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I had to put myself in a negative, dark headspace to play her and this took its toll- Armeena Khan about her role in the drama “Muhabatain Chahatain”

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There are some dramas in which a negative role steals all the attention and people wait for each episode only to see their next evil plot. “Tara” in Muhabatain Chahtain is one such character and we have to say it was beautifully portrayed by Armeena Khan. From hair to outfits to expressions; everything was in synch with the character and its demand. We hated the character for ruining everyone, but we also wanted to know the “real” issue with her, because no one can be evil for no reason, right?

To satisfy our curiosity and to get into the details of the character along with some other questions; we had a conversation with the very beautiful and talented Armeena Khan.

Was it difficult playing Tara? How did you prepare for the role?

Honestly, this was probably the HARDEST character that I have had to play in my entire career in the Pakistani industry. First came the character and personality of Tara herself. I  spent months preparing, researching personality disorders such as Bipolar and Borderline Personality Disorder, Psychopathy, Sociopathy as that was the lens I used to distill the script. No person is just plain evil. Everyone believes they are good so it was important to ascribe justification for her actions.

Then came Tara’s look. For the clothes, I trawled through Pakistani Instagram and various socialite websites internalising outfits and the attitudes accompanying them. For her hair, I partnered with Catherine Boden (a hair colour design specialist) and she custom-made this colour. I also picked out hairpieces to give her a perpetual groomed look. Tara’s make-up was designed by the channel itself, right down to the diamond rings and jewels that she was wearing. After all, that prep came to the dialogue, It is not easy when your first language is not Urdu. For example, I had already memorized the script before I stepped onto the sets, then I would prepare each scene the night before. I simply cannot take things for granted that other actors are able to when filming thousands of miles away from my home.

Then came the grueling filming schedule. Tara is a multi-dimensional, complex and intelligent character. I had to put myself in a negative, dark headspace to play her and this took its toll. Often my co-stars would comment on how convincing my portrayal was of her. But by the second month, I was emotionally and physically exhausted.

In hindsight, I am very happy that I played this character. It helped me understand my scope, potential and limitations as an actor. I would go as far as to say that this has also been the most entertaining character that I have ever undertaken. Tara has given me strength as an actor and I cannot emphasize this enough.

 

Any reason for choosing ‘Tara’ in Mohabbatein Chahatain?

I am quite progressive, liberal, and an open-minded person. Tara is not only mentally ill but fearless. I drew a lot of strength from her character, despite it being so negative. For example, when Faraz said to her ‘Mein Aisa hi hoon, agar nahi Qabool tow khatam ker daytay hein’ to which Tara replies: ‘Okay, Khatam ker daytay hein’ and then proceeds to walk away nonchalantly. That really tickled me. In a patriarchal society, such things do not happen. Putting aside her negativity, Tara breaks through social norms and conventions, and ultimately that is what appealed most about the script.

 

Were you scared to do a negative character as the audience starts perceiving the actor as they see on their television screen?

 

I never worry about that. I appreciate that negative characters can impact a ‘heroine’s’ career but I wanted to step away from all that and be progressive in my choice of roles. As an actor, you simply have to experiment, otherwise boredom and complacency sets in. After all, we are here to entertain and not just play contrived, mono-dimensional characters.

Have you ever encountered a person like Tara? Do you think people with such complicated personalities exist?

Yes, they do exist, even though television characters are almost always exaggerated, I have met some conniving individuals in my time who came close to the character. Having said that I don’t believe ‘normal’ exists. We are all mentally challenged and have to face our own demons in our darkest moments. I think contemporary society with its technological connectivity amplifies mental health issues. Modern life is not healthy. It is pushing more and more people to the edges of sanity, to the limits of what their emotions and minds can handle.

How does it feel to be an expat and work in the entertainment industry in Pakistan?

I often feel my career has been conjured out of thin air, for I have no familial connections to call upon nor entry through financial investment. I am grateful for all the opportunities I have been offered, whether as a result of my own perseverance or fortune’s favour. But there are 2 consistent hurdles for me as an expat.

 

The first is obvious in working far away from home. I don’t maintain a permanent residence in Pakistan so this means expensive bills for flights, hotels, food and transport. My friendships and support network is several time zones away when on set.

 

The second problem is cultural. For example, I am a stickler for timekeeping and always turn up on the dot and behave professionally on set. Unfortunately, I am not always met with the same reciprocity on set because the local culture does not prioritise these traits. Then comes the whole gender angle. I am not used to playing second fiddle to men or listening to execrable chauvinistic humour and conversations. Many expats reading this will understand what I mean.

 

However, despite all these challenges Pakistan has also afforded me immense respect, stardom and belonging as an artist. What that has done for me cannot be quantified in mere words. I am extremely grateful for my audience and this is why I return to Pakistan every year to act my heart out.

 

 

What is your style statement in one line?

Simple, non-fussy and clean lines.

How does social media trolling affect an actor’s mental health and what is the best way to deal with it?

Social Media is a double-edged sword. Although the benefits are obvious, such as marketing and engagement, there are a plethora of pernicious problems outweighing the benefits for many. Firstly it is fraudulent. We are being lied to. It is human nature, in your nature, to compare yourself to others, as natural yardsticks.  But the people we are comparing ourselves to are on a 24/7 permanent filter. Their hardships, flaws and insecurities are disguised and deleted. They are not communicating but propagating at us. As a result, we will always come up wanting. Over time you will feel awful about yourself and your own life, especially when the trolls are added to the equation. This brings us to our second problem. Social media offers anonymity that attracts bottom feeders. Trolls hide in the dark corners of social media, whispering envy, hate and attempts to body shame others. These cowards will never do anything with their lives and so are focused on one thing; to stop others from bettering themselves.

Thirdly, it is bad for your mental health. Do you feel that you are missing out? Do you feel the need to post constantly? Instead of being present in our lives, enjoying beautiful relationships and moments, we are on the lookout for opportunities to manufacture a post, a possible entry into the lottery of viral online fame. If you don’t, you feel excluded somehow. Add this feeling of anxiety to the tiny small little hate comments, these seeds of poison, left unaddressed will sprout into a foliage of weeds that will consume your mental health. I almost look forward to the day when I can delete my SM and withdraw from this jungle. I would love to find an alternative way to keep in touch with my fans.

 

One thing that you could change about the Pakistani Entertainment industry?

 

Frankly speaking there isn’t a proper industry yet. It is an aspiration. Instead, we have a small gaggle of cliques.  It stifles creativity and is structured to guard platforms against talented individuals who could break in and actually help transform this into a roper sustainable industry. I would also like to balance out the playing field between those who can speak English and those who cannot. It is ridiculous that this linguistic divide exists in the first place.

 

You are always so supportive of your co-stars online and in real life. What drives you to do that in this competitive industry?

I sincerely believe that you receive what you give out into the universe. A tweet or a supportive phone call, text message, or just a simple ‘How are you?’ is not going to take anything away from me. I do keep most of my interactions with my co-stars private and out of the public gaze normally but where I feel that they need public support is where I do make an exception. It just feels good to me, I do not see people as my competition as we all are on our own journies. I think the ONLY way to grow is to support others to grow around me as well. I believe in the theory of abundance.’  When a play goes on air, I promote EVERYONE, you never know when the public might take a fancy to a specific character and it might not be yours BUT it could make the whole play a success for the Team?

 

Who is your favourite Co-star?

I get along with everyone generally but negative people are challenging for me. They bring certain energy with them, which is draining and distracting. It is about whose company I enjoy the most and I am drawn to what I call the ‘hulla gulla’ crowd. No drama, no tantrums, no insecurities, just work and fun and those have been the best costars and most memorable sets for me.

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Pakistan International Film Festival Held In Karachi

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After the downturn in the third wave of COVID 19, activities in the metropolitan of Karachi have started to resume with following all guidelines and SOPs due for global pandemic.

One of it was the three-day Pakistan International Film Festival 2021 Women’s Edition, organized under the banner of the Karachi Film Society from June 11 to June 13 at Frere Hall, the heritage site situated at the heart of the city.

This year, keeping in mind the social distancing and time constraints, the festival was restricted to the workshops and seminars with limited audience comprising of showbiz and media fraternity as well as the founding members of KFS and the media fraternity.

The seminar on Day 1 was on the issue of ‘What is Stopping Our Films from Growing Internationally’ which  attended by Chairman Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting, Senator Faisal Javed Khan. The session was moderated by Kamran Jawaid, a senior film critic while the panel was comprised of Sheikh Amjad Rasheed, Chairman IMGC Group, one of the leading film production and distribution groups in Pakistan; Selina Rashid, CEO of public relations firm, Lotus PR; Irfan Malik, Senior Vice President ARY Group and the current head of ARY Films; and Omer H. Paracha, founder of street-wear luxury brand PARAVAL and an executive producer of film Echo Boomers.

The panel discussed the lack of growth of Pakistani films in the international market and the reasons and challenges behind this slow growth. They also discussed the low return of investment, quality of films, government facilitation, the need to experiment with various genres of film-making and upgrading filmmaking technology and equipment.

Following the panel discussion, Senator Faisal Javed Khan in his keynote speech, stressed on the need to concentrate on the local side of the film industry before discussing the international aspect of it. He said that Pakistan’s film industry needs a minimum of 1,000 screens and at least 100 films a year just to sustain it. He also warned the film-makers not to copy the neighbouring country if they wanted to go global and advised them to present their own ideas to the world. While addressing the government’s incentives and facilitation for the film industry, he informed the audience that Prime Minister Imran Khan has approved an entertainment, film policy which will soon be launched.

The Day 2 of the festival began with a workshop on Fighting Harassment at the Workplace, followed by a panel discussion on Covid-19: Challenges & Opportunities, Understanding the ‘New Normal’.

The workshop on Fighting Harassment at the Workplace was conducted by Xenab Ansari, giving her experience to spread awareness about harassment and teaching attendees how to protect themselves. She also shared her skill-set and knowledge on the subject. Dr. Fouzia Saeed, Director General PNCA and member of the board of governors KFS was the chief guest at the workshop, who also shared her experience on the topic.

The key note speaker on Day 2 of PIFF was Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry, while it was also attended by Governor Sindh, Imran Ismail as guest of honour.

The panel discussion on Covid-19: Challenges & Opportunities, Understanding the ‘New Normal’ was moderated by Sidra Iqbal, a celebrated broadcast journalist, and the participant for the discussion included Senator (r) Javed Jabbar, Filmmaker and Intellectual known in the field of media and literature; Dr Fouzia Saeed, a social activist, gender expert, trainer/facilitator, folk culture promoter and author; Ameena Saiyid, Head of publishing company Lightstone, former MD of OUP and founder of Adab Festival; Amin Hashwani, the founder of Charter for Compassion Pakistan, a businessman and a social activist; Dr. Farah Essa Zaidi, Director Radiology at Dr Essa Laboratory & Diagnostic Center ; Duraid Qureshi, Co-Founder and CEO of HUM Network Ltd and Fizza Ali Meerza CEO FilmWala Pictures and an active member of the Executive Body of Pakistan Film Producers Association.

The panel discussed issues and challenges related to Pakistani films and entertainment industry post covid-19, the portrayal of women in Pakistani media, access of the lower and middle class to cinema, the need to establish a digital entertainment platform and challenges in adapting to the new normal since Covid-19.

The Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Fawad Chaudhry, in his speech, commenting on the title of this year’s PIFF, the minister said that men had the upper hand over women for thousands of years but with the advent of technology and public awareness, the gender disparity is gradually lessening. Giving example of his own daughter who wants to be a fighter pilot, the minister said that women now are opting for roles which were once considered unconventional. While expressing his views on the decline of Pakistan Film Industry after the 80s’, the Federal Minister said that the biggest factor was the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. On government facilitation for the film industry, the Federal Minister announced that they were coming up with a film policy which focusses on lessening the electricity charges for cinemas, zero taxes on the film industry and government loan of up to 50 million for film-makers among other amenities. The minister also spoke about the government’s intention of establishing the most advanced and state-of-the-art Pakistan University which will offer courses on journalism, animation, music and other media related fields. The Federal Minister also urged film-makers to focus on Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the Middle East as an alternative to counter lobbies that don’t allow Pakistani content to run on international streaming platforms.

The Pakistan International Film Festival, Women’s Edition 2021, was concluded with a workshop on ‘Women Entrepreneurship in a Creative Economy’, followed by a panel discussion on ‘Gender Stereotypes in Media and What are Women Doing About It?’

The workshop on Women Entrepreneurship in a Creative Economy was conducted by Ashifa Paracha, CEO Brand Advertising, WCCI member and founder of the Pakistan Digital Awards & Corporate Lounge and Sadaf Mahmood, CEO Xiphios Innovations and COO Nutshell Communications. Organized under the umbrella of Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the workshop detailed how women can learn, start and promote businesses in the digital world.

The seminar/webinar on ‘Gender Stereotypes in Media and What are Women Doing About It’ was moderated by Tazeen Hussain, an associate professor and head of the Department of Communication Design at Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture. The panelists present were Sultana Siddiqui, President KFS & HUM Network Ltd; Atiqa Odho, Chairperson of FocusPK, an entrepreneur, social activist and artist; Sangeeta, film director and actor and Tasneem Ahmar, head of UKS Research Centre and executive producer for Meri Awaz Sunno. The chief guest for the panel discussion on Day 3 was Provincial Minister of Sindh for Culture, Tourism, and Antiquities, Syed Sardar Ali Shah.

The panel discussed and addressed the discrimination persisting against women in the media industry. Atiqa Odho said that although these issues do exist in our industry one has to be strong, persistent and vocal about all kinds of discrimination. She also said it was her co-actors (men) who helped her in the field in the beginning of her career. Sultana Siddiqui added that women in the field of media are judged differently than men. It is the need of the time to change the lens through which women are viewed and judged and men and women should learn to co-exist if they want to succeed, she added. The panel also discussed the need to change the mindset of the masses through realistic portrayals of strong and successful women characters, changes required in PEMRA laws and the need to establish strong, independent association to protect the rights of women in media.

The keynote speaker Provincial Minister Syed Sardar Ali Shah began his speech with a tribute to Shaheed Benazir Bhutto who inspired millions of women across the globe. He appreciated the efforts of KFS board members in organizing such meaningful dialogues and assured his government’s support for the film industry. “We can start an initiative to support the film industry within a year if all the stakeholders can come on one page,” he added.

President of KFS, Sultana Siddiqui while addressing the stressed on the need to engage women, especially young blood in the film-making process to learn the finer points of film-making and shed light on the festival’s objectives of providing the aspiring young people with a platform to showcase their talent to the world. Siddiqui also spoke about the portrayal of Muslims and Islam in foreign movies and the need to counter islamophobia in our productions.

The three day event was well conducted by Festival Director Misbah Khalid.

PIFF Women’s Edition 2021 is supported by KMC, WCCI, PNCA, PFPA, Azat Films, Mjafferjees, Image, Active Media, Bookitnow.pk, Rinstra, Ladies Fund and Dice Foundation.

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ENCOUNTER SCENTS LAUNCHED AT A VIRTUAL EVENT

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US-based brand Encounter Scents under the aegis of Dua Fragrances held its Virtual Launch event orchestrated by Catwalk Event Management & Productions last week with strict Covid SOPs in place.

Hosts Mahsam Raza, CEO of Dua Fragrances and Encounter Scents along with Partner/Board Director, actor, television host and Producer Faysal Quraishi invited guests to a cool ambience comply with socially distanced white benches.

The stage also followed the white theme with a hefty design of the Encounter Scents bottle. On its sides two large screens show-reeled a 90 second promo film and congratulatory shout outs from gift box recipients.

On a corner, an elegant flower-filled barrow fragrance counter held samples of the five existing Encounter Scents For Him and For Her fragrances including COMPLIMENT, CONFIDENCE, ROMANTIC, SEDUCTION & IN THE CLUB.

Guests included members from the entertainment industry including actors; Shahzad Nawaz, Aijaz Aslam, Nabeel Zafar, Naveed Raza, Haroon Shahid, Zain Afzal, Faizan Shaikh, Aadi Adeal Amjad and actress and model Dur-e-Fishan Saleem as well entrepreneur and designer Asim Jofa, and publicist Rasik Ismail. The media, comprising leading bloggers, Vloggers, digital broadcasters and contestants from the game show ‘Khush Raho Pakistan’ which Faisal Quraishi hosts were also present.

Dino Ali conducted the red carpet and stage event and queried from guests about their favourite Encounter fragrance. Some celebrity guests were tested during a blindfold game in which they were asked to try and guess any of the 10 existing scents.

On stage Faysal Quraishi reminisced about his struggling days during which he would still make saving up to buy fragrances a priority, highlighting his lifelong passion for scents.

“When you meet someone something that is indelibly remembered and lingers on after the encounter is the fragrance that the other person was wearing,” Faisal said, adding that he and partner Mahsam had a similar passion for perfume and that there was “a story behind each of the Encounter Scents fragrances.”

Mahsam Raza reiterated this fact when he explained the genesis of one of the fragrances, Confidence for Him.

“Each ingredient was cherry picked according to all the fragrance notes my father liked” adding that all the ingredients used in Encounter Scents are derived straight from the source without a middleman.”

Mahsam went on to speak and enthuse about the brand’s philosophy: “Encounter Scents is dedicated to providing its loyal customers with an assortment of high quality fragrances for all of life’s special moments according to different preferences.”

Mahsam and Faysal also spoke about their focus on establishing the fragrances in Pakistan and “working on many other plans and developing other products.”

Encounter Scents is currently developing another set of six additional fragrances to the line; three for men and three for women.

Encounter Scents fragrances will initially be available only online in Pakistan on the brand’s website with payment made through Shopify. The ordinarily PKR 13,500 fragrances will be offered at an introductory sale price of PKR 10,000 each, accessible through the company’s website www.encounterscents.pk.

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Spotify Premium Launches New Offers for Free

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Summertime, a holiday season, and people consume more music than usual that is why the world’s biggest music streaming service Spotify launches its summer plans for melody lovers.

This summer, Spotify Premium is offering three months free to the eligible and first time-users for its Individual Premium Plan. Moreover, those users, who have cancelled their Individual Premium plan for any reason, can also get them back in just 299 PKR for three months. Both offers are available for the Individual Premium Plan till June 22. To be eligible for the 299 PKR offer, subscribers must have cancelled their plan on or before April 26.

Spotify Premium gives subscribers an audio streaming experience with ad-free music listening, and on-demand audio anytime. On Spotify, users get access to more than 70 million tracks and four billion playlists right at their fingertips. So whether one is away from home or sitting at the cosy home, Spotify covers it. The service makes it easier for its users to find their favourite music and check out their very own personalized playlists like Discover Weekly, Spotify Mixes, Time Capsule and more.

For details, head to Spotify.com/Premium to sign up.

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