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In Conversation with the Heartthrob; Usman Mukhtar.

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We all have been drooling over this IT couple of Altamash and Izzah. Now that Anaa has come to an end, we got a chance to talk to Usman about his character, his upcoming projects, his take on harassment and women empowerment and that’s what we found out.

How is Usman in real life? Is he just like Altamash or totally opposite to him? 

I’m not like Altamash in real life, but I’m not totally opposite to him. Altamash is always dressed up, I’m not. I’m very comfortable wearing my shorts and my T-shirt, I love dressing up casually. Altamash is a big businessman, I’m not. I’m a struggling actor. He’s very serious; I’m not that serious in real life. There are not a lot of similarities between me and Altamash.

According to you, what is wrong with directions and directors these days? 

I feel like directors here don’t direct the actor, that’s one thing that they need to do. They need to work with the actors. Directors here think they can just sit on a chair, speak on the big microphone the word “ACTION!” and everything is going to take care of itself, that’s not how it works. Especially in advertisements, I think the director of photography is considered the director. Having said that, there are also some good directors in Pakistan as well but yes the director is basically the captain of the ship, he needs to be involved in everything from the sound design to costume design to the set design and also he needs to work with the actors and help the actors which unfortunately most directors here don’t do.

Name one movie that you think would have been better had it been directed by you.

I don’t think I would have done a better job at directing it but I would have really liked to direct Laal Kabootar, that’s the kind of genre I would like to direct but again I’m in no way saying that I would have directed it better. Kamal has done an amazing job and I really respect him as a director.

If it wasn’t acting or directing, what would have been your choice? 

Well, my grandfather wanted me to become a lawyer and I wanted to become a cricketer. So either or.

we saw someone calling you “JOEY”, how true is that statement?

Yes, my friends call me JOEY, which is based on Joey Tribbiani from the television series “Friends”, because I have eating habits like Joey. I love food and I don’t share my food, I get really possessive about my food and I get really pissed off if somebody takes food from my plate.

Movies or Dramas, what would you prefer? 

In an ideal world, I would love to do movies but right now the movies that the Pakistani film industry is producing does not have that standard and the audience has not been developed. There’s a lot that needs to happen in the film industry. Stories and script writers are very amateur, and sound is not up to par. So right now, I’d like to do dramas. If a good script comes my way I’d love to do it.

Cheesiest fan moment? 

It’s not a cheesiest moment but a bit scary and creepy. Somebody dropped off a letter at my house and that letter started off with “Usman, I have been stalking you” so I don’t know if it’s cheesiest but I’m sure it’s very creepy.

One male and female actor that you really look forward to work with? 

I think Bilal Abbas and Imran Ashraf are great actors and I would love to work with them because you feed off each other’s energy and if you have a great performer in front of you, you can also give a decent performance so I’d love to work with them. In females, I think Sajal Ali is a great actor and so is Sanam Saeed, they both are amazing actors and I would love to work with either one of them.

 

Any drama from the past that you would have loved working in? 

Yes. Yes. Yes. There are two dramas that I would have loved working in. One of them is Dhoop Kinaray and the other one is Alpha Bravo Charlie.

After researching a lot, we still couldn’t find your relationship status. Would you like to comment on it? 

It’s complicated, that’s all I can say.

Define feminism from your perspective. 

 

From my perspective, I think anything that a man does; a woman should be allowed to do as well and anything that a man is not allowed to do, a woman shouldn’t be allowed to do it either. We need to be equals and we are equals as human beings and I’m a strict believer of equality and that is feminism to me.

What’s your take on sexual harassment in media/entertainment industry. 

 

I think sexual harassment is a very serious issue and I think a lot of women go through that and it is the most horrible thing to go through. But, I also feel that we very blindly believe anybody and everybody and that shouldn’t happen. I think there needs to be a strict check and balance that if somebody is saying something it needs to be credible. I know it’s a little difficult but there are a lot of spiteful people out there and also there are a lot of sleazeballs and creepy people out there who harass women but I do feel there needs to be a strict check and balance.

What’s the reason/idea behind your witty captions? (Even if it doesn’t make sense to you, say something about that) 

I don’t like putting quotes under my pictures, I like to believe I’m a funny person so I tend to write a caption that is funny and bring a smile to my followers, that’s why.

Tell us about your future projects? 

I cannot tell you about my future projects right now but some interesting stuff is coming up so please hold your horses and be patient with me.

One person you secretly stalk on Insta but don’t follow?

If I like somebody I follow them, I don’t stalk people. I mean yes I do, I stalk the people I follow and it’s not stalking you just go through their profile but I don’t really stalk people I don’t follow.

Entertainment

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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