan based E-commerce startup is to bridge the gap between the consumers’ want of constant discounts and retailers’ need for fast inventory turn-over.
Its realistic motto “Pay Less, Shop More” is not just an ordinary line, in fact, it provides what it commits with its 24\7 sale that is available all day every day on most of the luxury brands. Accommodating to 220 million audiences of the 5th largest nation of the world: with over 75 fashion brands including BTW, Cross Stitch, Hop Scotch, Hush Puppies, LimeLight, Maria.B, Nishat, Orient, Stylo, The Linen Co, Zareen by Sapphire, just to name a few: everything on this website is at a mind-blowing discount.
We still wonder how the man behind this initiative, CEO Malik Asad, came up with such a feasible and thoughtful idea. Known as an expert in the field of marketing and E-commerce having a strong finance background, he talked about his efficient business plan and shared, “Loot Sale’s goal is to build as a customer-centric brand, providing original products, offering a price-match guarantee and no-questions-asked return policy. The website has launched with an inventory of over 400,000 units, and stock is forecasted to list over 20 lac products showcasing 150 brands by the end of December 2020.”
So, does that mean, more brands and more discounts?
Isn’t it kinda true that the word “Sale” makes everyone excited and happy? Not sure about you, but to us it definitely does. Thus, it is rightly quoted that every woman’s favorite line is “IT IS ON SALE”. And the best part about this digital marketplace is that the items are on sale 365 days of the year.
In a time when the economy is declining and there is inflation all around the corner, we need more of such platforms. So, what are you waiting for? Go and check out this all in all paragon right now that is just one click away.
Minaahil Umar- An Epitome of Grace and Grandeur
Minahil, an architect by training, received her Bachelor of Architecture degree from the National College of Arts (NCA) in 2019. Before joining NCA, she studied at Lahore Grammer School where she pursued her interests in Art, Computer Science, and languages. Minahil’s work while at NCA revolved around Urban Architecture, particularly on reimagining South Asian cities.
Stunned by her eloquent talent for creating artistic visuals that are clearly visible through her work, we decided to catch up with the dedicated designer about her off-work routine.
What kind of a person Minaahil is when she is not working or designing?
Downtime is spent predominantly with family, especially my little angel daughter, truly a bundle of Joy.
What sparked your interest in fashion designing?
I’d always been observant and with the passage of time developed a firm understanding of fabric, designing, and color compatibility. I was already offering advice and guidance to friends, and it seemed only natural to take a step in this direction and introduce a revival in the Pakistani couture ecosystem.
Who has been your biggest inspiration from the fashion industry?
I have always been inspired by the originality of the idea or theme but if I have to pick a name — Coco Chanel tops the list; simple, elegant, and original.
Are you self taught or have you formally studied fashion? If so, from where?
The answer to this question is a bit more complex than a simple yes/no response. I didn’t major in fashion but went to what is without a doubt one of Pakistan’s best art schools – NCA that focused on our holistic development as artists. So, despite majoring in architecture, I received some form of training in a range of other arenas; fashion, theatre, music, and miniature art among other things.
How do you think Covid-19 has affected the world of couture? How has it affected your business?
COVID 19’s impact is rooted in its inherent uncertainty. We have experienced a massive disruption in our supply chains, have had to rework our workshops to ensure physical distancing, and developed alternative payment and delivery services.
When it comes to being an artist, what exactly are you most fascinated about that eventually becomes a part of your work of art?
They say ‘God lies in the details’. For me, details matter a lot. There’s a way to express yourself in depth which makes every piece truly unique. While I focus on depth and detail – my work at the same time is minimalistic.
Does this demotivate you that a strong lobby of designers has already been here and it is difficult to survive for a comparatively new designer?
I believe every designer has their own uniqueness and their work has its own charm. There’s no end to learning, whenever I see an artist whose work stands out, I connect with them, exchange ideas. To evolve, it’s so important to learn.
I believe firmly that I have in the past, and continue to prove myself by the quality of my work. Fear goes out of the window when you’re only competing with yourself for self-improvement.
What is your personal style statement?
I like to keep it simple, so a white kurta, jeans with a pair of khussas any day.
If you could dress up one famous face from anywhere in the world, who would it be?
Deepika Padukone for sure!
How do you manage to create a merge of contemporary and traditional at the same time while keeping the real essence of old-time charm alive?
Honoring your roots, feeling truly blessed to have a rich culture of native art, poetry, literature – grounds your ways of thinking. This grounding is the cornerstone of my work, and I strive for constant improvement drawing upon contemporary style. So, for me, it isn’t a challenge to capture the old-time charm alive. It is the tradition that fuels my passion for this line of work.
If not a designer, what would have been your career path?
I’d have been an architect, offering advisory services on urban development.
What were you most afraid of while entering into this business?
Keeping a balance between my family and work.
What one hurdle that you faced the most in this business?
I don’t think I have faced many hurdles, it has all been really smooth for me up till now.
What is one opportunity that you are impatiently waiting for?
Waiting for would probably not be the best way to describe it, I’d reframe your question a bit, if I may, and share the opportunities that I’m working towards.
1- I’m currently working towards expanding into North America. Currently researching on the best combination of digital platforms, comprehensive warehousing, and payment gateway development strategies to expand into North America and cater not only to the Pakistani diaspora but also to allies who admire South Asian designs and fabric.
2- Working towards transitioning into an ethical workplace, where raw materials are sourced via fair trade, safe and inclusive workspaces are provided, and staff is compensated and rewarded for the real value that they bring to the table. I firmly believe that the Karigars are the lifeline of any business and I hope to set a standard of fair compensation and inclusive workspace. We all know it’s about time, someone has to take the first step.
What are your further plans regarding your designs?
At this point I’m content with my creative expression, I’ve reached a position where the business is stable with a small but robust clientele. I wish to connect, learn, and be inspired by others who are doing work that’s similar to mine. We really are carving a niche, and it would be great to connect with likeminded people.
Sidra Iqbal stresses upon the importance of education in Pakistan
A well known T.V personality, PR practitioner, brand activist, and youth development advocate; we had a pensive conversation with Sidra Iqbal about the importance of education, the current situation, and her pivotal role in this sector.
As both a successful journalist and host, how would you describe the nature of your work in Pakistan?
In Pakistan, it is exciting and adventurous as a lot of these things are fairly new. I remember being a fresh undergraduate and the private media only opening up in Pakistan; so fast forward 10 years, I feel a lot of the values are still sort of evolving and there is a lot of work that happens on an ad-hoc basis. We are pressed for resources, we are pressed for sensitivity and ideas but that’s where the challenge and excitement is, and what really gets me going is that you can really make a difference in society with the avalanche of social media and this newfound freedom and power. It really is worthy to be behind the right cause, so I find it very exciting and adventurous.
Hosting a show, we see significant subjects regarding the future of Pakistan being addressed, do you feel that this representation brings light to serious matters adequately?
I feel they bring a lot of eyeballs and they bring a lot of attention to the problems. I’m not very keen and not very happy with the focus it brings on the solutions. I feel as a society they have become very pessimistic and we tend to just breathe and groove and sort of just allow ourselves to be mellow, but what we really need to do is be forward-looking, be optimistic and see we really don’t need the same kind of linear timeline mentality that a lot of people did. Even in our region, if we look at a number of South Asian countries, what they have done is they have actually made a complete turn-around change in their environment and society in one generation so I feel the same is possible for Pakistan but we are too focused on thinking, ‘Oh these problems will take a hundred years and perfect resources and a lot of political will to resolve’, I think that’s where the problem is.
Being an Ambassador for “IHope”, how was the response received regarding the discussion, which provided serious insights into the experiences of our youth in society?
I think as an ambassador of “IHope”, it was a fantastic opportunity for me to launch the initiative on International Youth Day. I think young people should realize that every crisis that they are presented with presents a hidden gift of compassion and of purpose, so I was very happy to learn that so many young people are motivated to actually give back and help people. In this pandemic they don’t feel that necessarily it’s a bad thing that they are stuck at home, they are devoted to compassion and to service to society; and IHope was a perfect opportunity for them. It was a call out to young people, whether they are in Pakistan or anywhere in the world to come and be a part of the community that would like to help people provide quality healthcare facilities to all.
Would community initiatives help create an environment where education and enlightenment can be accepted and therefore implemented for our children?
I think children all over the world are dreaming of a new world and it’s our responsibility as a society, as grownups, to provide them with those excellent opportunities. Personally, for me, I think two great pillars I really advocate for are Education and Healthcare. Once you educate a child and once you provide a household with quality health care, with hygiene, and you know the right to live, then there is no stopping there, because then you’re out of the survival mode. I feel that when children are told and they are demonstrated that all that they enjoy is not something that they are entitled to, in fact, what they need to do is be grateful for the benefits that they have. It does evoke a sense of compassion and service in them. So it’s a great initiative and it will go a long way in inculcating these values in children.
When in conversation with Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood, a change in the education itself was emphasized. What manner of change do you feel would have a significant impact on the system itself?
I think to begin with technology, ICT is going to be very important, the curriculum all over the world is being upgraded. I’ll give you an example, that they say that the children who are in grade school right now, studies point out that 65% of these children are going to go into jobs and professions that have not been invented so that is a huge responsibility on the education system to actually prepare a child for a future that is unseen, unheard and probably unimaginable as well. When we were in school, there was no internet, there were no social media but somehow our education prepared us for it, now the same challenge lies before us and in much greater intensity. So, I feel what we need to change is first and foremost give a child the right to question. You can no longer just dictate a child, you should give a child in the Pakistani school system the right to question, the right to understand, and the right to sometimes even prove you wrong, so until and unless the teachers have the ability to unlearn and relearn, we can’t really update our education system.
Do intermediate students have an advantage over A-level students when applying for universities, with their average plus predicted grade as well as an additional 3% grace marks given?
Well to begin with, as an answer, I think no students in Pakistan had any advantage. Our education system is deeply fragmented, there are too many factions, there are too many things happening and I really congratulate the Government to have a serious intent behind making it a singular hybrid national curriculum. Of course, it comes with its own challenges. I can’t really pick sides because these are students who are all Pakistanis whether you are in A-Level schools, I can’t hold that against you, or whether you are a parent for matriculation or an intermediate exam that should not be your disadvantage. But yes, what I am calling for is that the Education Ministry has to make a decision, make policy measures and take strategic moves that benefit and ensure a level playing field for all. This grace mark issue is putting the A-level students at a disadvantage and I would appeal and strongly urge and petition to the Ministry of Education to look into its decision and how it’s having an impact on all.
Would a change in the implementation and execution of educational policies pave the way for a promising change in Pakistan regarding the future of our children who are still out of schools?
Of course, I mean if you look at numbers, it’s astonishing. 20 million children of school-going age in Pakistan are not going to school. Even if you look at provinces like KP, one out of every 4 girls of school-going age is not going to school and that is a glaring 25% of girls out of school. How do you expect her to bring a knowledgeable, aware, opinionated, informed, and civilized generation if she herself does not have the ability to read and write, If she does not have literacy, does not have education, does not have open-mindedness? So, I feel if you really want to turn the future of Pakistan around, education has to be the cornerstone for it.
How can we do our bit in helping bring about a positive change for our young children in terms of opening the doors of opportunity?
I think it is about getting them to be trained in design thinking; presenting the problems as a creativity challenge and not as a dead end. A lot of times the kind of discourse that we are exposing our children to in social media on mainstream television is robbing them of their hope. We are telling them that nothing in Pakistan can be fixed and we are going down the dungeons, which is the furthest from reality. Even if you look around the region just during the COVID 19, India in the last 3 months has lost about 25% of their GDP, I mean that is a grave loss, job losses. Something is happening right in Pakistan whether you want to give the present Government the credit for it or not is entirely your call, but something is right and there is a lot to be hopeful about if we really want to give our children and the young people something it is that hope, that believes that you matter and better things are possible!
- And lastly, do you feel we are doing enough as a country, for our future in education?
Well, it’s 70 years of not doing enough, you can’t take a snapshot and say are we doing enough or not, there’s been a lot of water under the bridge, there’s a lot of things we haven’t done right for the years to come. Yes, we can take a corrective course but in order for that corrective course to fully bear fruit I think it will need about 7-10 years and I’m hopeful that if we make use of this window of opportunity, that would be a big turnaround for Pakistan
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