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In conversation with Armeena Rana Khan

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I am coming back with a strong and an impressive script: Armeena Rana Khan

Armeena Rana Khan needs no introduction when it comes to Pakistani and British entertainment industry. A Pakistani-Canadian by birth Armeena was raised in Manchester UK and from there she earned a master’s degree in Business Administration.

Khan started her acting career in 2013 with the British short film Writhe, which was screened at the Cannes Film Festival. She rose to prominence with the role of an antagonist in the romantic television series Muhabbat Ab Nahi Hugi (2014), garnering her Best Villain nomination at Hum Awards. Armeena debuted in Pakistani cinema with ‘Bin Roye’ in 2015. Since then, though she has appeared in only four Pakistani movies; all of them are among highest-grossing Pakistani films all time. While Janaan (2016) awarded Armeena critical acclaim and international recognition, her recent flick Sherdil is also doing well at box office, in which she is playing a fighter pilot’s love interest. We got a chance to talk this talented and beautiful lady about her recent success and future plans in showbiz. Here we go…

We will see you on big screen in Pakistan (after Yalghaar) almost after 2 years. Why this gap?
Well, straight after Yalghaar, I signed Sherdil. It took a while for it to make it to the cinema screens. I took a break from television because I wanted to sign the right script and my personal life needed some attention. It was all planned and I am making a come back with a kick ass script, which is based on female protagonists, twists and turns.

We have seen some posters of Sherdil in which you are donning fighter pilot uniform but in movie, you are in that role Was that a promotional tactic?
To be honest, I was a little confused myself when we were told we would be photo shooting in uniforms as my character was definitely not that of a fighter pilot. This was the producers call and to create a ‘buzz’ for the movie in its initial stages. I went along with it because it was my dream once to be in a uniform flying these beasts. I guess, I lived it my dream in PART even if it was for a day.

We missed you in promotions of the film. Is there any big (or good) reason that you have distanced yourself from the project at that stage?
No comment on this at this stage. I will address this at a later stage though I maybe joining the international promotions of the film if it gets an international release especially in the U.K, U.S.A and Canada. We are optimistic that on this.

What are your expectations from the film and your role in it?
I have no expectations from the film or my role. I worked hard on it (to the best of my ability) and I now leave it up to Allah. I have stopped associating feelings with projects because why worry over something that you have no control over? Having said that, I wish the entire team of Sherdil well and hope that it further propels all that are involved. It is up to the audience and whatever the verdict, I will accept it and work with it.

How choosy you are while accepting role for a film?
EXTREMELY choosy. Infact, I have rejected over 5 films in the last two years. I was attracted to Sherdil because of the PAF and the prospect of being in a film involving lots of fighter jets and action. However, I did sign the film on just a presentation, I do not know why I did that as normally I am very diligent when it comes to my research around a prospective project.

What are your future plans in Pakistan? Are your fans going to see you on big screen in full length lead roles like Bin Roye and Janaan?
I have a leading role in Sherdil but I have not seen the film so I have no idea what it looks like post edit. However, out of all my films, ‘Janaan’ is one film that is super close to my heart, I hope I can bring more roles like that to the big screen. I am best when I am carrying the weight of the film on my shoulders. In terms of television, I am coming back with a drama series ‘Jaan e Man’ (working title) the filming for that starts soon. The script is awesome that is one thing that I can absolutely guarantee for this particular project.

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Sidra Iqbal stresses upon the importance of education in Pakistan

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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!

 

  1. 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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Raaz-e-Ulfat Very Well Relates to a Pakistani Girl Living in a Strict Household

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Raaz-e-Ulfat is one of the latest dramas that has instantly struck a chord with masses owing to its relatable story-line and amazing performances by the remarkable cast. For the uninitiated, what exactly is the plot?

Putting it briefly, Mushk Iftikhar dreams of exploring the world outside her conservative house. She accomplishes her dream life to some extent when she comes across a friend in her university who introduces her to the colours of life. Though, little does Mushk know that Sehba secretly envies her simplicity and innocence and wishes to ruin her life.

Mushk’s life is somewhat a true depiction of most Pakistani girls belonging to strict households, and hence the show has become more interesting and connecting for the younger lot in Pakistan.

You can’t move a bone without your parent’s permission

Yes! Parent’s approval is mandatory in everything you do. You can’t study, sleep, eat, choose a career, go out, come late, etc. as per your own will. You can only breathe on your own… rest will depend on your parents’ will. Poor Mushk is in the same boat.

Privacy is a luxury you can never afford.

Mushk has got no private space in her house. She shares a room with her sister, like how it is usually in most households. Even when she is on a call with a friend, someone comes to inquire about the whereabouts of the caller. Privacy is indeed an out of the world thing for Mushk and others like her.

You have to be responsible like a grown-up, but you can never act like one.

Like Mushk, most Pakistani youth, particularly girls, are expected to grow up and take responsibilities but are not allowed to think that they have grown up in a literal way. Hence, you are always a bachi/ bacha who is bound to live by what your parents say.

Marriage is your ultimate goal in life

You dream about marriage and your khuwabon ka shehzada because that’s what your parents aim for you on completing your studies.

 

Modern Friends Are A Big No!

You cannot stay in touch with rich and modern friends as they are supposedly some spoilt kids who will definitely leave a bad influence on you.

 

 Dating someone is a big struggle!

Going out on a date is a real struggle yet you want to experience it despite knowing that if your parents find out, you are gone for life.

 

Since the very first episode, Raaz e Ulfat has turned every local TV drama trope on its head to offer a refreshingly new insight by subverting all the typical clichéd plot-lines of most local dramas, bringing forth such nuances that make the entire watching experience oh so relatable and befitting for people around us.

 

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Bunyad Foundation: Countering cerebral health issues with Mindcamp

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Mental health, despite holding paramount significance, is largely ignored in third world countries. With societal progression, the rise of the middle class, and a certain ‘tilt’ or ‘shift’ towards westernization, issues associated with mental health have started to exacerbate. According to recent studies, one of the biggest reasons behind suicidal tendencies or suicide itself is mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD and other traumas, different phobias, bipolar disorder, personality disorder and other related disorders.

If we travel a few years back in time, mental health issues were unheard of in Pakistan, in fact, someone found complaining or discussing a mental health issue was either given a particular look or called out for being ‘overly-sensitive’. But over the past few years, things have changed drastically. Now, there are more and more people suffering from mental disorders and psychiatric consultations have increased considerably over time, but even now, a certain amount of people hesitate to seek psychiatric consultation.

The onslaught of Covid-19 has further aggravated the situation throughout the country, with people reporting severe cases of depression and anxiety amid continued lockdowns. It is pertinent to mention here that, although, the issues mentioned are usually associated with urban areas, but the situation in rural areas of Pakistan isn’t much different. Alarmingly, unlike popular opinion, that villages are happy-go-lucky people, even the village dwellers are unknowingly harnessing several mental disorders in this modern age.

In order to facilitate the underprivileged living in less developed, far-flung areas, the Bunyad Foundation in collaboration with Mind organization, has started organizing bi-monthly mind-camps in Hafizabad. The purpose of these camps is to provide free-of-cost facilities to underserved communities. Under these free camps, patients are provided free consultation, medicine and an intervention plan; that too free of cost.

Shaheen Attiq-ur-Rahman, Project Lead and founder of Mind Camp Bunyad, told us that, ‘rural folk suffers from the same mental disorders as more privileged people but often the intensity is greater. Most of the people do not have access to basic medication for relief. Since a lot of unhealed psychiatric disorders can lead to physical ill-health, rural folk face a double burden. At Mindcamp Bunyad, our mission is to give suffering villagers a chance at peace and to ease their task in life’.

It took some time, the involvement of Key Opinion leaders and sustained efforts to convince people to seek help for mental disorders and now there’s better awareness about these issues. In addition, the organization has been carrying out these activities for the past 9 years, by engaging experienced and trained mental health professionals, even in extreme weather, just for the betterment of the society. However, now, the number of mental health professionals offering services has dwindled, in fact, the patient-to-doctor/mental health professional ratio is discouraging.

In order for the unabated and unrestricted continuation of these services, and in order for better, sustained facility provision to the patients; financial backing is imminent, without which such a great initiative gradually might have to retreat. To facilitate the imperative service, Bunyad Foundation is playing a major role.

Get in touch with them to see how you can help.

For donations, please donate here.

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