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In Conversation with Hamza Ali Abbasi

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Hamza Ali Abbasi is a household  name in Pakistan these days because of his vibrant showmanship in various contrasting fields. At one point, he has a niech choice in his acting career but at the same time is very much vocal about the political scenario of country. Hailing from a family of politician mother and army father, Hamza opted for a civil service job but soon left that career for the glaring world of showbiz. Started his new life by performing in commercial theatres of Shah Sharabeel, he came into limelight from playing Afzal in a television play ‘Pyare Afzal’ in 2010, then eventually worked in a much critically acclaimed feature film ‘Mein Hoon Shahid Afridi’. He rose to more fame for his abrupt political statements on social media and television which even became controversial many times.Now becoming a national personality of Pakistan, he seems much relaxed and is quite certain what to do and what not.We talked to this energetic handsome man who always wants to do things with serious purpose.

Why there is long gap of almost three years to do a major role in a film?This is because I chose my projects very carefully. I keep in mind while selecting a project that they should be more than just an entertainment. I prefer to do one project at a time so I can give my complete or full attention to that. Moreover, I have put my interest on many other things as well that keeps me busy. 

Your recent film ‘Parwaaz Hai Junoon’ is on the subject of air force. There has not been done  much on this subject before in cinema. So, from where did you get inspiration for your role?
yes, there was not any relevant reference. We discussed the roles ourselves. Moreover, air force personals were very helpful in this regard. We lived in bases with cadets, and study their lives and mannerisms. The lives of forces personals are not all about wars, fights and arms but they are also a normal human being who have families, friends, love interests and even their fondness and fears. I really like this aspect of the film. 

For quite sometime, we are seeing you in frontline activism, while in showbiz you are depicting different characters from an aggressive guy of Man Mayal to a flirt of JPNA. How do you keep balance in both the things?
Acting is my profession and activism is my catharsis. In a country like Pakistan, you cannot stay yourself away from politics. I consider it a sin to be apolitical in Pakistan where there is an extreme corruption at every inch. Whatever I write and speak on the name of activism is my responsibility. I believe that in In Pakistan, the more prosperous class has more responsibility to speak for the wrongs in society as they have education, and more time and space for activism than working class, which is struggling hard in getting their both ends meet. It is really unfortunate that in our society people are reluctant to talk on politics and religion and this reluctance has cut off our upper class from the rest of the society and created disparity among classes. But now I am hopeful as this trend is changing and more people are talking about the political state of country. A number of actors participated in recent elections as well. 

Now what next. Are you going to do another project on any serious  issue?
Right now I am busy in completing Maula Jatt. I am also doing a television serial called Alif, which has very big message in it. I didn’t want to do anything for a year but Alif compelled me to accept the offer. Alif is the script of what I speak and write on various  platforms. I feel myself lucky that I have got the chance to be in that project. The message of Alif is extremely close to my heart and I can’t wait to give that message to people through television. 

Entertainment

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

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We’re thinking he’s back, John Wick returns to the big screen with his third installment of the franchise. A journey which began in 2014, cementing Keanu Reeves as one of the best action heroes recent times, reignites a spark within us once again, as our beloved movie character comes out with a bang.

Starting off shortly after the event of John Wick: Chapter 2, the movie focuses on John’s journey on the run as he has been marked for death by the High Table, and a bounty placed on his head. Not much more about the movie can be revealed without spoiling it, however what can be said is that John Wick’s latest installment takes him to new heights, along the way we get to see some familiar faces, such as the enigmatic Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne playing the bowery king, new additions to the cast include the lovely Halle Berry, Asia Kate Dillon and Mark Dacascos.

We’re given a deeper look at the mysterious world of assassins that the previous two movies set up, a look at its inner workings and its hierarchy. Along with John Wick’s famous stylistic fighting scenes, stunts and gunfights, the movie just outdoes the two prior installments in this department. If that doesn’t get you interested, maybe the fact that you’ll get to witness John Wick fighting on a horse will. The movie is simply enjoyable and worth the money, there’s not a moment in it when you’ll feel your mind drifting off towards some other thoughts. Baba Yaga captivates our attention and delivers fully, this is evident by the fact that John Wick Chapter 3 ended Avengers Endgame’s reign on the box-office. Definitely a worthy successor within the franchise, and if you haven’t seen it already, time to get your wallets out and grab yourselves some tickets.

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Face to face with International Chef and Co-Founder of SHOLA Karachi Kitchen – Aida Khan

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Aida Khan, the entrepreneur and chef behind Islamabad’s traditional cuisine destination, Karachi Kitchen, proudly extended her culinary prowess by introducing her establishment: SHOLA Karachi Kitchen, in the heart of West London, White City, positioned where the BBC used to be.

Aida Khan has already been serving her Karachi offerings in Supper Clubs in London and in March 2019, opened her first restaurant SHOLA Karachi Kitchen in West London. With her first restaurant in London, Khan aims to explore the real flavours of Pakistan laden in tradition. Aida Khan’s nostalgia for Karachi’s bustling food markets with authentic flavorful food was an inspiration for SHOLA’s first permanent residence in White City. Aida also hopes to shed light on how Pakistani food can be clean and healthy – appealing to vegans, vegetarians and meat eaters. With the menu comprising of 50% grilled food, SHOLA takes one back to the foundations of Pakistani cooking. 

With SHOLA Karachi Kitchen, Aida Khan aims to bring back the era of simple, clean cooking, the way it has been done in the sub-continent’s family kitchens for centuries. At SHOLA Karachi Kitchen, Khan and her team of expert chefs use only the highest quality ingredients and traditional cooking techniques.

In Pakistan, currently offering takeaway home-deliveries primarily in Islamabad, SHOLA embraces hearty, artisanal traditional soul food combining the traditional flavours, aromas and authentic spices of Karachi.

Aida comes from a family with a deep passion for food. From an early age, she learnt how to cook traditional family food from her mother, and inherited her love for food through her father’s passion to eat.  Her fondest childhood memories are of early morning drives to Karachi markets with her father, in search of the fluffiest poori or the sweetest halwa for breakfast. Since moving to London, traditional Pakistani family recipes play an integral part at home, whether its cooking with her boys, or feeding the tribes of friends and extended family who turn up to feast on her delicious meals. Bringing Pakistani food back into people’s lives, and through SHOLA, putting Pakistani cuisine on the London food map, Khan hopes to open more branches of SHOLA across the globe and more specifically, in Pakistan.

SHOLA Karachi Kitchen is located at Shop 9-12, Trade Centre, F-7, Jinnah Super in Islamabad for takeaway and delivery. In London, the restaurant is located at Unit 6, West Works, White City Place, Wood Lane. 

Aida Khan speaks exclusively to Daily Paperazzi about her passion project.

How did your journey begin to eventually become a seasoned chef? 

I moved to London about 9 years ago to do my MSc. at SOAS. My son was 2 years old then and I couldn’t help but notice a lack of authentic Pakistani restaurants we could eat at or order in from, when that desi food craving hit. I inevitably ended up cooking a lot more at home and hosting many evenings for friends looking for a taste of home and finally decided to take it on as full on task to bring our food to London. I started out by hosting supper clubs and eventually expanded to catering events and then the opportunity came up to open Shola so I finally took the plunge! 

What was your first big break?

I had done various caterings and private events but my first big break was when I hosted a Gourmet Karachi Supper Club at a private members’ club in London. It was sold out instantly with 60 people attending, I definitely had a lot of nerves that day but also realized that this is absolutely something I want to pursue. 

Did you go to culinary school? What credentials did you earn through your culinary studies?

I did an Essential Cookery Certification at Leith’s School of Food and Wine, which is a professional course aimed towards people who want to develop their cooking skills and learn the techniques and science behind how ingredients work. Each class was very hands-on and you had to produce a selection of dishes. Apart from cooking skills, the course also helped with time management and being able to plan and execute a well-rounded menu. We also learnt menu costing/pricing and essentially how to make the best of your budget and ingredients. It was a spectacular experience and despite my many years of cooking it has given me the right tools to feel more confident cooking in a professional environment. It also taught me how to handle large orders and get service right. 

SHOLA Karachi Kitchen has greatly added to the culinary map of London. Why did you choose to serve Pakistani cuisine over others? 

Because that’s what I feel I know best. I can bring authenticity to the food offering based on personal experiences. It’s also one of my favorite cuisines and I felt it was under represented in London. 

Currently, the Karachi Kitchen’s chapter in Islamabad is take-away & delivery only. Can we expect a dine-in restaurant in future?

For now, this works but never say never is something I learnt early on. 

What’s your biggest nightmare to date?

Sending food out that is below standard just because it was not tasted. 

What do you do to stay current on new trends? Describe two or three of the most interesting industry trends?

I follow various blogs and read up a lot on Chefs. I am fascinated with the science behind cooking and love looking at different techniques to ensure consistent flavors. As our food is really traditional I have actually found myself going back to using methods the way they were down in our grandparents’ kitchens. A pestle and mortar are incredibly essential in my kitchen just because there is an unparalleled depth of flavor that can be achieved with the masalas ground in one. I am also a huge advocate of low and slow cooking for even flavors. 

What inspires you in the kitchen?

Creating delicious food that is reminiscent of flavors from my childhood. When you get that nostalgic feeling as soon as you taste a dish – that to me is winning. 

What is your favorite meal to cook?

It really depends on the day. At the restaurant I love creating a Karahi or Biryani. Both have such interesting techniques. At home, I love trying out different marinades with grilled fish. Tahini and Harissa are a firm favorite in my repertoire these days.

Do you have a favorite ingredient?

I love using curry leaves. Maybe it’s my mother’s Hyderabadi influence but the scent of curry leaves frying literally takes me back home every time. 

If you could cook for anyone, who would it be?

My father – sadly he passed away many years ago, before I had ever even thought of taking this on as a career. He would be my toughest critic yet strongest advocate. He was a huge foodie so the feedback would have been genuine ☺ 

In your opinion, what are the biggest misconceptions about chefs in Pakistani context?

That it’s all one pot cooking and we have some sort of mother sauce that we throw everything in. Pakistani cooking is incredibly complex and we have so many steps and flavors involved, when done right.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Happy. Doing what I love to do with just a little more time for holidays.

Any advice you would give to someone wanting to become a chef?  

You really need to want to do this to make it work. It’s not something you can go into halfhearted. You also need to believe in yourself, there will always be criticism and there will always be praise. Learn how to filter both in such a way that it’s always productive. Trust yourself and your palate. 

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His Dark Materials

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With Game of Thrones coming to an end, all of us will need a new addiction to invest our time in, but in this saturated age where almost every network is churning out a mediocre show with half baked plot-lines, who should we turn towards? Not to worry, BBC HBO has us covered once again, with their new enigmatic and captivating show; His Dark Materials.

Based on the novel series of the same name by Phillip Pullman, we should have high expectations for how this turns out, the novels are known to focus on deep intellectual themes and contain subtext relating to politics, physics, philosophy and theology. The main attraction of the show is its focus on fantasy and adventure, while maintaining a serious undertone that talks about issues we can all relate to; the loss of innocence as one grows old.

The Series takes place in a multiverse, worlds parallel to ours, revolving around two children embarking on a journey that transcends all planes. The rest of the story is being kept under wraps, but people that want to test the waters before watching the series can check out the novels or watch the 2007 adaptation of one of them, called The Golden Compass.

Featuring a stellar cast headlined by James McAvoy, alongside the talented Dafne Keen of Logan’s fame. BBC HBO has cast other well known actors and actresses such as James Cosmo, who we all remember as Lord Commander Jeor Mormont from Game of Thrones, Ruth Wilson and many more. The show has been green-lit for episodes set to premiere in late 2019, it has also been renewed for a second season.

So for those of us wanting to fill the void in our hearts courtesy of Game of Thrones, taking this on seems to be the best course of action. A series that has conspiracy, action, drama and suspense, it seems to be a perfect blend that we can all get behind. So without further adieu, mark your calendars and add His Dark Materials to your watchlist, this seems like one TV Show you might not want to miss out on.

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